Crock Pot Shredded Pork

Pulled pork is probably one of my favorite foods…. right after cheese, avocadoes, and brownies. Oh, and bacon. So really, it’s my second favorite pig product, but still very high on my list.

pulled-pork-prep

I’ve made it in the crockpot a few times in the past, and I’m always left disappointed. I determined the culprit was using liquid in the recipe. Since food gives off a ton of liquid when cooked in a slow cooker, the pork always ended up swimming in liquid, which diluted all of the spices I added in the beginning. This is why I’ve never shared my crockpot pork recipe in the past… it just wasn’t anything special. [Read more…]

Shepherd’s Pie

There are two ways to eat mashed potatoes: 1 ) on their own or 2) mixed up with everything else on the plate.

I’m definitely a mashed potato mixer. If there are mashed potatoes on my plate, any other foods within reach risk being added to my forkful of mashed potatoes. Shepherd’s pie is made for people like me — potatoes, veggies, and meat already together in harmony. Like they should be.

Since the weather has dipped below 70 a few times this month, I immediately thought to make Shepherd’s pie. It’s the perfect cold weather food and yes, below 70 degrees is cold to some people. As a bonus, Shepherd’s pie makes the BEST leftovers (I really, really love leftovers). [Read more…]

How to Cook a Steak Like a Fancy Steakhouse

One of the most famous steakhouses in the world is right here in Tampa.

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You’ve probably even heard of Bern’s Steakhouse before, and for good reason. Between the meticulously prepared steaks, first class service (it takes two years to become a server!), massive wine list (Bern’s has the largest private wine collection in the world), and the dessert room upstairs (yes, there is a separate room just for dessert), dining out at this more than 50-year-old steakhouse is truly an experience.

I had the pleasure of dining at Bern’s a few months ago when my parents were visiting. It was my first time, and I was blown away by the above-mentioned attributes that make Bern’s so special. But, I had a nagging thought as I bit into my filet mignon– “this isn’t that much better than the steaks I make at home.”

[Read more…]

Marinated Flank Steak

I’d never been much of a steak person. It was rare* for me to order steak at a restaurant. Nine times out of 10, I would order chicken at Outback Steakhouse.

And then, within the past year or two, I made a miraculous discovery: ordering steak medium rare. It’s converted me into a steak person. Can I get an amen?  It’s weird because in the past I always ordered steak medium, yet the switch to medium rare made all the difference.

And so, I present to you: flank steak. This cut of steak is best served medium rare. If you like your steak well done, this is not for you. Flank steak that is cooked well done will be too tough to be enjoyable (as is any well done steak, in my opinion). This is an easy marinade I threw together with pantry staples. I think it would be great with some ginger thrown in, too. I only had time to marinade it for about 2 hours, but it would be best to marinate for at least 6 hours.

* I totally did not mean to use a lame pun by saying “rare”

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Marinated Flank Steak

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • Additional olive oil for cooking  the steak (about 1 to 2 tbsp)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients through black pepper until well combined. Place steak in large glass baking dish and pour marinade over the steak, coating well. Cover dish and put in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, turning the steak halfway through marinating time.

Remove steak from fridge about 20 minutes before you are cooking it, to take the chill off (this helps it cook evenly). Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Cut steak in half if it’s too big to fit in your largest frying pan.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the steak 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board. Slice steak thinly against the grain and serve.

Beef Bourguignon

You know you’re really in for it when you can’t even spell the name of the dish you’re attempting. Beef Bourguignon, like it’s name suggests to those of us non-French speakers, is not easy. One might even say it’s unnecessarily complicated. I’m happy to report that in my experience only mild cursing took place during its preparation.

If you’ve seen the movie Julie & Julia, you’re well aware of the fuss surrounding Beef Bourguignon. It’s the trademark dish of the movie and there are different scenes with three different characters letting out a “YUM!” after their first bite. So what’s the big deal? It appears to just be beef and vegetables in a wine sauce. But… something magical happens with braising. As soon as I smelled what was coming out of the oven, only about 20 minutes into the cooking time, I knew this was special. The smell is unbelievable. You know how good it smells to walk into a kitchen where cookies are baking or bacon is frying? This smells better than that.

