I know what you’re thinking. It’s something like this – “Seriously, Russ? You already have an awesome Swedish Meatball recipe in your cookbook. Way to put a new coat of paint on your old favorites.”
First of all, thanks for the compliment. Second, these meatballs are a little different. For example, Danish Frikadeller are often smashed and look more like little patties than those little round balls you might be expecting. Think of them as Denmark’s LEGOs (probably their coolest invention) vs. Sweden’s crescent wrench (also a cool invention); both are useful, but serve slightly different purposes.
The recipe itself differs from Swedish meatballs in that I found that adding a bit of tapioca starch makes the balls stick together really well, and they’re pretty delightfully spongy, too. I also played around with the spices until I found something that delivered a distinctive Old-World taste while using common pantry items.
First of all, sorry about that title. Just like the elusive free lunch, there is no such thing as an “Instant Stew”. You see, I recently asked my Facebook followers what dish they’d like to see me develop, and I received several requests for pressure cooker and stew recipes. We use (and love) an electric pressure cooker called an Instant Pot, so that’s what I used for this recipe (and hence the name).
At its heart, this dish is similar to many of my other stew recipes, but with a new approach. When it comes to simple weeknight recipes, many folks like the idea of crockpot stews (wherein you leave the ingredients to slow-cook while away at work). But I’ve found that more often than not, the vegetables become too mushy and tired after a long simmer. This is where a pressure cooker really shines, as it shaves a multi-hour recipe into just over an hour, making it a potential weeknight option with superior texture.
If you want to make this dish without any fancy (awesome) gadgetry, I’ve also included stovetop instructions below.
Local friends: I’ll be cooking a four-course dinner as a guest chef at So Gourmet Pensacola on Saturday, January 17th from 6-8pm. There are still seats available, RSVP for the event here. See you then!
Hanger steak is a v-shaped cut taken from the diaphragm of the cow. It was a relatively rare cut until recently, because butchers commonly kept it for themselves; in fact, another name for this cut is “butcher’s cut”. It weighs less than two pounds, which is a perfect size for whipping up a date-night dish. Gents, take note: we’re only a little over a month out from Valentine’s Day – plenty of time to practice this recipe beforehand!
Hanger steak works best when cooked quickly over a high heat, and served medium rare. Marinating the cut will infuse it with a punch of flavor, but it takes a little away from the spontaneity of this dish. Instead, I like to complement the simple, tender steak with a rich sauce, like the Bordelaise in today’s recipe.
Note: after talking to the farmer that provided the meat for this recipe, I realized that this cut was actually top round and not flank. I apologize for the mix up, and I’ve updated the post accordingly.
Let’s talk about the cut referred to as “London Broil” for a little bit. Back in the day, flank steaks (taken from the abdomen of the cow) were prepared using a method called “London Broil” (marinated and broiled). Over time, stores started referring to the cut itself as “London Broil”, and then started to use that label for top sirloin (from the cow’s rear end) and top round (from the cow’s hind legs) cuts as well. Today, you’ll find all of these cuts labeled as “London Broil”, but rest assured that this recipe will work well for any of those three cuts.
We usually use these cuts to make beef jerky, because it is consistently lean and easy to slice. But the other day I decided to prepare it traditionally by marinating it overnight and throwing it on a hot grill. I was surprised by how flavorful the steak turned out, and in the end it was a lot of delicious meat with little hands-on work.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about living a simpler life. The idea started when I visited Mickey Trescott’s new home in the Willamette Valley over the summer, but it really solidified when we moved all of our things from Maryland to Florida last month – over 14,000 lbs worth of belongings. As we started unpacking boxes, I couldn’t help but think that I just didn’t need so much stuff. The worst part about it? We’re still unpacking.
So for the holidays this year, we’re trying to not buy any objects for each other. Instead, we’re gifting experiences. So this week’s recipe is going to be a little different from your usual Tuesday post; I’m going to walk you through how to make gifts to hand out to people that aren’t stuff. A couple years back I made a few gallons of my barbecue sauce and gave it away as gifts. While I had a lot of fun with that idea, I wanted to do something more immediate and useful – wouldn’t it be better to just gift someone a fully-cooked delicious meal? And thus my idea of Stew for You (or Two) was born. The concept is simple: make a large batch of delicious stew, vacuum-seal it, and give it away as gifts.
I’m particularly in love with my Beef à la Mode recipe from earlier this year, yet I’m sure that its 3.5-hour cook time deters readers from making it often enough. Instead, imagine reheating a vacuum-sealed homemade meal directly in gently simmering water, offering an unbeatable experience in just 20-30 minutes. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, a resealable mylar bag or Wrap ‘n Boil bag would work well, or even something like this IndieGoGo project would be great.
So read on for the stew recipe and sealing instructions, plus other gift suggestions. Let’s make Stew for You (or Two) go viral.
I’m relatively new to the whole pressure cooking scene. We didn’t use them in the restaurants where I first learned to cook, and I’ve frankly been a little intimidated to try one out at home. When it comes down to it, I’ve always had issues with cooking food when I can’t see what’s going on inside – I like to be in direct control of my creations (this is also one of the reasons you don’t see baked goods on my site). Pressure cookers have always seemed like the epitome of this idea, since you basically seal it up and let some sort of magic wizardry happen within.
