separate two eggs: weight loss and mise en place

Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.
Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.

I’m prepping to receive about 100 lbs. of the tastiest, juiciest, pasture-fed, local beef, so I’m desperately trying to eat down my standing freezer.  This is a bit harder as one person than two, especially one who has been battling appetite slumps and anxiety cooking jags and antisocial moods and dining out hopes and growing terror about a headlong dive into poverty.

I’m finding little gems squirreled away in corners, now that I’ve freed the chicken carcasses, the oxtail bones, and the half pig head, trotter, and jowl from their frozen prisons to make stock.  I bring you the cornucopia of my life, most of it put up in the last year:

  • two fine pieces of lasagna;
  • 4 cups of sour cherries;
  • a quart bag of home-cured posole;
  • 4 cups of ajvar;
  • 3 gallon bags stuffed full of, respectively, boysenberries, haskapberries, and cranberries;
  • 1 gallon or so of tomato paste, portioned into 2 tablespoon-sized cubes;
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini;
  • 4 cups of sauerkraut golabki, pink; consumed;
  • bag o’ pancakes (pancakes?);
  • 2 cups b’steeya filling;
  • bolete pierogi (yum);
  • 2 half-pints duck rillettes;
  • 8 or 10 pieces of injera;
  • local polenta;
  • 2 quarts corn;
  • 1 cup wild mushroom duxelles;
  • 1 quart raisins (to go with the two more gallons raisins on my shelf and other freezer);
  • 2 gallons grapes to make more damn raisins;
  • 8 cups roasted sweetmeat squash;
  • a big package of forgotten homemade sausages (yay!);
  • pancetta;
  • 1 pint pork/raisin/almond tamale filling;
  • pork skin;
  • a bag of chicken feet;
  • and the meats and stocks one might expect.

I’m not even down into the bowels of the freezer yet. Or addressing the daily-use freezer full of readymades in the house.  If I were a civilization, what would this archaeological dig say about me, other than I’ve an embarrassment of riches?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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ethiopian spiced greens

We finally dove into our T-bone steaks from the quarter-cow share, and they were wonderful.  Let no one tell you that grass-fed beef is tough or tastes bad; ours is flavorful and perfectly juicy.  It is leaner, but the lack of marbled fat doesn’t seem to be a problem.  I’m not thrilled by the butchery, I have to admit. One of the T-bones lacked most of the pretty little tenderloin nugget that defines this cut, a condition I’m pretty sure is related to a slip of a knife (or saw?).

But I won’t go on about the wonders of the steak, marinated in whole-grain mustard and topped with Walla-walla onions and tarragon butter.  Instead, instead!  The star of the T-bone show wasn’t the T-bone at all.

It was the side of Ethiopian greens.

Retrogrouch had purchased a giant bag full of hearty greens after reading that they were good for healing broken bones.  We hadn’t been cooking them, though, so I suggested we make the Ethiopian greens that I love.  We still had some quick-frozen injera in our deep freeze, so I pulled that out and nuked it, as per the instructions from the woman who sold it to me in Portland.  (But if you like, make your own from one of my most popular posts, thanks to guest blogger Ceri — good luck!)

Candid photo of the uninvited guest at our intimate supper, courtesy of Retrogrouch

This recipe was adapted from several Ethiopian greens recipes — one a simple, non-spiced treatment for boiled kale, and another recipe using niter kibbeh, the spiced ghee or clarified butter used frequently in Ethiopian cooking, to jazz up collard greens.  It’s delicious just plain or with injera as a scoop.

By the way, if you’re looking for a fantastic appetizer that uses a similar preparation, try my Ethiopian greens bruschetta, a lovely preamble to a barbecue.

Ethiopian Spiced Greens

  • 1 lb. mixed hearty greens (I used purple and lacinato kale with some beet greens; try any kale, mustard green, collards), cleaned well
  • 3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter available in Indian markets) or regular butter
  • Spices: about 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder, and 1/4 teaspoon each of cumin, fenugreek powder, cardamom powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup stock or water (I used beef bone stock)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or mix in 1/2 teaspoon dried to the spices above)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Chop and mince vegetables and herbs, as noted, and grate ginger.  Mix together spices.  Strip the leaves from the stems of the cleaned greens; discard stems.

Blanch the hearty greens by plunging them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then dropping them into a bowl of ice water.  Squeeze the water from the greens as best as possible (I grab pieces that are softball-sized and squeeze), then set aside in large bowl to be chopped.

Chop all the greens into pieces no larger than one inch square.

In a pot large enough to hold the greens, melt the butter and add spices, ginger, red onion, and garlic; cook on low heat for about 20 minutes to soften the aromatics.

Add the stock or water and bring to a boil, then add the greens, oregano, and green onions.  Mix well and taste.  Add salt as necessary, perhaps more than you think you might need.

Here is where your preference comes in.  Cook the greens until they are just right for you.  It will depend, also, on the greens you’ve chosen. The tradeoff for softer greens is a loss of nutrients.  I like mine dark green but not olive drab; others may like theirs emerald green.  Add more stock if the greens seem dry.  You don’t want them to be dripping wet, but moist is good.