This takes an entire afternoon to make. But you know what? There’s something kind of fun about making this, even with all of its somewhat annoying steps (peeling those stubborn little onions, ugh!). I have never doted on food quite like I did with this. You really feel like you are coaching the beef to become the best it can be. And it does.

I’m not sure if I can even technically call this Beef Bourguignon, or if I only made a very pretentious beef stew. Julia Child’s recipe requires straining the sauce. I think to make true Beef Bourguignon up to Julia’s standards, you would only serve the meat, mushrooms and pearl onions covered in the strained sauce. I didn’t strain anything, as I really didn’t see it as necessary. Plus, my sauce was beautifully thickened on its own and I think the straining is so you can simmer and reduce the sauce to the appropriate thickness.

I mostly followed Julia’s method, but checked in with my girl Ina Garten for possible pointers and short cuts. I knew if anyone would be able to shorten this painstakingly time-consuming dish without compromising its essence, it would be her. I did feel like I was leaving out a crucial step until I saw the Barefoot Contessa also doesn’t strain the sauce. So, what I present to you below is exactly what I did: mostly Julia, some of Ina and a little bit of me.

Here are some of my tips and what I think played the biggest part in my Beef Bourguignon success:

1. Really brown the beef. I spent a long time, at least 30 minutes, browning the beef in small batches over high heat. Get your pot very hot, as high as it can take without splattering the fat everywhere. I was working on an 8 out of the 10 levels of heat on my stove. You’re not trying to cook the beef through, you just want a deep brown crust all around the beef, so it’s important it gets in a very hot pan and has just enough time to quickly develop a crust. If your meat is grey, it is not browned. Turn up the heat, throw it back in the pot, and really brown it. Note: Oil will splatter out of the pan. Get yourself a splatter shield for your pot or nerves of steel. Do not put your face over the pot. Keep an arms length away, you only need to get in there to turn the meat, not stare it down.

2. Really dry the beef. Wet meat will not beautifully brown. Plus, any moisture in the pan will cause even more splattering. Dry the raw meat well with paper towels. I pat it down with paper towels after trimming off the fat. Then I dried each batch again before adding it to the pot for browning.

3. Flour the beef. Julia’s method calls for adding flour to the meat and then cooking it uncovered in the oven for several minutes. This gives the beef an even crustier brown coating and will help the sauce thicken. Do not skip this step. It only takes 8 minutes altogether and is among the simpler steps of the entire process, but plays a key role.

GOOD LUCK and bon appétit!

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 6 hungry adults

Adapted from Julia Child’s The Art of Mastering French Cooking, with additional elements of Ina Garten’s recipe

The picture was taken the next day of the leftovers. Once I plated everything and we sat down, I completely forgot about photographing it. I was in a food trance, I tell you!

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  • 6 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 3 pounds chuck beef cut into 2-inch cubes, fat trimmed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir or Chianti)
  • 2  1/2 to 3 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
  • 2 bay leaves, divided
  • 18 to 24 small boiling onions
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, quartered

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cook bacon in a large ovenproof casserole (such as an enameled cast iron Dutch oven) over medium heat until browned and the fat has rendered. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking fat.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat the fat until almost smoking. Add beef to the bacon fat, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the plate where the bacon is resting.

In the same fat, brown the sliced carrots and onions.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of the oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered (This is key! You want the beef to almost be poking out of the liquid. Too much liquid and the sauce will be too thin).

Add the tomato paste, garlic, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly. Cook for 2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily (I actually took a piece out of the pot and tasted it for tenderness).

