Beef and Shallot Stew

Winter months just call for a good stew. This is a recipe that I’ve had for a long time from Real Simple that I just think of every so often – Beef and Shallot Stew. I don’t/can’t eat beef, so I replace it with wild game. I’ve normally had venison but this time I found Wild Boar at Sprouts. It’s generally easier to have whole pieces of meat vs. ground, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chuck meat, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces, or 4 pounds pre-cut stew meat
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds shallots, peeled
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

1) Heat oven to 300° F. Season the beef with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add some of the beef to the pot and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.
2) Spoon off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom, for 3 minutes.
3) Return the beef to the pot along with the shallots and broth. Bring to a boil. Skim any foam. Add the thyme. Cover and transfer to oven until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Spoon into individual bowls.

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Since I used ground meat, I didn’t need to cook the stew for nearly as long (can be a fraction of the time until the meat is cooked and onion are to the ‘softness’ you want). I serve it with some great French bread and green salad. Perfect for a cold day. Also pairs well with red wine. Cheers!

Going Boar Wild

When I go to Colorado I always get to check out this great grocery store, Sprouts. They always have fun stuff to check out, especially meat that is not super easy to find. The latest one I checked out was Ground Wild Boar. I will always remember how much I loved Warthog when I was in South Africa a few years ago and this seemed like it might be fairly similar. It is ‘… all natural and feral from Texas. It is trapped in the wild and processed exclusively under the Durham Ranch label. Each animal is hand selected and sited to our exact specifications.’ It is also a nice lean meat and was absolutely delicious. I wish it was easier to get. We just made it into patties and threw it on the grill.

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Domestic (Ostrich) Disappointment

A few years ago I traveled to South Africa.  In addition to having some of the best wine in the world, I enjoyed some of the best meat I’ve ever had.  One of my two favorites was Ostrich.  It was so lean and had a very unique flavor.  So when I got home I searched and searched.  You can occasionally… find it, but for a price.

I was recently able to get some.  Cheaper than before.  Ok, it was $40/lb. They sell it in 8 oz. packages for $19.99. Yes, GULP!   And it was ground, so we were making burgers.  My rationale on buying this stuff. You go to a restaurant and spend $10-$15 for a (beef) burger.  You buy the Ostrich, it’s $10 a burger and it’s good, healthy unique meat.  Then you serve your own good wine with it. That’s cheaper, or can be so, than wine per glass in a restaurant (which you wouldn’t likely order with a burger anyway in a restaurant) and get healthy sides vs. fries.  Perfect rationale, right?  You also don’t have to include tax and tip.

So it was purchased, we grilled.  Served it with kale chips and one of the great Trader Joe’s grain blends…oh and an amazing red!  Took a bite of the Ostrich meat. Really, that’s not what I had in South Africa.  I know it’s farm raised here and I was beyond disappointed.  But, you learn by trying and it was worth the experience.  To the next taste test.

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Dax Farmer’s Market

I have been off the blogging scene recently because of an oh-so-rough trip to Ireland and France.  I am now starting to recap said vacation…

One of the best parts of the trip was why I went — for a friend’s wedding in SW France, in a small town named Dax.  It’s about a 90 minute drive from Bordeaux.

franceMy friend’s fiance had told me about the must-do the morning of the wedding, the local farmer’s market.  It ended up being about 2 blocks from the hotel.  WOW.  The place was making Pike Place look weak on some levels.  Some 3+ hours later we returned to the hotel with lunch to enjoy outside.  I grabbed Paella, as this town is close to Spain so they get some of their influence.  Others grabbed cheese and sausage, bread, veggies, some had nice flatbread-like pizza.  And, of course, wine!

Almost too good to be true.

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Riverside Hotpot

Checked out a new and new type of restaurant recently.  It was Riverside Hotpot.

riversideSome history of hot pot —

“The Chinese hot pot has a history of more than 1,000 years. Hot pot seems to have originated in Mongolia where the main ingredient was meat, usually beef, mutton or horse. It then spread to southern China during the Tang Dynasty and was further established during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644 to 1912), the hot pot became popular throughout most of China. Today in many modern homes, particularly in the big cities, the traditional coal-heated steamboat or hot pot has been replaced by electric, propane, butane gas, or induction cooker versions.
Because hot pot styles change so much from region to region, many different ingredients are used.”

In short, you get tons of food, especially since it’s all you can eat!  First you pick the base broth you want:

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Then choose all the veggies and meats to throw in there.  OMG!  Way too much to pick from!

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They bring the broth out first so it can heat up.  Then they start bringing the other stuff out and you throw it in there when you’re ready and at what pace you like.

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You go and go until you are maxed out.  It’s just amazing.  They also have a spice bar, with sauces and topping, that you can choose things from, including soy sauce, sesame seeds, green onions, etc.  So much fun.  What’s also great is you can make it full of veggies, full of seafood, full of meat — it totally caters to what YOU want.  I can’t wait to go back!

Edible Insects

Was flipping through a copy of National Geographic the other day and came across one of their Future of Food/Food by the Numbers pieces (there have been several).  This was quite interesting about how insects are essentially multi-purpose; used for both feed and food.  They are used to feed cattle and in some places they (grasshoppers in particular) are a delicacy for humans!  That’s in Uganda where they cost 40% more than a pound of beef.  Will be interesting to see what happens in the US with this in the future.

Check out the video.  National Geographic also has several other great pieces on various food topics  Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the NatGeo museum before the exhibit closed to see all of this in person, but it received great reviews.  If you live in DC, or visited the city, and made it to the museum, would love to hear what you thought about the exhibit.

natgeo                                                                       Photo Source:  nationalgeographic.com

Salt Block

Got a salt block from Salt Works for Christmas a few years back and decided to put it back to good use.  Salt blocks can be used for either cooking food or serving cold food on to get a bit more flavor (without heating it up).  I normally do the former.

IMG_1733[1] To do that, you heat it up very slowly over the course or 45-60 minutes.  You can do it on a gas or electric stove, with some considerations in mind, based on what the salt block makes contact with, so that it doesn’t crack. Over the course of heating the block, we increased the heat on the (gas) stove incrementally over the course of about 45 minutes, in 10 minute intervals.

IMG_1732[1]When you put the meat on the block, it picks up just a hint of salt on the exterior and then you get the balance of the meat flavor on the inside.  We decided to cook a nice tuna steak the other night.  When we felt the block was hot enough, we brought it to the table and threw the tuna steak on there.  Of course, after you spend all this time prepping this piece of salt, it takes zero time to cook the meat.  But, that’s why we love cooking — the prep!  Took less than a minute or two to get the tuna to where we wanted.  Even cooked a bit more than (I) wanted, but it was fun to watch.

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Kangaroo Burgers

Am finding more good new stuff to try.  In this great local store called Sprouts, while walking through the meat department I noticed some kangaroo (easy way to get to Australia, right?), distributed by Durham Ranch.

IMG_1615[1]After trying warthog and ostrich earlier this year in South Africa, I had to consider this.  I picked up the package to inspect.  Very lean so decided to give it a try.

IMG_1617[1]Looked up some recipes that evening and most said just to add some spices, an egg and breadcrumbs.  Did that and the patties are cooked rare-medium rare.  With all said and done, very good!  Very unique, mild flavor.  Tough to give it an exact description for taste because it doesn’t taste like anything else.  You can tell it’s wild game, but it doesn’t come across ‘gamey.’  I definitely recommend picking some of this up if you enjoy trying new food!

African Meat Tastings

When on my trip to South Africa, I was able to try several meats I had never had the opportunity to sample before.  I wanted to take every opportunity I could to go local with what they had.  I was about 50/50 on them.

First was a Kudu loin.  It was served grilled with a cranberry & carrot sauce, spicy parsnip shavings, roasted garlic polenta, and these DELICIOUS, addictive sesame brinjal batons. I didn’t actually know what brinjal was until writing this post and looking it up.  It’s eggplant, just the name they use for it in South Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia (you learn something new everyday).  The meat was very, very chewy.  Glad I tried it, not my favorite.

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Next one I tried was a Springbok Carpaccio.  It was a bit ‘tasteless’ — but still nice to have a wild game carpaccio!

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Third new meat I tried was Ostrich.  Super healthy/lean.  According to the American Ostrich Association (there is an association for everything…), “ostrich is similar in taste, texture and appearance to beef. It’s comparable to beef in iron and protein content, but ostrich has less than half the fat of chicken and two-thirds less fat than beef and pork. Ostrich beats the competition with fewer calories, too. That’s why ostrich is the choice of health-conscious consumers who refuse to sacrifice flavor.” It’s tough to determine if this falls under poultry, game or other, but it is classified as red meat.  What I do know is that I loved it!  So lean, tasty and I wish we could easily get it here!  I did research when I got home and the couple places in the DC-area who used to carry it can’t get it anymore because at last count it was $60/lb.  Ouch!

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The last one I tried that was unique was Warthog.  OMG!  AMAZING!  Get me a warthog farm here in the States.  I can’t begin to describe how flavorful this stuff was.  Unreal.

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Another great part of the trip — some unique food to South Africa, some of which we can’t get here in the States.  Just another reason to go back.

 

Japan #3: Korean BBQ

As we progressed through Japan we had to expand our cuisine beyond just local fare.  One night we opted to go for Korean BBQ.  My uncle asked his colleagues for recommendations and they gave him ‘the best place to go.’  So, off we went.  It was of course one of those hard-to-find, hole-in-wall restaurants – perfect!

So at the Korean BBQ, you have a grill in front of you, order raw food and grill to your liking.  So much fun.  We ordered basic food that we were used to — chicken, shrimp, pork, veggies, versus some options on the menu that we were either unfamiliar with or had heard of but didn’t want to take the risk of eating, especially on vacation.

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The marinade and seasoning on the meat were delicious and the mushrooms were just – WOW!  It was a meal that you take slowly and you can just kick back and relax.

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