Braised Beef Short Ribs in Blueberry Sauce

DSCF7531 (640x497)October felt like eternity. The month was busy and never seemed to wane as autumn began creeping in.  The highlight in October was the much awaited Canadian Thanksgiving.  It’s celebrated earlier in North America and as much as most were gearing up towards Halloween, there was still the Turkey to be had prior to costume make-overs and Halloween parties and balls celebrated around town. Of course, I never participated in either. As usual, I was behind-the-scenes and out of the social limelight.  I was never ‘social’ as much as I wanted; not in a city where everybody’s doing something somewhere all the time.  ‘Socials’ on my part can be a futile and strenuous exercise.  I’ve tried. I have a small, intimate set of friends I visit and they themselves are as busy as I am.

I took a much needed week off as soon as November came knocking. It was a short break which I  haven’t fully recovered from until today. Stress and strains from work are beginning to show and that week off made it worse. Sitting down and basically doing literally nothing was impossible during that short stint away from work.

I had missed so much from the month before and those came rushing at me at breakneck speed on the first day I was ‘supposedly’ be on break.  I tried, but I realized I won’t actually rest unless I was away from the city.

Throughout those irritatingly long days, I managed to discover a meat shop where everything was fresh, bred and butchered in Ontario.  It became my ‘social’ hotspot since. I saw a cut of Cote de Beouf (I call it the ‘Flinstone’ cut)  and I knew, soon, that will be on my dinner table. I opted for a high grade Beef Short Ribs after reading a recipe from a Canadian food writer who have toured and tried Canada’s abundant food glories and spectacles; Alberta beef being one of them.

This recipe isn’t the ‘best’ looking, but the sauce compensated for that. I couldn’t stop eating and wished I had bought and cooked more. The cooking process is long and tedious and time  is an essential ingredient in creating the sauce.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Short Ribs
  • Bayleaves
  • Onions
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Dried or Fresh Rosemary  (used dried)
  • Crushed Chilis
  • Beef Stock
  • Red wine
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Blueberries (used leftover frozen)
  • Butter
  • Lemon Juice
  • Flour (for dredging)

Cut the Beef Short Ribs in half and marinate them in red wine, bayleaves, peppercorns and onions overnight.  Strain the wine in a sauce pan and reduce to simmer.

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Coat the beef short ribs with flour and pan-fry to golden on both sides.  Set aside.

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Sauté the shallots, bayleaves and garlic on the same pan. Deglaze with red wine, add the beef stock, crushed tomatoes, sherry vinegar and boil to simmer. Return the ribs back to the pan. Throw in the bayleaves and peppercorns. Cover and place in the oven until the ribs are almost fork tender.

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Blueberry Sauce:

Fish the ribs out of the pan and set aside. Strain the broth into the same sauce pan where the marinade was reduced and reduce further. Season to taste.

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Add the blueberries and let it simmer for a few more minutes. Finish off with honey, butter and lemon juice. Pour over the ribs and sprinkle with dried rosemary and other herbs before serving.

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Sliced Cold Beef in Chili Oil

DSCF7426 (640x492)Thursdays are reserved for Tai Chi Chuan and Szechwan Food.  These two are my personal goals for the day.  Before leaving for Madrid, I discovered a hole-in-the wall, mom & pop restaurant in the suburbs serving what they call down-to-earth Northern Chinese and Szechwan Cuisines. The restaurant only has a seating capacity of forty, but the volume and number of people coming in and out (without take-out) is non-stop as its doors open for lunch. It became my new stopover for snacks before awaiting a grueling Tai Chi practice ahead.  I needed to be stuffed; just enough to last me until midnight.

This discovery led me to the oriental store for sauces and grocery ‘items’ I saw on the menu (I asked for an English copy).  Through this guide, and through an old Szechwan cookbook, I was able to decipher some of the dishes I’d usually order. Everything happens to be in Chinatown, except for the Dried Orange Peel, which I searched everywhere and unfortunately, couldn’t find anymore. I vividly remember and know it was available about ten years ago in some store in Chinatown.  Tough luck.

Szechwan cooking is tattered with spices, and all parts of either the pig, chicken or beef are served stir-fried, braised or BBQ, by themselves or with vegetables. Fish is an expensive item and Ma Po To fu is one of the many popular dishes.  Lamb is also a common item, and Beijing Pancakes are abundantly served. Soy Sauce and Chinese Vinegar are condiments to all. But, I won’t deal with them for this one.  Later.

This dish caught my attention besides the extremely spicy BBQ line-up they offer. I enjoyed the sauce (I did it once a long time ago) and the beef itself provided several more meals after. It’s cheap, but the taste is lingering and unforgettable .  This is the start of my quest for something off-tangent.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Shank or Beef Tendon
  • Star Anise
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Green Onion
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine
  • Chinese Vinegar
  • Spicy Sesame Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt

Start by tying the Beef Shank into one solid piece. Heat a pot of oil and sear oil sides. Add water and boil to simmer together with the aromatics: green onion, ginger, white onion, and garlic for about an hour. Remove the shank from the pot and strain the broth.

Return the shank back into the pot, add the wine, soy sauce, star anise, peppercorns and vinegar.  Boil to simmer for another hour or so or until the shank is tender.  This is one way.

I used some cut Beef Tendons (just so many kinds of tendons) for this dish.

My procedure was:

Place the tendons in a pot of water and let it boil. Discard the first boil, and start with fresh water. Add the aromatics as with the Beef Shank. Let it boil to simmer until just tender. Add the spices, wine, soy sauce and vinegar and let boil further.  Strain and adjust the broth according to taste.

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Remove the tendons from the pot and place in the fridge. Save the broth for stir-fry and noodle soup.

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Cut the shank or the beef tendons as thin as possible and spread it on the plate.  Drizzle the vinaigrette all over or make it as a dipping sauce (on the side; as it was served to me) and garnish with finely chopped green onion.

Vinaigrette:

  • Soy Sauce
  • Chinese Vinegar
  • Spicy Sesame Oil
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Garlic, minced

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Thai Hot Beef Basil

DSCF7415 (640x493)Did you ever wonder how ‘Pad Thai’ became a household name?  I don’t. That dish has become so mainstream that pubs here in Toronto have included them into their  dinner menu specials. It has gained popularity sometimes even surpassing Butter Chicken. I don’t know how authentic these cloned ‘Pad Thais’ are, but when I noticed the cook missed the Tamarind, I knew it was just one of those tainted dishes that was not given due justice. ‘Pad Thai’ has just been so misused and misinterpreted that seeing one on a menu, specially in a pub, drives down a nail into the soul of a classic cook.

Anyway, I’ve never in my life touched on Thai food.  This is the first (actually, second, I have successfully cracked the making of the Pho. That’s coming soon.) and like many, I haven’t the slightest of ideas how this dish came about, its origins or if my cooking process is as ‘authentic’ or as ‘classic’ as Mozart.  It’s a very simple dish (based on-line), but, again, I really can’t fully rely on them nor verify its authenticity. Moreover, I can’t deal with Shrimp Paste which is a major ingredient in many Thai dishes and curries. This one doesn’t include some of that pungent delicacy, and that made me enjoy  eating this one.

This, by the way, is another response to a request and I made some tweaks to bump up the heat and the spice. I really enjoy hot and spicy dishes.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Shoulder (Same cut used in my Mongolian BBQ)
  • Canola Oil
  • Onions
  • Thai Red Chili
  • Garlic
  • Thai Basil
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Fish Sauce (Patis)
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Egg (cooked as desired)
  • Green Onion (Optional)

Roughly chop the onions, garlic and Thai Red Chili and using a mortar & pestle or mincer, finely mince all three into a paste. Add some salt and a little oil to achieve proper consistency and texture.

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Heat the wok with oil and start stir-frying the paste until aromatic. Add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar caramelizes. Add the beef and Oyster Sauce. Drizzle generously with Fish Sauce.  Add more onions and chilis as desired.

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Chop the Thai Basil and garnish when the beef has become soft and tender.  Sprinkle more Fish Sauce before serving, garnish with finely chopped green onion.

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Mongolian Beef BBQ

DSCF7330 (640x495)It was way back in high school when Mongolian BBQ gained popularity.  The Makati Business District (MBD) during that era was subdivided into small commercial areas and the Makati Cinema Square, where the Mongolian BBQ restaurant was located, became a destination for many high school students after their quarterly periodical exams. The MBD was barren to desolate up until maybe the early ’90s when everything exploded into high gear, and the restaurant vanished in the commercial boom.

I was astonished with the array of sauces to choose from and the many combinations of vegetables and meats displayed upfront for the all to see.  It was cooked on a very, very hot flat iron grill just in front of the guest and served directly on a tray. That show became its attraction and selling point.  The sauces, of course, was nouveau and extremely flavourful and spicy. Those were the invitation to rich, innocent HS bastards.  I only tasted this stir-fry a couple of times during my HS life. It was too expensive for a teen with Php 10.00 daily allowance.

Anyway, moving fast forward, Mongolian BBQ reached buffet restaurants and became mainstream as sushi. It also became a part of the fast food phenomenon, and sadly had lost its colour and brilliance from there.  I had never realized I was cooking an actual Mongolian BBQ when I checked on-line and found that the combination I had used every night as an easy dinner stir-fry was considered one.

I cook this particular stir-fry as quick dinner , and I use a Beef cut specifically for hot pot or grilling (Korean) since they have been machine sliced. It remains soft to the bite no matter how long it has been cooked and it shreds on high heat.  Fresh Beef Tenderloin from oriental stores can sometimes become rubbery when overcooked (before discovering how the Chinese made their meats tender to the bite), and slicing them into thin strips can be flustering. This is full-proof, portioned properly, easy to handle, and doesn’t spoil for a week or so in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Shoulder Blade
  • Canola Oil
  • White Onions, julienned
  • Red and/or Green Bell Peppers, julienned
  • Green Onions, roughly chopped
  • Garlic, finely minced
  • Ginger (Optional)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Beef Stock
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch Solution as thickening agent
  • Sesame oil (Optional)

Heat the wok on high heat with oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and stir continuously.

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Drop the beef when everything becomes aromatic. Stir vigorously and pour the sauces and the stock and seasonings as the beef cooks through.  Add the green onions, and stir one or so more times.

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Thicken with cornstarch solution and serve with steamed rice.  Garnish with finely chopped green onions.

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Pork Hock & Meatball Stew (Ragout De Pattes Et Boulettes)

DSCF7098 (640x480)I am back after several weeks of hiatus.  There was a lull and a gray mist that left me with basically nothing to write nor to cook about that was worth of a blog. Moreover, unknowingly I guess, stress might have caught-up on me and I had to step back for a bit and set aside other matters (including Tai Chi and reading)  to gather much needed energy and personal motivation to continue writing about personal food accounts or food ‘stories.’  I went to several groceries for some inspirational kicking in the butt, however I still fell short of coming up with something productive that is worth remembering and instead became counterproductive.  I ended up buying cuts with no stories nor special myths behind them, up until last week when I was eavesdropping into a conversation by two ladies discussing oatmeal recipes in a crowded bus during the morning rush hour. I was intrigued how passionate the other woman was about vigorously stirring the ‘organic’ oats to achieve the appropriate consistency in the end product.  The discussion went further about the various fruits, sugar (never sugars, please) and milk or ‘add-ons’ which made the oatmeal more succulent and savoury. And when they skipped-off the bus, I recalled how much oats I have vigorously stirred throughout my professional kitchen life and I was not really passionate about waiting and stirring non-stop until the oats had thicken.  My neck was on the line and I had other chits on my board about a mile long. I’ve definitely done many, and I just smiled throughout the trip up until I reached work. I don’t do oats anymore. It has been substituted by rice enough to feed at least 200 (Iska knows. She’s my food and just recently shoe confidante when I’m in the weeds). Thanks!

I still came home empty-handed after work, but found this pork hock recipe instead. It’s a French-Canadian Christmas recipe of Quebec which further inspired me to make it. Luckily, I bought and froze a package of hocks during those static moments when ‘it’ was not arriving. Moreover, by the summer is over, Christmas will be knocking on our doors again and this should be perfect for those cold and wintry days and nights.  I have no idea how traditional or authentic this could be, but as long as there are hocks involved,  I am all-in for that.  Who doesn’t love pork hocks? Who doesn’t love ‘Pata’? Who doesn’t love anything crispy and crunchy? I’m not heading to that though, unfortunately. Sorry Philippines.

There were several ways how it was done, but the basic browning of the meat and creating a nutty roux were always included in the procedures.   I skipped the browning procedure and did it the Filipino way of preparing a ‘Pata’ by boiling the hocks for hours end until tender with a bunch of aromatics and spices and added and reduced the chicken stock and pork broth in one pot.

Ingredients:

  • Pork Hocks
  • Ground Beef or Pork
  • Chicken Stock
  • Onions, diced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • All Spice
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Bayleaf
  • Butter
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Meatballs:

  • Onions, minced
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • Cinnamon
  • All Spice
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Flour

Boil the hocks in warm water until tender with the aromatics and spices.

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Pull the hocks, drain the pork broth, and shred the meat off the bone.  Combine the chicken stock and pork broth in a separate pot and reduce to half.

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Heat oil and butter in a pot and saute the onion and garlic until aromatic.  Dust with flour and stir until the roux turns golden to brown.  Add the reduced chicken stock and pork broth into the pot. Return the shredded meat into the stock, season with the same seasonings as with the pork broth and boil to simmer.

Cook the meatballs in a pot of boiling water, strain and add them into the pot.  Stir gently and serve with potatoes or French bread. I served mine with steamed rice. I was hungry.

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Striploin Steak

DSCF6871 (640x457)And the beef saga continues.  This particular cut of meat is probably the most common in the market: a Striploin. It doesn’t cost as much and making money out of one cut is immediate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t also have a long shelf life not unless it’s frozen outright from the market.  Spoilage can set back the restaurateurs very slim bottomline, and that profitability margin is not exactly as robust as a big corporation as many might have known.   A striploin can be served for breakfast and lunch with eggs, hash or homefries and of course, for dinner, with dinner rolls and larger cut potatoes; the usual continental fare.

For the ordinary Filipino, a heap amount of greasy and salty garlic rice is its counterpart. It just never fails and after a long day at work, a succulent cut with some salty and garlicky aroma to match just blend perfectly well.  That’s personal satisfaction worth capturing everyday.  Many Filipinos have a tendency to overcook their steak and eat it salty, to somehow dry and crunchy.  If I had recalled, fond memories growing up in the suburbs, a ‘Bistek Tagalog’  cooked by the household help with sauted onions was murdered and soaked in heavy Filipino Dark Soy Sauce; hiding the spiritual imageDSCF6868 (640x456) and entity of the succulent cut.  Beef was not cheap growing up and having been treated that way was unforgiving.  Cantinas and cafeterias portion and slice them so thinly for a quick-fry and for a quick-buck and they tasted just as good; very similar to Roast Beef shavings which I have done countless times at work.  I recycled the Roast to the nth time I had lost count what I had done with it.  I did what just popped in my head.

DSCF6869 (640x513)Anyway, this was the first kind of steak I encountered in the market in New York way back in 1994 and never knew how to deal with it.  It was the cheapest I saw, bought one and eventually ended up pan-frying it well-done.  I had no inkling about cooking back then and I was just crashing-in at my then sister’s apartment.  Money was tight, I had no direction whatsoever in life, and eating steak was the only comfortable reason to exist.  That very day launched my quest to find work here; at all cost and despite living in my parents’ house for another decade.  I marked that path from a non-existent suburban utopian life to a clock that ticks to the value of time and effort; very similar to a steak cut, soft to firm to the touch, tender and rare to the pinch, and sweet and remembering to the bite.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Striploin Steak (a New York Striploin to many)
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Knorr Original Seasoning

Season the steak with the above ingredients and marinate it overnight. Prepare the grill or grill pan similar to the procedure of grilling a Prime Rib (previous post).

Tent and let the steak rest for five minutes after grilling and cut in a bias.  Serve with salad or in my case, for my Christmas Eve dinner, a two-day old steamed rice left untouched for a couple of days fried with finely minced clove of garlic and heavilty salted to pair with the very savoury striploin cut.

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Prime Rib Steak with Tarragon Butter

DSCF6848 (640x456)I never understood why Chinese food is considered a holiday dinner. Eventually, I believe, I would.  Like a doctor in an emergency room, I am ‘on-duty’ on the 24rth and the 25th; the eye of the holiday season. When everybody is busy preparing Turkeys and Hams, I am in the kitchen preparing Christmas Dinner for clients; answering to their every squeamish appetite for something Christmassy.    For the last couple of weeks, I’ve roasted about four Turkeys and carved two of those to feed a party of fifty. It was a small group, but the carving was tedious and on top of that, the regular lunch fare had to be served. Both were set at twelve and I was the only person ‘in-charge’ of ‘making it happen.’  I felt I was back in the line again; running around and keeping myself intact and on-time. It was indeed December. I have one more lined-up on Christmas Day, and hopefully, I won’t see another Turkey until the next Christmas.

I’ve been contemplating on what I would serve myself on the 24rth. I haven’t had a trip to the grocery for personal reasons and I haven’t really targeted any kind of game, meat, or poultry to work on on the night before Christmas itself.  I definitely won’t have Turkey or Ham. I know I’d be dead-tired and might just go for Chinese in Chinatown; a once in a lifetime experience and treat on Christmas Eve. The Pecking Duck is waiting (now I understand).

I’ve been a regular of the town for the last week or so feeding myself hearty and comfortable beef stir-fry meals.  I missed eating beef. I’ve held back on red meat for the last eleven months of the year and on the twelfth, I just went for it. Red meat will be off the list again as January steps in, eating healthier meals as usual to coincide to my once a week tai chi decompression chamber.  Best to go for it in full-circle rather than half-baked, although dimsum can never neglected.  That’s my life source. I need some quiet time after a very frenzied to crazy week before me (although the dimsum ladies can be loud and noisy). It’s the unusual culture I’m in for, and every week feels like a new visit to another gastronomic secret society. Lately, eating breakfast of eggs and bacon, food which I was succumbed to for the last six years, has slowly been creeping in as one of those meals I beckon to have in the mornings of my days-off.  Through this nightly visits, I’ve somehow also understood how Cantonese cooking work.  That would be my next assignment. I know I can’t forever feed myself stir-fry when I can cook it myself at home.

I originally wanted to cook steak for the holidays. I bought this AA Prime Rib steak to test it on my grill pan and was happy with the results.  The cut was not as expensive; just about $10.00, and it made my night. Although I had wished, I had another cut. It turned out insufficient to ebb for my growing appetite, and I can’t cook nor look at another potato for the next several years or so.  This was before all the Turkeys and the Hams and the parties were set and I still had that little extra time to decide. Right now, I can’t even decide what to feed myself after seeing all the food on an almost daily basis and being creative recycling what’s leftover in the walk-in fridges a few days later.

Ingredients:

  • Prime Rib Steak
  • Beef Stock
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tarragon, finely chopped
  • Salted Butter

Leave the butter and the steak at room temperature, and season the steak on both sides.  Clean and season the grill pan with oil and pre-heat it for ten minutes or so.

DSCF6844 (640x459) DSCF6846 (640x509)Chop the tarragon and mix it with the butter to make a compound butter. Shape the butter into a shell using two spoons. Wrap it using a plastic wrap or tin foil and return it the fridge.

Set the steak on the pan on a 90’ angle for several minutes. Flip it to 180’ to complete the grill marks. Do the same on the other side. Check the thickest part of the meat for desired doneness.  Remove from the grill and let it rest, covered with a tin foil.

DSCF6847 (640x455)DSCF6852 (640x426)Deglaze the grill-pan with beef stock to make some jus.  Set the butter shells atop the steak and dip each cut into the jus.

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