Serve with injera and another dish.  Lentils is a good choice, as is (trust me) a lovely T-bone steak.

quarter of a cow: spring chuck pot roast with salade mirepoix

This is Episode 1 of my new occasional series, Quarter of A Cow.  Given I have not been very good about my earlier series, Meal of the Week, I am opting for an unscheduled series.  I would like to help others eating through a beef share with helpful hints and tips, and I’d like to keep a record of what might work for next year. 

Today’s topic: chuck roast.

Life in the southern Willamette Valley means we’re kissing cousins to our livestock production.  All along the valley, one can buy some of the best local meat in the world in bulk — cow, lamb, pig — for an astonishingly low price/quality ratio.  Until just a few years ago, we couldn’t easily buy poultry, but that has changed with more purveyors of chicken, turkey and duck, not to mention chicken awareness in the form of the urban chicken craze.  I had the fortune to watch a chicken butchering at Sweetwater Farm last spring, and I see that the Ancona duck farmers Boondockers Farm is allowing folks to attend their own butchering process.  It’s a good thing to see and understand.

But…I’m already getting off topic, no?

Beef.

This year marked my first as a chest freezer owner, so I opted to share a quarter of a cow with a friend from a small farm with just a few head of cattle.  Completely grass fed, the cow worried me a bit because I was concerned with flavor and fat content often not sufficient to create juicy, marbled meat.  And yes, it is leaner, but the taste is marvelous.  It’s almost as if it was aged. (Um, could that be because we couldn’t pick it up for a week when it was ready?  I hope so.)  We had the meat cut and wrapped at Farmers’ Helper in Junction City, a charming little place that does custom cutting and sells local meat by the pound.

As we move into grill season, I’ll be offering suggestions for the primer cuts; for now, it’s all about the soup bones, chuck, and other tough cuts suitable for braising. A note on names: butchers’ cuts are often confusing because of the bewildering number of names each cut can be called, and similar names for very different cuts.

On a chilly, rainy spring day, I wouldn’t say no to a simple pot roast.  My spring recipe modifies my winter lemon pot roast recipe — it cooks the roast at a low temperature overnight, so it doesn’t heat up the house during the day, and it’s not browned, which creates soft, tender, mild slices of beef.  Browning the pot roast does unquestionably provide a richer broth and a pretty sear, but I also like the cleaner spring version with lemon.  A beef share usually comes with a bone-in chuck roast, so I’ve written the recipe using that cut, but feel free to use a 3-4 lb. boneless roast more commonly available in the market.

Even springier is to forgo the mirepoix — the saute of chopped celery, carrot, and onion which forms the base of so many winter braises — and use the vegetables instead as a chopped salad with a lemon and parsley vinaigrette to serve on the side.  Substitute chives or green onions for the yellow storage onions, in this case.  I would mince the carrots, celery, and parsley instead of chopping it roughly as I did in the picture.

Instead of potatoes, why not cook up some whole grains, like the purple barley from Open Oak Farm?  Also nice and light for spring.

Spring Chuck Pot Roast

This roast needs to be cooked overnight or for at least 10 hours, then cooled so it slices nicely, so plan ahead.

  • 4-5 lb. chuck roast, bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot, or a mix
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • a few fresh thyme springs (lemon time if you have it) or 1/4 dried thyme
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup beef broth (homemade or low-salt)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Face the roast situation: how large is your pot?  If bone-in, I recommend deboning.  For me, that means cutting into two or three large pieces, which fit nicely into my 5 L. dutch oven.  Rub the meat with liberal amounts of salt and pepper.

In a dutch oven large enough to hold your roast, saute onion and garlic in butter slowly over medium-low heat until golden brown.

While the onions are browning, zest one lemon and juice both of them.

Add the meat to the pot with the lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, and beef broth.

Before closing the lid, take a large sheet of aluminum foil and cover the pot tightly.  Then add the lid. This improves the seal.

Place in oven and let cook overnight or for about 8-9 hours.  In the morning, open up the pot.  The meat should be a ghastly grey.  As long as it’s thoroughly cooked and falling apart with tenderness when you slice off a piece, you’re good to go.  If you’re feeling unsure, don’t hesitate to turn the oven up to 300 degrees and let cook another hour or so.

Essential: after cooking, remove the roast and let rest until cool.  You might do it quickly on the counter for about 20 minutes, or even better, in the refrigerator for a few hours.  You’ll find the roast slices beautifully when cold, then you can reheat it in the juices left over from the braise.  Don’t discard your meat juice!  Boil it down with a pat of butter, then strain and pour over the meat after sliced.  Add some chopped chives to be very springy, indeed.

Serve with the salade mirepoix described above (minced celery, carrots, and chives in a lemon-parsley vinaigrette) and steamed barley.  Also wonderful with spring greens.

Other Chuck Roast Recipes from the Files: