Tag Archives: beef

Watch.Learn.Cook with Canada Beef

29 Mar

Canada Beef


Did you know that Canada Beef, the organization that promotes beef grown across this country, offers a variety of online learning tools designed to help Canadians expand their knowledge of cooking with Canadian beef?

This month, the organization is inviting Canadians to Watch.Learn.Cook with Canadian beef using the helpful videos they’ve made available via YouTube, and as a Canada Beef Ambassador I get to help spread the word about these important tools.

Have you ever found yourself in the meat section of your local grocery store, staring at enticing cuts of Canadian beef on sale – but unsure of exactly what cuts you should buy and how to cook them? Canada Beef’s 30-second videos can be viewed from your smartphone or tablet in the store, making it easy to get a crash course in preparing different beef cuts. Check out these videos on the perfect pot roast, oven roasting (perfect for last-minute Easter meal prep!), or even barbecue roasting. If you’re lucky enough to be getting progressively more spring-like weather as we are in Toronto, the last one is definitely enticing for anyone itching to fire up the BBQ, finally.

Need more help than the 30-second videos offer? There are two-minute versions of these and many other beef cooking topics available, too. When you’re home from the grocery store and ready to play in the kitchen, these more in-depth videos are perfect.

Next time you’re facing an unfamiliar cut of beef that you want to try but need help cooking, check out Canada Beef’s informative video series.

Advertisements

Finding My Burger Personality with Canadian Beef

9 Aug

Canada Beef Burger Personality

What’s your burger personality? It sounds like a bit of a strange question, until you take a look at the chart above, from Canada Beef. It’s part of their new campaign to get Canadians thinking about one of everyone’s favorite summer BBQ meals, and what makes an ultimate burger. And since I’m a Canada Beef Brand Ambassador (as I mentioned a while ago), I’m helping to spread the word. You can check out a full description of all the personality definitions here, and get a badge to post on your site to let everyone know what your ideal burger type is.

After many years of trial and error, I’ve discovered that I’m a Naturalist when it comes to burgers. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy fancy, kicked-up burgers. My mom makes amazing chipotle burgers, and there’s a burger joint in Toronto that tops one of their burgers with foie gras and bacon. I haven’t tried it yet, but I definitely have to soon!

But of all the burgers I’ve made in my own kitchen or on my BBQ, the ones I made a couple weeks ago stand out to me as a revelation. I started with ground beef from Rowe Farms, an Ontario farming co-operative known for their quality product. To that meat I added… nothing. Well, almost nothing. A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce for a hit of that flavour that only Worcestershire can give you, a few grinds of black pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika for some heat and smoke flavour that would only enhance how the burgers would taste on the BBQ.

I also abided closely to two rules that I’d heard many times before about burger-making, but tend to ignore when I’m in a rush to cook. I only mixed the meat enough to blend in the ingredients, and when forming the burgers, I made sure to form them loosely. The more you handle the meat, the tougher it can be when it’s cooked. And densely formed patties don’t cook as well or release juices as nicely as loose ones.

Finally – and maybe most importantly, salt the outside of the patties generously just before putting them on the grill or in the pan. The reason for adding the salt at this stage is, again, to keep the moisture in the meat, making the resulting cooked burgers tender and juicy. Salt is important to creating a great, flavorful  burger. But if you add the salt to the meat before you form the patties, and it’s allowed to season the meat for an extended period of time before cooking, you’ll end up with dense, tightly packed patties – closer to the texture of sausage than a hamburger.

If you’re looking for great burgers made the Naturalist way, it’s as simple as that. So now… what’s your burger personality?

Learning About Canadian Beef

19 Jul

Canada Beef

Aside from being lots of fun and something that Jenny and I enjoy doing together, this blogging thing has connected us with some interesting opportunities. There have been chances to preview new restaurant menus in Toronto. We were part of an all-Canadian recipe creation event centred around Canadian beef, for which we invented our now infamous Moogarita beef cocktail.

And now, something new: I’ve been chosen as a brand ambassador for Canadian Beef, and I’ll be spending the next year helping to share information, create recipes and just generally shine a light on one of Canada’s most important agricultural products.

Why am I doing this, you might ask? I’m not doing it because Canadian Beef is paying me (though they are compensating me for the monthly assignments I’ll be completing, with a small stipend each month). And I’m not doing it because they’ll be supplying me with some great beef products to showcase and cook with (although they will be, and I’m quite excited at that).

I am doing this because I’m passionate about good food, and good food produced in Canada by hardworking farmers and others. And I’ve always loved cooking with beef, and sharing my recipes with others. And as a Canadian Beef brand ambassador, I’ll get to do just that, and hopefully help Communal Table readers boost their beef knowledge.