My perspective changed when I bought an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker last year. Something about it removes all of my previous inhibitions; I think it’s the idea that I can set it to a certain time or intensity, and have it turn off and depressurize automatically, all on my own terms. Regardless, I love the fact that I can use this same machine to make broth, yogurt, and rice, or to sear and slow cook without dirtying two dishes. And most importantly, it breaks down tough cuts of meat in a manner of minutes, like in today’s recipe. To showcase my new love for pressure cooking, I went with a simple short ribs recipe, flavored with a bit of brandy and maple syrup. If you don’t have any fancy gadgets, don’t worry: I provided instructions for electric pressure cookers, conventional pressure cookers, and stovetop pots.
Pressure cooking is not a new concept, it has been around in Europe since as far back as the 17th century. They weren’t modeled for home use until the 19th century, but pressure cookers have been integral in many restaurants and home kitchens ever since. They work by sealing in the steam from cooking, allowing you to cook foods at higher temperatures and with less energy since hardly any heat escapes during cooking. In fact, pressure cooking is the most energy efficient way of cooking out there. There are many out there who swear by conventional stove-top pressure cookers, and after my latest success with an electric pressure cooker, I’m starting to eye a few conventional models on Amazon.
My friends at US Wellness Meats recently sent me a cut of beef I’d never seen before. The heart of shoulder roast, sometimes called the heart of clod or cross-rib roast, is a center cut roast taken from the shoulder, similar to chuck roast. Typically I would oven-braise a shoulder roast in order to break down its connective tissue. But heating an oven for several hours doesn’t sound like a good time to me right now considering that we’re in the heat of summer; so I did what any sensible American would do with a big chunk of meat in July – I barbecued it.
This recipe is not unlike the Barbecue Brisket recipe in my book, just cooked at a slightly lower temperature; the lower temperature drags the cooking process out a bit, but results in a more evenly tender roast. Feel free to use this recipe for brisket as well.
Last month, I wrote about how I wanted to take my blog in a new direction by visiting and writing about food producers around the world, in order to better understand how the food we eat gets onto our plates. Off the bat, I knew that one of my first destinations needed to be where the whole “food” thing starts. At a farm.
Choosing a farm to visit was easy. Last summer I met David Maren, founding farmer and general manager of Tendergrass Farms, and we quickly became friends through our mutual love of languages and our mutual disdain for our country’s rampant, negligent farming practices. We’ve also been working together over this past year; he sends me samples of food to cook and eat, and I take pictures of that same food for his website. It’s a pretty sweet deal for both parties, hearkening back to humanity’s bartering days: he gets free photography and my family gets free food.
David’s small farm is located near Floyd, VA (about 4 hours from us), so we made the drive down a couple weekends ago to check out and talk about his company. Here is what I found out.
Beef à la Mode (Boeuf à la Mode) is the French variation of traditional pot roast. What sets it apart from an American-style pot roast is that it uses red or white wine (and sometimes tomato), while the original American pot roasts were made with just water. Traditional Beef à la Mode employs a technique called larding, where a special needle is used to thread long strips of pork fat through a tough cut of beef to add fat and flavor. While that sounds pretty awesome, I didn’t think it was fair to buy a needle just for one dish; so instead I did what many modern chefs do today, and cooked some bacon with the roast. I’ve seen some old Beef à la Mode recipes call for a cow foot to be added to the pot to help thicken and gelatinize the braising liquid; personally, I just used some gelatinous homemade beef stock instead.
I made a couple other slight modifications to this dish. Instead of celery, I used celery root, which imparts a similar flavor but is much heartier and more satisfying to eat (I bet it’s more nutritious, too). Secondly, I garnished the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and thinly sliced lemon zest to add a bit of brightness to the dish. The modifications definitely worked; my wife said this was the best pot roast I’ve ever made.
And yes, “à la Mode” means more than just “topped with ice cream”; it roughly translates to “in the style/modern”, meaning that when the French first started braising beef in wine it was in style. In that same sense, when Americans first started putting ice cream on pies (around the 1890s) it was considered stylish, so we adopted the French phrase. If you went to France and asked someone to bring you some “Tarte (Pie) à la Mode”, you’d probably just get funny looks. Continue reading
Meatloaf is a dish that changes with age: it is often reviled by children and treasured by parents. It makes sense, actually. Kids like to know what’s in their food, and meatloaf is the antithesis of this idea; it’s just a brown hunk of mystery, coupled with a nagging feeling that there are vegetables inside. Adults like meatloaf because it’s a way to eat many ingredients at once, with minimal effort. Personally, I think that a perfectly-cooked meatloaf is appealing to both sides of the coin: easy to make but tasty enough for everyone to enjoy. To ensure a perfectly-roasted loaf, I developed a recipe that uses a water bath to keep the oven moist and cook everything evenly.
Meatloaf has origins in many countries, spread throughout the world. It’s universally considered a comfort food. Some of my favorite variations include Jewish Klops (made with boiled eggs inside), Czech Sekaná (with pickles and sausage inside), and Austrian Faschierter Braten (wrapped in ham or bacon before baking). The American variation rose to popularity during the Great Depression, when families tried to stretch food out to last longer. Americans typically added breadcrumbs to help bind and add volume to the dish, and the tradition persists today. The truth is that a well-cooked meatloaf doesn’t really need a breadcrumb binder – mushrooms work just fine, and add some great flavor as well.