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Peel the onions.***

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and remaining thyme and bay leaf.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to foam, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, remove casserole from the oven and set atop the stove, uncovered. Skim off any fat that has risen to the top. Add mushrooms and onions to the pot and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm (see serving suggestions, below).

This can be made ahead and kept in the fridge, covered, overnight. Bring it to a simmer before serving and skim off any more fat.

Serving suggestions:

I served mine over mashed potatoes. I also served a Caesar salad with my homemade dressing and croutons. Julia suggests serving with boiled potatoes or buttered egg noodles. Ina suggests serving with crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

*** You will hate life while doing this, but I promise, these onions transform into little bites of heaven. To help with the skins coming off, you can blanche the onions by boiling them in water for about 4 minutes, then drain and cool. This is supposed to help the skins slip off, but I don’t think this helped too much. The Barefoot Contessa will tell you to skip this bit and just throw frozen pearl onions in the pot right at the end.

Herb-Roasted Lamb and Potatoes

With Thanksgiving moments away, it’s the perfect time to make… lamb! I’ve seen nothing but pumpkin-themed posts on other food blogs for this entire month. Allow me to change things up a bit…

I had never eaten lamb before moving to Australia. Ok, that’s kind of a lie since I’d eaten lamb gyros plenty of times, but I’d never had rack of lamb or leg of lamb. I’d always been under the impression lamb was gamey and I hope to never taste anything gamey, as the word alone suggests body odor, grass and leather. It was near impossible to see a menu in Sydney that didn’t include lamb. Once I threw aside my preconceived notions and tried it I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s delicious, tender, and a nice alternative to beef. If you’ve always turned your nose up at lamb, you’ll be a convert after this recipe.

I don’t recommend this for a weeknight meal as it takes quite a while, but since I’m unemployed at press time, this was a perfect recipe for me to test out considering I have nothing but free time. This is certainly a showstopper and would be great for a dinner party or that special someone. Trimming the fat was the most time consuming part (and there was A LOT of it, lambs have thunder thighs), but you can ask the butcher to trim it for you. Also, it would be fine to leave the fat on (be sure to roast the lamb fat side up), which I’ll probably do next time.  Other than that, this recipe is foolproof, as are all of Ina Garten’s recipes.

I made a few adjustments, such as almost doubling the ingredients for the garlic/rosemary rub and turning down the oven after 30 minutes (I was worried the garlic would burn). Be sure to use a meat thermometer – the cooking times are only guidelines – and stick it in the thickest part of the lamb before putting it in the oven. I used a much smaller leg which weighed around 3 pounds, and it only took 50 minutes for it to reach medium. Turns out this is the perfect amount of time to drink a glass of wine and watch an episode of Jersey Shore, if you’re so inclined. I think even that culinary genius The Situation would approve.

Herb-Roasted Lamb and Potatoes

Serves 8-10

Recipe slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

  • 16 large unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and tied (check out this tutorial on trimming from Bon Appetit)
  • 4 to 5 pounds small unpeeled potatoes (16 to 20 potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven so the lamb will sit in the middle of the oven.

Peel 10 of the cloves of garlic and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the rosemary, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and butter. Process until the garlic and rosemary are finely minced (it should have a paste-like consistency). Thoroughly coat the top and sides of the lamb with the rosemary mixture, then tie. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Toss the potatoes and remaining unpeeled garlic in a bowl with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and roast for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn the oven down to 375 and roast until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135 degrees (rare) or 145 degrees (medium). Remove from the oven and put the lamb on a platter; cover tightly with aluminum foil. If necessary, put potatoes back in oven until they reach desired crispiness. Allow the lamb to rest for about 20 minutes. Remove ties, slice and serve with the potatoes.

Ready to go in the oven. I used a rack but you can just place it on top of the potatoes.

I served this with roasted asparagus, one of my go-to sides. Super easy and you can pop it in the oven while the lamb is resting.

Roasted Asparagus

  • Asparagus (any amount)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Break off the tough of ends of the asparagus. Spread asparagus out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.