Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Country Style-d & Delicious

Good evening everyone! While I do enjoy cooking and spending time in the kitchen, most of my favorite meals are ones that fall under the “simple” category. Don’t get me wrong, there are great rewards to be found in working with a coq au vin recipe or crafting a complex main course – but the combination of a simple recipe with savory flavors is simply hard to beat.

Tonight’s recipe certainly falls into the second category. It features a scant number of ingredients with only a handful of steps – and yet – it may be one of the richest, most full of flavor recipes you’ll ever cook up. The secret to this dish is tenderizing – and not in the way you might think.

Anyone who has been around a butcher’s counter or in the meat department of your local grocery store is likely aware of the countless options presented to today’s consumer when it comes to cuts of meat – beef in particular. Top, choice, prime – rounds, flanks, shoulders – bottom round, top round – top choice round – top bottom round (that one’s my favorite).  It seems daunting at first, but with a little seasoning in the kitchen (ha!) many chefs pick up on the basics. Rounds and flanks work well for stews, loins are tender cuts better served as steaks –etc. While this summarization works well in most cases, simply playing by the “hard and fast rules of beef” means you could be missing out. For example, did you know that bottom round – the steak with connective tissues and muscly fibers right in the center of it will be the most tender (and I mean – hot knife through butter – tender) steak you could ever cook up?

It’s true – and the secret lies in tenderizers. Not just any tenderizer will work, however – you need the right tool for the job. In this case, that’s the 48 Blade Meat Tenderizer (you can buy your own HERE). This little tenderizer works by jabbing the meat with 48 small little pins (or blades) that help break up the connective tissue and soften the meat. While you can achieve the same result by using a fork, the process takes much longer and is quite a bit more work – at $25 – any chef who works with beef frequently will get their money’s worth in short order.

Enough “behind the scenes” for today – let’s get cooking.

The Recipe: Country Style Steak
Original Recipe From: Good Eats: “Cubing Around”

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)

2 Pounds Beef Bottom Round (Trimmed of excess fat) Sliced into ½ Inch Steaks  (This should yield 4 steaks)
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
¾ Cup All Purpose Flour
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil (Amount will vary)
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Lightly season both sides of each steak with salt and pepper. Using a meat tenderizer (like the one described above) tenderize each piece of meat on both sides. (Working top to bottom, then rotate the steak and work “side to side” flip the steak and repeat).  Add the four to a shallow dish or plate. Dredge each steak through the flour, making sure both sides are evenly covered in a light coating of flour. Set aside until all of the steaks are covered in flour.

Add ¼ of vegetable oil to the bottom of a 4 to 5 quart Dutch oven (you should add enough to barely cover the bottom of the dish – adjust the amount of oil as necessary). Set the Dutch oven over medium high heat and bring the oil to a shimmer. Once shimmering, place two steaks into the pan and allow them to cook (undisturbed) for two minutes, or until golden brown. Flip the steaks and allow them to cook for an additional two minutes before removing them to a plate tented loosely with aluminum foil . Repeat the process for the remaining two steaks.

Once all of the steaks are browned, assess the state of your Dutch oven. If you find there’s still a lot of excess oil in the bottom of the pan, pour it out. A small amount of residual oil is okay and even welcome. Be sure you don’t WIPE the bottom of the pan, however. The browned on bits on the bottom of the pan are going to be great flavor for the sauce – we don’t want to lose those.

Add the chicken broth to the Dutch oven along with the dried thyme. Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Be sure to use a whisk to work up the browned on bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture comes to a boil – return the steaks to the pot (making sure each steak is covered completely by the liquid). Cover the pot and place it in the center of your oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, all that’s left to do is serve and enjoy! The broth should have reduced into a nice, thick sauce to serve atop your steak. Add a side of fresh veggies and you’ve got a great meal.

The Results:

As I alluded to in the open – this steak is one of the most tender cuts of meat you’ll ever have. It simply falls apart at the slightest prodding of the fork. That’s due to the tenderizing and then the two hour braise in chicken broth. What you end up with is a steak full of flavor and moisture yet is soft like it’s been in a slow cooker all afternoon. The best of both worlds!

That’s all we have for you this evening. Maggie returns to the kitchen tomorrow evening with a brand new dish of her own. Until then,


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