My first monthly assignment was simply to read through the beefinfo.org website, to better understand how the organization supports Canadian beef producers and consumers. And they wanted me to share with you my favorite part of the Canadian Beef website. As a cook who is always looking for ideas on recipes and techniques, the Cooking Lessons section was definitely the one that jumped out at me. It’s packed with step-by-step lessons, with how-to videos and recipes to match, on how to expertly prepare your beef using a variety of methods—grilling, braising, etc.

And you can submit a question for the Beef Expert, which will be answered on the site. Currently there are more than 20 questions with answers listed, everything from “How large a roast do I need to buy?” to “Do you have some tips for cooking beef in the slow cooker?”

Check out the site when you have a chance!

Celebrating Canadian Beef with Involtini

16 Feb

involtini beef prosciutto

I love meat, though – thanks in large part to Jenny’s influence – I’ve been eating much less of it over the past couple of years than I ever had previously (just check out our Recipes page to see the ratio of vegetarian-friendly dishes to meat-based ones!) 

Last month, I decided to challenge myself to give up meat entirely for 30 days. I was successful, minus a couple of cheat meals I allowed myself because they were special occasions. Over the course of the month, I started to look at restaurant menus differently – instead of automatically ordering the meatiest thing available, I branched out and tried some things I normally might not have. The end result of all this challenge and experimentation is that I’m left thinking about meat in a different way – a way I’d already knew instinctively before, but didn’t always practice; that is, that our access to high-quality meat is something to be celebrated and appreciated, and that the consumption of meat should be seen as an occasion that is likewise celebrated and appreciated. By that, I don’t mean that everyone should necessarily only eat meat on birthdays and holidays, or once a week at Sunday dinners. But those of us who do consume meat should make sure that what we’re eating has been treated as it should: instead of eating any old steak, we should be seeking out the best quality product we can find – from trusted sources who can explain where and how the meat was produced – and cooking it in a way that draws out its full flavour.
 
When I read that Canadian Beef – the association responsible for the support and promotion of Canadian beef and its producers – was funding three scholarships to the Eat, Write, Retreat food blogging conference in Washington, D.C., I decided to put up this post as my entry. Not only would I love the chance to attend a conference that looks like it has a great lineup of learning and networking opportunities, but I also liked that entrants were asked to write about one of their favorite memories involving Canadian beef, or a favorite beef dish.
 
Involtini has to be one of my favorite beef dishes, in part because its preparation incorporates some of the ideas I mentioned above. To me, involtini is a perfect example of what Italian cooking should be, as well as of how I think meat should be enjoyed. It’s about simple, fresh ingredients, combined and cooked gently to allow the flavours to really come together. And it’s really an “occasion” meal: since it takes so long to prepare properly, it’s typically something Italians will make when they come together to celebrate and eat. Even if you’re making involtini to enjoy with just one other person, as was the case for Jenny and I with the version here, the process of cooking, waiting, smelling and anticipating the dish means you really take the time to enjoy what you’re eating and who you’re eating it with.
 
Here’s my favorite beef dish. What’s yours?
 
Involtini with prosciutto, spinach and cheese
 
8 veal or beef cutlets, as thin as possible
8 thin slices of prosciutto
16-24 thin slices of parmesan or pecorino cheese
A large handful of spinach leaves
1 large handful of parsley, chopped
1 large handful of basil, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 or 2 large carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bottle of strained tomatoes (a.k.a., “passata”)
 
Lay cutlets on a work surface. Lay a slice of prosciutto lengthwise on each cutlet, then top the prosciutto with 4 or 5 spinach leaves, followed by two or three slices of cheese, and fairly generous sprinklings of chopped parsley, basil and lemon zest. Roll up cutlets from one end to the other, fairly tightly, and place a toothpick in each end of the roll to keep everything together.
Involtini prosciutto cheese
In a deep metal pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Brown each meat roll for a couple minutes on each side (you’ll probably want to do this in two or three batches to not crowd the pan). Set the meat aside.
beef involtini browning pan
In the same pan, add garlic, carrots and onions and saute for several minutes. Deglaze the pan with half a cup of wine (red preferably, but white works too). Add the strained tomatoes and a hit of salt. After a couple of minutes, once the sauce has started bubbling, put the meat sauce, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour, until the meat is tender and you can’t stand to smell the dish any longer without tasting it. Serve with your favorite sauteed greens or a salad.
veggies saute pan
 

Surviving Winter: Short Ribs, the Perfect Comfort Food

27 Feb

Short ribs braised cocoa five spice

One of the things I love most about winter is indulging in the kinds of substantial comfort foods that you wouldn’t necessarily want to cook or eat in the middle of summer – like braises that need to cook for several hours in a hot oven.

