Beef

Potjiekos has all of the things I like in a good stew: tender and rich meat, sauce that’s bursting with deep flavors, subtly-seasoned vegetables, and a good backstory. I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately (well, once a week), and digging into the show’s theories and lore, so I’m most interested in the backstory part right now. Let’s dig in.

Cast-iron cooking was first popularized in Europe during the 1500s. During the Siege of Leiden, South Holland, in 1573-1574 (part of the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain), the local townspeople turned to communal hodgepodge cooking to survive – in small cast-iron pots, with any meat and vegetables they could find. This communal dish bore the name hutspot, and remains popular today.

Hutspot cooking was carried by Dutch explorers who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope (in present day Cape Town, South Africa) in 1652; over time, the dish started to incorporate new spices brought in from the Dutch East India Company, and took on the name Potjiekos (“small pot food”), using a small three-pronged cast-iron pot called a potjie pot, and cooked over an open fire.

Potjiekos eventually spread throughout South Africa when Voortrekkers (Dutch pioneers), dissatisfied with the then-British colonial administration of Cape Colony, migrated eastwards in 1837 into much of what makes greater South Africa today. Locals appreciated the practicality of potjie pots over their traditional clay pots, and they were integrated into several tribal cuisines – often to cook maize-based porridges such as putu or pap. It’s striking to see these medieval cauldrons take root in a place so far from their origin, and it’s a testament to the adaptability of humankind.

Today, Potjiekos remains a communal dish, cooked outdoors among friends (and a bottle of wine). If you are comfortable with cooking over an open fire, it’s definitely worth the extra effort. For everyone else, adding a bit of liquid smoke can replicate the experience while remaining in the kitchen. I even added Instant Pot instructions below the recipe, for good measure. This dish can be made with any meat, from lamb to chicken to fish, but I prefer the naturally rich flavor that comes from simmering oxtails.

Potjiekos is distinct from traditional stews in that the ingredients are not stirred together until right before serving; instead, the vegetables are layered over the meat and steamed, giving each ingredient its own distinct flavor. Additionally, you don’t want to add much liquid to the pot – just enough to cook the oxtails – since the vegetables will release plenty of liquid as they steam.

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Back in 2012, I posted this recipe for traditionally-cut Korean Short Ribs (Galbi, Kalbi, 갈비). It’s one of the defining moments of this blog, when I started to dive head-first into the heritage, history, and language of food, and it remains one of my favorite recipes. In fact, we still cook this dish about once a month; after recently relocating to Virginia, I grilled up some Galbi for friends, and knew that it was time to share an updated version of this classic.

Wang Galbi (“King Galbi”) look a little different from the L.A.-cut short ribs you’re likely used to, but this is the original preparation for this dish. Ideally, you’ll want to find bone-in English-cut short ribs for this dish, but you could still use L.A.-cut or boneless short ribs as well.

I have a few versions of this recipe floating around on the internet and in my books, but for this week’s recipe I wanted to share the version that I’ve been personally making over the past couple years. I like to think of this as my weeknight-friendly recipe; I’ll combine the marinade the night before, and then pop it on the grill the following evening. All in all, you can’t find many recipes that taste this good while requiring minimal work.

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Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. Previously known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated after the American Civil War to honor those who had died in the war. It later expanded to encompass anyone in the Armed Forces who had died while in service to the country. As a tradition, families would gather to put flowers on the graves of those who had fallen, and would follow it with a potluck meal. It became a Federal holiday in the 1970s, and is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Today, Memorial Day means a lot of things to a lot of people – honoring fallen service members, family gatherings, the start of summer. From a culinary perspective, Memorial Day ushers in the start of grilling season (although that varies by region).

Each year, as I drag my grill out of the shed, I try and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in defense of their country – regardless of the country they died serving, or the policy decisions that got them there. Having served in the US Navy these past 17 years, it hits close to home; I find myself recognizing more and more names of fallen service members each year. Human history is wrought with stories of people dying when they probably rather wouldn’t have, and I think it’s worth the time to reflect on that from time to time.

