Tag Archives: Beef

Demi-glace: A Mother of a Sauce

At some point when you've got as much time as I do on your hands, you get around to cooking something that caught your eye years ago when time was quite the precious commodity.  But years have gone by since then and time does a good job of layering all the possibilities life tosses in our path, so the urge was buried until I saw the December issue of Saveur last year showcasing traditional meat sauces such as charcutiere and bordelaise — sauces I've made before, but with purchased demi-glace.

There was no reason not to try the demi-glace recipe since time seemed to be the biggest requirement, and it wasn't even focused time.  Thankfully.  How hard could it be to roast a few pounds of bones and then simmer them for a few hours?

Twenty hours, to be exact, and that's just the simmering time.

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It's not often that I see meat bones in the case at the grocery store, so when I saw a couple of packages, I tossed them in the cart wondering just how many I'd need to make my own demi-glace.  A second glance at the article after I got home informed me I'd need about ten, so I put the bones in the freezer knowing it may be a while before I saw more.

You're thinking I should have gone to the butcher, right?  Yes, I believe I know where one is thanks to a very good friend who purchases lovely cuts of meat there for special occasions.  I still haven't been there myself, however, so the idea of actually picking up the telephone to call and inquire about whether they'd have some bones for me at some point in the foreseeable future appeared far more organized than my serendipitous self seems to be these days.

It's a very sad state of affairs.

But I did happen on a few more packages of beef bones in the next few weeks, so decided that I'd give the recipe a go.

Although there seems to be a bit of variation on how one goes about making demi-glace, essentially, it's made from roasting bones with a small amount of vegetable and tomato, then slowly simmering the bones in a good quantity of water for hours before straining, then reducing.  Some versions require a Sauce Espagnole to be made first, which requires a thickener such as flour, and then that sauce blended with beef stock before reducing.

In consulting Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, there is no simple recipe for demi-glace.  Instead, here is what can be found:

"The classical French brown sauce starts out with a long-simmered brown meat stock that goes into the making of an equally long-simmered, lightly thickened sauce base called an espagnole.  The espagnole is simmered and skimmed for several hours more with additional stock and flavorings until it finally develops into the traditional mother of the brown sauces, demi-glace. But as we are concerned with less formal cooking, we shall discuss it no further." (pg. 66, Vol. I)

Evidently, to some, however,the addition of the thickener is sacriledge and far be it from me to sway from a purist perspective on this.  Besides, making an espagnole first would require additional ingredients and steps — not something I was interested in. No, I'll save that one for another time.

To make the Saveur recipe, I'd need:

  • a very large roasting pan;
  • a very large stock pot;
  • a chinois; and/or
  • a fine meshed strainer.

And I'd need to not mind the scent of roasting beef permeating my house for two days.

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Sliders and Bratwurst are Quick Game Day Food

It’s Friday, and much of the food world seems to be focused on one thing:  Super Bowl food. Okay, so maybe not, but I had to start this somewhere, right? Maybe it would be more accurate to say 50% of us use it as an excuse to have a party. What would game day be like without food?  We have to have something to munch on while watching those commercials!

This year, we have no plans to attend or host anything *yes*, but the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals just might make it a good game for a change. Too often, it’s not entertaining in my opinion, so food helps make it an occasion — and not a fancy one with a lot of prep.  We go easy on the appetizers — chips, salsa and guacamole — have a meal at half-time.

It’s casual meal usually of chili or ribs.  But it could be this instead: a spin on traditional stadium food, and which can be put out allowing people to graze at their leisure.

Southwest Sliders in honor of the Cardinals…

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…and Bratwurst Dogs with Peppers & Onions in honor of the Steelers.

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I’m not sure who I’m pulling for, but I am a Zonie by birth.  ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

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Shepherd’s Pie with Beef, Pork and Lamb

Cottage Pie

It’s raining here today, so I’m as subdued as the grey skies.  After two mornings of very early morning walks as I attempt to get back into the “I, too, can be fit!” swing of things, I’m content to sit in the quiet sipping my coffee.  Thoughts come and go but hover around memories of our trip to the UK a few years go — the winding roads in Wales, ancient castle ruins tucked between soft green hills, engaging after dinner conversation with local farmers at an old country house, and Pub food.

Last night, my husband’s parents came by for an impromptu celebration in honor of my mother-in-law’s birthday, and it seemed perfect to make a shepherd’s pie.  I love to cook for them, and for years, they’ve indulged my culinary whims.  When we get together, inevitably, talk turns to travel, and specifically travel to the UK.  My father-in-law has always wanted to go, and so he graciously indulges us yet another sharing of our time there as we think of ways to get him there before too much longer.  He’s 80 now.

Of course the talk turns to food and a pub we enjoyed in Bath.  I don’t remember the name of it because we made several attempts before we found one that would allow us to enter, my husband talking to someone inside while my son and I waited on the street.  Although pubs are more accepting of children than they used to be, not all of them are, and it was mortifying to my son that his presence caused us to have to search.  I felt badly for him knowing I would have been embarrassed as well. Finally we found one, and were led to the back, away from the bar to a small room.  So much for my romantic notions of cozy tables, old plastered walls and a roaring fire, no matter if it was the middle of summer with temperatures so uncharacteristically hot that everyone was talking about it.

Thank goodness for the waiter who indulged my husband with good-natured humor in answering a question about the rules of Cricket. He chided us about ordering “extra cold” beer and served us a meal of Shepherd’s Pie that was truly memorable.

Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional English dish made of minced meat — usually lamb — and vegetables, then covered with mashed potatoes before baking.  If the dish contains beef, then it’s referred to as a Cottage Pie.  Regardless, it’s comfort food at its best, and one that will leave you smiling well into the evening after the plates have been cleared from the table.  You may have to waddle to bed, however, because it’s quite filling.

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Spicy Game Day Chili Beans

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Having been a resident of San Diego for so many years, it’s impossible not to get caught up in our Chargers even though there always seems to be just as many fans in the stadium for the opposing team as there are Chargers fans.  Lots of people who grew up elsewhere find their way here because of the weather and they rarely leave, but manage to hang on to their old teams enough to drive the rest of us crazy.  Inevitably, a comment is shouted about something to the effect of, “If you’re loving your blinking bleebs so much, then why don’t you go back to where you came from…” when the visitors are winning, and their San Diego fans are loudly proclaiming their superiority on the field.  Ah, the joys of being sports fans!

Being married to the most intense sports fan you’d ever imagine has helped me understand more about football than I’d have ever known otherwise.  Unfortunately, he’s more of a cup-half-empty guy when it comes to sports, and suffers from knowing way too much — using all the statistics he naturally holds in his brain to calculate possibilities for their athletic demise.   It’s a sight to behold, watching his intensity each week, often standing in front of the television with his arms crossed instead of slouched in a chair with a beer.

He’s not much of a beer guy.  He likes Coke — and hot tea.

But he’ll be at the game today, so I’ll be home with our 16-year-old, cheering for our team with my usual it’s not over ’till the fat lady sings attitude when it comes to our Chargers.  And no….I’m not planning on being the singing fat lady.

To spice things up a bit, I happen to have a bet going with a foodie friend Peter over at Kalofagas regarding the outcome of this game today.  His pick is Indy, and I’m saying no way on that one.  The Chargers are going all the way.  They’re so due.  Over due.  Peter and I have agreed that should out team lose, we must admit our defeat, worship the winning team, and celebrate the winning city.  I sure hope he’s studying about San Diego right now, because he’s going to have a lot to write about.

But now for some real spice.

How about a big ol’ pot o’ chili for the game?

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Indy Colts Helmet

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Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine

Beef Short Rib Recipe

I grew up eating braised meat.  I don’t think it mattered what time of year it was, but at some point during each month, and usually on the weekend, my mom would make what she called a roast.  Although we don’t have them as frequently, it is something we enjoy.

Essentially, braising involves cooking in liquid — but there’s more to it than just putting a piece of meat in a pot and covering it with water.  Well, if you want it to taste satisfying, that is.  There are some basic steps to take when braising:  1)  Choose the right cut of meat; 2)  Brown seasoned meat on all sides in a bit of fat; 3) Brown the aromatics;  and 4) Add the liquid and cook low and slow.

At the expense of sounding like Alton Brown without the scowl, all four of the steps I mentioned are very important, and if one of them is left out, then you’ll end up with a grey chunk o’ meat — not very appetizing.

The nice thing about braising is that the best cuts of meat to use are those which are tough —    which translates to less expensive.  Easy on the wallet.  Cheap.  They’re all the parts of the animal that get the most exercise.  Chuck was my mother’s cut of choice, but a rump or brisket are also great.  Short ribs are another perfect choice for braising.  They’re squarish cuts of beef that include a portion of bone (ribs, right?) and usually come three to four in a pack depending on their size.

When I think of short ribs, I think of gravy and wide, flat noodles.  Completely delicious!

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