While I always really enjoy short ribs (Jenny and I even had them on the menu at our wedding), until a couple weeks ago I’d never actually cooked them at home. But when I found myself standing at the meat counter staring at racks of short ribs on a seriously cold day, I knew it was finally time to try them out.

This recipe started when Jenny suggested Chinese five-spice powder as an ideal flavouring for the ribs. I agreed, then immediately thought of cocoa powder as the ideal partner to five spice and wine in a braise. You’ll notice that the recipe below actually calls for red wine and beer. I was originally just going to use wine, but subbed in the beer when I realized we were short on leftover wine. The end result still turned out delicious, with the sweetness from the five spice and the earthy, smoky notes from the cocoa powder pairing perfectly with the flavourful ribs. I ended up cooking this in the oven for three hours, which produced an amazing, thick sauce, but made the ribs a bit too fall-off-the-bone for my liking. As a result, I’ve suggested braising for 2.5 hours in the recipe below… check it at that point and if it needs a bit more time, just pop it back in the oven to finish.

Short Ribs browning

Short Ribs Braised in Cocoa and Five Spice Powder

1 C red wine
1 C beer
3 C vegetable stock
2 TBS cocoa powder
2 TBS Chinese five spice powder, divided into 2 1 TBS portions
Chopped onion
Chopped fennel
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 C flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Chop ribs and dredge in flour mixed with 1 TBS five spice, and generous grinds of salt and pepper

Heat oil in a dutch oven or other large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. When hot, sear ribs in small batches on both sides until browned. Remove ribs and set aside.

Turn heat to down to medium. Add fennel and garlic and sauté a few minutes until translucent. Add onion and sauté several minutes more until it becomes soft.

Add ribs back into pot. Stir in cocoa and 1 TBS five spice, then add wine and stock. Turn heat back up and bring everything to a boil for a couple of minutes.

Cover with lid and put in oven for 2.5 hours, or until fork tender.

Polpette Rustico: Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Raisins & Simple Tomato Sauce

11 Feb

I was lucky enough to share in Neil’s first experience (aka: the beginning of his love affair) with New York City. When we first met I couldn’t believe that he had never been there before. For someone who’s so passionate about food, culture, art, music and history, it seemed like a crime that he had been missing out on a city that’s known for the best of all of it.

Especially when it comes to the food. Oh, the food.

When we took that first trip together, Neil had a list of restaurants and food items to try that could have lasted us about a year and a half.

We only had 4 days. I’ll spare you the gluttonous details.

But among the amazing meals we had was the unforgettable night we shared sitting on the street-side patio at Morandi in the West Village. And the best part was that we had stumbled upon it randomly, knowing nothing about the place or the chef.

Jody Williams (now famous for her appearances as judge on Food Network’s ‘Chopped‘) was the chef there at the time and the menu really got us excited. Nothing fancy, just simple Italian trattoria fare but with the kinds of exciting ingredients that always feed our passion for food in New York.

We ordered the fried artichoke with lemon to start and I actually remember our collective reaction after taking the first bite. We got that knowing look in our eyes followed by ‘Oh My God’s and a shared laugh marking our extreme fulfillment.

We also experienced real burrata for the first time ever that night, and we knew we had stumbled upon something special.

But it was Morandi’s Sicilian meatballs (Polpettine alla Siciliana) that really stole our hearts. We were so enamored with the interesting addition of pine nuts and raisins. It seemed untraditional at the time but whenever I think of Italian meatballs now, these are the version that I crave.

We immediately set out to craft our own version when we got home. We created our recipe from scratch, inspired by the meatballs at Morandi, but adding our own touches including lemon zest, which I love in this dish. Many, many batches later, these meatballs have become one of our favorite comfort foods and always remind us of that first trip to NYC.

When I made them the other night, Neil gave me the best compliment ever when he said that our kitchen smelled like his nonna’s as soon as he walked through the door. That made me smile.

These meatballs are rustic, flavorful and delicious enough to eat on their own as a meal. We serve them with salad, crusty bread and a generous heaping of the thick, rich tomato sauce.

 

Polpette Rustico: Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Raisins & Simple Tomato Sauce

For Sauce:

 

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small bulb of fennel, chopped, fronds reserved and roughly chopped

1 bottle of strained Italian tomatoes

3 Tbsp olive oil

½ cup water

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Handful basil leaves, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

For Meatballs:

½ pound ground veal or lean ground beef

½ pound ground pork

¼ cup chopped basil leaves (approx 10 leaves)

½ cup raisins (golden or sultana)

½ cup pine nuts (you can toast them for more intense flavor or leave them raw)

1 egg

Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

* Makes approx 20 large-sized meatballs.

In a deep sauce pan, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high. Add the fennel and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Roughly chop the fennel fronds and add to the pot. Add some salt, to taste, and keep sautéing for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, water and basil. Mix and season again with salt and pepper. Add in the balsamic vinegar. Mix well. Lower heat to a simmer and cover.

In a large mixing bowl, add all eight ingredients for the meatballs. Mix well with your hands to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Form into balls. You can make them as big or as small as you want. If you’re eating them with pasta then make smaller balls but if you’re having them as a meal on their own (as we like to do) then form larger meatballs.

Heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, turning each one using tongs. You might have to do this in two batches. When the meatballs are browned on all sides, add them one at a time right into the simmering tomato sauce.

Some pine nuts and raisins may come loose and end up in the pan. We like to scoop them up and add them right into the sauce to add extra flavor.

Once all the meatballs are added into the sauce, cover the pot and simmer on a medium-low heat for approx 35-45 minutes.

Cut into a meatball to make sure they’re cooked all the way through before serving.


Easy Homemade Jalapeno & Lime Beef Jerky

3 Feb

Neil and I are very proud of our Moogarita, the cocktail we created using Canadian Beef for Kitchen Play’s February Progressive Menu. We love that it’s gotten people talking about the use of beef and beef stock in different ways.

But in our last post, with the focus on the drink itself, a key component may have been overshadowed: the jalapeno & lime beef jerky.

We created the homemade jerky as a garnish for the Moogarita but quickly realized that this recipe should not be treated as an after-thought. This jerky is worth making and not just to be used as a garnish.

It’s delicious. It’s full of lean protein. It’s packed with a ton of flavor. And it’s an awesome snack.

I never considered making beef jerky at home. I’ve barely ever touched the packaged stuff. It was always a hot item on the craft table of many television sets I’ve worked on and I never understood why. (Hungry crew like meat in any form, I guess!) But the packaged version doesn’t even compare to a homemade one. It’s a different ball game altogether.

To create our recipe for jalapeno & lime beef jerky, we recipe-tested a few times to get the ingredients and technique just right. That meant eating quite a bit of homemade beef jerky and I think I got addicted in the process.

This jerky is packed with such a punch of flavor! You can really taste the jalapeno, not just the spice and heat, but the flavor of the pepper itself. You can even smell it as the jerky is drying in the oven. It kind of taunts you as you patiently wait for it to be done…

The first batch we made used more lime juice and less brown sugar and we found it too be a little too tart. We also cooked the first batch on a higher heat at 200 degrees and realized it probably needed to cook slower on a lower heat.

We had a lot of fun testing and coming up with the final recipe and I really encourage people to try making beef jerky at home whether you use this homemade version or another. Making it yourself ensures you know just what’s going into it. You can control the salt and sugar and feel good about eating a snack that’s preservative-free.

So in an effort to give this little recipe a shot at the limelight (bad pun but I’m going with it), I thought I’d post it again with a little bit more detail on how it came together.

Jalapeno & Lime Beef Jerky

3/4 lb flank steak

1 jalapeno, half of seeds discarded, chopped

1/3 C fresh lime juice

1/2 C tequila

1/4 C tamari soy sauce (or regular soy)

4 Tbs brown sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

Slice beef against the grain, into long, thin strips. The butcher we got the beef from actually gave us this handy tip: put your meat in the freezer about an hour before cutting it. It’ll be easier to slice.

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, tequila, tamari soy, brown sugar, salt and pepper until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the jalapeno with the seeds.

Place beef strips in a glass baking dish (or other non-reactive receptacle) and pour marinade overtop.

Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

We marinated ours overnight and by morning the beef was very dark and almost looked somewhat cooked.

Preheat oven to 175 C. Remove marinated beef from the fridge, and place slices on paper towel. Remove any jalapeno seeds stuck to the beef if you want a milder beef jerky or keep them in for some nice heat. Using more paper towel, pat the pieces of beef to remove excess liquid.

Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Arrange beef slices flat on sheet without overlapping.

For our Moogarita garnish we wanted the jerky to have a nice polished, stylish look so we twisted each piece as we placed them on the baking sheet. But you can leave them flat for a more traditional look.

Sprinkle with sea salt and place in oven.

Lay the pieces flat or twist for a different look

After 1.5 hours, remove the baking sheet and flip each piece of jerky over. Put back in the oven for another hour.

After another hour, check to see how dry the beef is, flip slices again, and put back in the oven for an additional 15-30 minutes, if needed. The goal is for the jerky to be as firm and dry as possible, without getting too brittle.

When sufficiently dried, remove jerky from oven and let cool. The beef will dry further as it cools so make sure not to overcook/over-dry in the oven.

If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, you can store them in an air-tight container or sandwich bag in the fridge for a few days.

%d bloggers like this: