How to Grind Your Own Beef

Make Ground Beef at HomeUpon going to law school several decades ago, the world of ALL THE THINGS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT was laid bare in front of me. Prior to that I thought I knew everything. I walked in feeling extremely knowledgeable and within a few short days I was confident only in the fact that I had everything to learn, starting from zero. Hubris is the hallmark of youth. I was frightened, but thrilled, to have the shell knocked off of me because it was as if someone finally showed me that a library was not just a peaceful place, but it was also filled with books. There are so many areas of inquiry about which to know nothing. It is exciting.

Recently, I’ve been pondering how little I know about cows and steers and bulls and beef, generally. You think you know what a cow is. You think you know what a steak is. You think you know how to cook. You might know a bit, and you might even know a lot. But you probably don’t know diddly, kind of like me. Several years ago I met some men and women at Texas A&M who actually do know almost everything there is to know about beef and it made my knowledge base, relative to theirs, look a little puny. I learned a great deal from them, but among the things I learned was how little I actually know, and how fascinating beef and the beef industry is.

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Salt & Pepper Beef Tenderloin

Platter of sliced beef tenderloinThe Winter issue of Edible Dallas & Fort Worth recently became available. I have a few favorite things in this issue. Most notably, I wrote a feature article about Foodways Texas, and I got to take photographs of my friend Meaders Ozarow at Empire Baking Company. Those were my two favorite additions to this issue. But I also put together a collection of holiday dinner recipes with an emphasis on keeping the holidays simple. Beef tenderloin is as simple as it gets. Although, mistakes are costly, so invest in a great meat thermometer.

Along with articles about Empire, there are some great stories about Rehoboth Farms, recipes for great foods that make great gifts, and the Stufflebeam family. And, there are many more articles, ideas and notions between the covers. If you love Dallas, you need to love Edible because this is where you will learn about the farmers, ranchers, restaurants, chefs and businesses that make our region culinarily compelling.

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Traditional Pot Roast

Pot Roast LeadI could write an Ode to Pot Roast. I could tell you every good and bad one that I have made. I could tell you the restaurants and diners that have perfected the art.

Pot Roast is how you feed a crowd something comforting and succulent without spending a fortune. Cooked slowly, ignored really, an inexpensive and tough cut of meat is transformed into a silky mess in a pot of gravy. And that is really the key, time. There is no trick, really, just some basic preparation. It is the time that turns the sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Somewhere along the line I realized that the only long term value of a recipe blog is to make darned sure that I posted every recipe that I thought I or my son or daughter, or my grandchildren, or my great grandchildren might need someday. When I stop this one day, I want to take a day to actually write the recipes down on index cards so they can wear with time and get dripped on and obtain the status of a dog eared, messy, timeless favorite…for someone. A real recipe…not a cyber-flash-dinner-in-a-minute-grab-the-iPad-and-find-something-emergency-idea.  I want to leave something that actually connects me to my descendants. Funny, there is nothing permanent about a web presence unless you have posted inappropriate content that will come back to haunt you. This is why I hold tight to my hand written index card recipes from mom, and aunts and great aunts. And this is why I still buy piles of cookbooks. They are real in a way that web recipes cannot be. It is strange to think that if I pushed the wrong button…all of these recipes would be gone in a flash. But if I wrote them with my hand, turned them from bits and bytes into something tangible…bites that could last.

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Roasted Fall Tomatoes and Chicken

a photograph of a roast chickenSo, it should be some indication of how scatterbrained I am these days (read: genuinely busy being a mom and a regular person) that I somehow didn’t post about this recipe. And, holy cow, what could be nicer? I had a recipe in the Dallas Morning News on September 11th. Now, there were other things going on that day. It was one of those rare nights when Pitts and I indulge in getting a sitter and going out to play. My gal Lori Whitlow was having a wee little birthday dinner at the new Andre Natera eatery, Village Kitchen. We gorged on appetizers, including a fantastic fresh avocado flat-bread and by the time I ordered dinner I was approaching full. Wait, that isn’t quite right. We gorged on cheeses and grilled Italian artichokes packed in olive oil from Molto Formaggio at Lori’s, then we pigged out on appetizers, and then I had to make choices from Natera’s very entertaining menu. I say entertaining because I wanted to try pretty much everything. I don’t like being confused. So I punted. If you ever want people at a nice restaurant to look at you like you have flipped your lid completely, order this for your entree:

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Crunchy Basil Chicken

main image of crunchy basil chickenThis was my answer to my internal dialogue wherein I asked myself if I was really going to make plain chicken breasts again for dinner. I gazed out my kitchen window and I also chided myself for not having used any of my fresh basil plants which I have kept alive through sheer force of will throughout the summer. I have pinched it and watered it and talked to it, but I haven’t really cooked with it. So, while I was giving myself a hard time about these things, the skeleton for this recipe emerged in my mind.

Breaded baked chicken dishes are usually disappointing unless you are a master fryer. They never seem to get crisp on the bottom and often end up soggy.  Plus, grilling or pan sautéing chicken is so quick and handy. The trick was to combine the two…and use my basil.

So, my mind turned to the idea of preparing a crunchy topping instead of a messy breading and I came up with the idea for a savory granola. This recipe makes twice as much as you need for a four person meal. But I detest the notion of using “half” of a separated egg. This is not exactly logical but, you will find a million different ways to use this topping…basically on any meat for which you would like a breading but don’t want to fool with the mess of frying. It also makes a stellar casserole topping and, in fact, I used it for a crunch topping for a tuna noodle casserole and it was just perfect. It is simply a great and easy “All Purpose Crunchy Topping.”

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