I’m a day late in posting my favorite grill recipe of this year, mostly because I’m currently on assignment in a different part of the country, and away from my usual churn of recipe development. Luckily I had this recipe set aside for summer, and it’s the perfect time to share.

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Today’s recipe is one that long-time The Domestic Man readers will recognize, a couple times over. I first tackled the dish in 2012, and again in 2013; and then in 2014, during a spurt of creativity, I went back and thoroughly researched the dish, including the individual histories of every ingredient used in the dish (you can find that post here).

I think this dish is the perfect introduction to my new blogging approach, wherein I post recipes from my upcoming cookbook instead of trying to balance my time between maintaining the blog with new recipes while secretly testing new dishes for the book. As you’ll learn in future posts, my new book will continue the path I’ve been forging for the past seven years now, by focusing on traditional and historically-appropriate dishes. I feel that these dishes taste the best, as they’re a reflection of hundred (if not thousands) of years spent cooking in front of a fire.

It’s hard to top Boeuf Bourguignon when it comes to flavor. As if the decadent flavors of butter, red wine, stock, and tender beef aren’t enough, we up the ante by starting with bacon. I’ve made a few improvements to this dish over the years, like separating the beef from the bones ahead of time so that you can fish the bones out easily at the end. It’s not a quick recipe, nor should it be, but it makes six portions and freezes like a dream.

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I’m not sure what it is about 2017, but I’ve really appreciated ground meat more than usual. Much like last month’s Beef Tinaktak, I appreciate the ease and brevity that comes from these quick meals, both done in less than 30 minutes.

Today’s recipe for Keema Matar is a North Indian and Pakistani dish characterized by mincemeat (typically lamb or goat) and peas. The word “Keema” (mincemeat) appears to have a universal origin; in addition to being the same word in Hindi (क़ीमा), Punjabi (ਕ਼ੀਮਾ), and Urdu (قیمہ), similar words can be found throughout Europe and Asia, like the Greek κιμάς (kimás), Turkish kıyma, and Armenian ղեյմա (gyemah). This has led scholars to believe that the Greek “kimas” and English “mince” may share the same origin, from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey-, a word that translates to “small, little”, and eventually led to our modern words like “minute”, “diminish”, and “minimum”. Others believe that the Greek “kimas” is derived from the Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), which translates to “piece, that which is cut off”, and which later became our modern word for “comma”. Isn’t language fun?

While many diners may not recall experiencing Keema Matar as an entrée, they’ve likely seen it before, used as a common filling for everybody’s favorite Indian savory pastry, the mighty samosa.

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I’ve been to the small Pacific island of Guam about a dozen times in my life, but never for long – usually I was disembarking from a US Navy ship and headed to the airport, on my way back home. There were a few moments when I was lucky enough to spend a day or two on the island before catching a flight, relaxing by the beach and reveling in the novelty of not having to wear a uniform 24/7. Regrettably, though, I never got a chance to enjoy a homestyle meal while in Guam. To be fair, the last time I was there was well over 10 years ago, in the dark period before smartphone apps like Yelp–at the time, my food explorations usually just consisted of eating wherever was within walking distance.

I think the fact that I missed out on some of Guam’s homestyle cuisine is what draws me towards one of Guam’s signature comfort foods, and today’s recipe, Beef Tinaktak. In essence, this dish is like a taste of what could have been, had I the opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal there. Beef Tinaktak’s pairing of ground beef, tomatoes, green beans, and coconut milk sounds a little strange on paper, but the resulting flavor is anything but; it’s immediately comforting, while wholly unique.

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Like I mentioned last week, I’m on travel for work – right now I’m enjoying sunny (but a little chilly) Naples, Italy. And just like last week, I’m using today’s post as an opportunity to share a favorite recipe from one of my cookbooks; this time I’m sharing one from my debut, The Ancestral Table. From the book:

Borscht (Борщ) is a hearty soup most commonly associated with Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Its name likely comes from the Slavic name for hogweed (Borschevik), which was often used to flavor soups. Although potatoes were a later addition, the foundation of borscht as we know it today dates back at least to the 9th century. This recipe is the popular Russian version, which is served hot and with meat. To cut down on the cooking time, you could make this soup with premade broth, or even make it vegetarian by using just water. Instructions for each variation are provided below.

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A couple months back, I posted my first sous vide recipe, this Sous Vide Salmon. Since then I’ve been enjoying this new technique as a unique way to cook food, especially lean meats, with precise results. A recent favorite has been sous vide steak, as it cooks the steak to an even internal temperature and only requires a quick sear to improve its outer texture.

I own and enjoy this Oliso SmartHub sous vide oven, which doubles as an induction cooktop for searing (and it boils water super quickly). There are plenty of other sous vide options out there, and I’ve heard great things about this Anova Bluetooth precision cooker (which is significantly cheaper than my Oliso setup, but requires you to use your own pot, and doesn’t double as an induction cooktop).

Flat iron steak comes from the cow’s shoulder, in the same region as cuts labeled as “top blade”. It is cut against the grain, well-marbled, and considered a cheaper steak cut because it quickly becomes tough when cooked beyond medium doneness; this is where a sous-vide cooking method really shines, since we can cook to a precise temperature. For today’s recipe, we’ll cook the steaks to 128F, followed by a sear which will likely raise the internal temperature to ~130F, just a hair under the definition of medium-rare.

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Pulehu is a Hawaiian cooking method, which translates to “roast over hot embers”. This method was traditionally used for items like breadfruit, but today it’s most associated with steak, typically seasoned simply with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my short history on beef in Hawaii, at the start of my recent Pipikaula recipe post. If you’ve already read it, cool, let’s pulehu some steaks.

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Pipikaula, like many dishes in Hawaii, is the result of several cultures colliding. First, let’s talk about how beef became part of the Hawaiian diet, since cows are not native to the islands. In 1793, famous British Navy explorer George Vancouver gifted King Kamehameha I (the chief who first united the Hawaiian islands) a bull and five cows; the king placed a kapu (Hawaiian taboo) on the hunting of these cattle and their descendants that lasted through 1830; by 1845 there were an estimated 25,000 feral cattle on the big island of Hawaii.

John Palmer Parker, an American who allegedly first arrived in Hawaii in 1809 by jumping off of a ship (there’s probably a good story there), quickly gained the favor of King Kamehameha I upon his infamous arrival. In 1815, after a bit of travel, he returned to Hawaii with a state-of-the-art American musket; the king gave him the honor of hunting the first cattle in Hawaii. Over the next 20 years, he helped to thin the number of feral cattle on the island, and was gifted some land as compensation. Parker founded Parker Ranch in 1847, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the United States, with 250,000 acres that remain today.

To help manage livestock, Parker brought in cowboys (Vaqueros) from present-day California (Mexico at the time); these cowboys were called Paniolo (a Hawaiian pronunciation of the word “Español“), and the name sticks today. The Paniolos would dry strips of beef in the sun, to chew on while driving cattle; this food was eventually named Pipikaula (literally “beef rope”). To flavor the beef, they would use soy sauce, as it was locally available thanks to Chinese and Japanese immigrants.

So that’s how Pipikaula came to be, through a joining of Hawaiian, British, American, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. Today, Pipikaula is served in Hawaiian restaurants and sometimes at luaus. It is commonly dried in wire boxes in the sun, or by hanging it to dry, then broiled or pan-fried before serving. The recipe that I’m sharing today is modeled after my wife’s favorite Hawaiian restaurant, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, on N. King Street in Honolulu. For efficiency’s sake, we’ll dry the beef in an oven and pan-fry it to a crisp.

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