Corned beef is made from beef brisket, which is an inexpensive, mostly lean cut of beef that is too tough to use except by boiling it for an extended period of time or slow cooking it covered, in moist conditions in an oven as pot roast. Supermarkets typically sell the corned beef for this dish in roughly three pound amounts, prepackaged, for about $3 per pound. Around St. Patrick's Day the markets typically put heads of cabbage on sale also, often for 39 cents to 49 cents per pound. Add in a few potatoes and some carrots and voila! You have the complete and inexpensive meal, less the horseradish cream sauce, which you want to be sure to remember to make.
A word about serving size for the corned beef is important. Due to the presence of some surface fat on the brisket and due to the high moisture content of the meat due to the marinating (corning) process used commercially to make it, the yield from three pounds of corned beef is only enough to feed four hungry adults. Plan your purchases accordingly. Similarly, a medium size head of cabbage is okay for four people, but scale up or down in what you buy based on the number of people to be served and the size of heads of cabbage. For example, a very large head of cabbage is enough for six people. I generally allow for two medium to large carrots per person.
Some packages of corned beef include a seasoning packet. Some do not. If you have the packet then use it instead of the bay leaves and ground pepper shown below. Otherwise, be sure to use the bay leaves and ground pepper. Actually, if you really want to get back to basics you can look up a recipe for the corning process in The Joy of Cooking® and make your own corned beef from plain beef brisket ... but note that the corning process takes a week or so in your refrigerator, so plan well in advance if you are adventurous.
The cooking procedure shown below allows for cooking for a crowd of eight or more people using only one cooking pot, but making use of a warming oven to hold each item, covered, after it is cooked. The meal is served with the food items separated, each in it's own serving dish, and the guests decide how much of each item they want. This differs a lot from recipes where all the vegetables are added to a large roasting pan with the beef after the beef is simmered, and then served wet on a large platter.
There is no special beverage associated with this meal, so anything from water to iced tea to beer will be fine.
Ingredients: (serves four adults)
3 lb. package of corned beef
4 medium size russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into eight pieces each
6 bay leaves
15 coarsely ground or crushed black peppercorns (I put them into a Ziploc® freezer bag and crush them with a kitchen mallet)
1 medium size head of cabbage (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter)
8 medium to large size carrots
Variation: Add a large white turnip, peeled and cut into eight pieces. Cook it with the potatoes and carrots.
Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Put a small platter into the oven for later use with the beef at serving time.
Trim the corned beef of most of its fat. Alternatively, you can boil the beef first and then scrape the soft fat from it prior to putting the beef into the oven.
Put the beef into a one to two gallon pot with enough water to cover it. Then add the seasoning packet contents or the bay leaves and ground pepper.
Bring the pot contents to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer the beef for three hours.
While the beef is simmering prepare the other ingredients. Peel and chop the potatoes and put the pieces into a large bowl and fill it with water.
Peel and cut the carrots into three or four pieces each and add them to the potatoes.
Make the horseradish cream sauce per the Food Nirvana recipe in Dips, Dressings and Sauces. Refrigerate it until it is served.
After three hours of simmering, remove the beef to the small pre-warmed platter, scrape the soft fat off and discard it if you didn't eliminate the fat prior to cooking, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and put it into the oven.
Drain the potatoes and carrots (and turnip if you used one) and add them to the pot, adding enough water to cover them if necessary.
Increase the heat to high to bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for fifteen minutes.
Check for doneness with a fork. The carrots should be soft. If not, simmer for an additional five minutes.
Remove the potatoes and carrots (and turnip pieces) and put them into two serving dishes, separating the carrots from the potatoes and turnip. Cover each dish tightly with aluminum foil and put the dishes into the oven.
Cut the head of cabbage into quarters, then cut the core area from each quarter and discard it.
Put the four quarters of cabbage into the pot, cover it with the lid, increase the heat to high until the liquid is boiling and then simmer the cabbage for fifteen minutes on low heat.
Pre-warm dinner plates in the oven for five to ten minutes.
Remove the cabbage to a serving bowl, cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and put it into the oven.
Remove the beef from the oven and slice it crossways into 1/2" to 3/4" thick slices.
Remove the vegetable serving bowls from the oven and remove the aluminum foil covers.
Get the horseradish cream sauce from the refrigerator.
Remove the dinner plates from the oven.
Serve the meal buffet style using your island or kitchen counter.
You will receive many compliments!
Filet Mignon with Foie Gras - ☺♥
This recipe results from my memory of a wonderful and unique meal in Brussels, Belgium. The experience dates back to the late 1980’s, during a business trip, and the restaurant was Spanish in a large plaza area called La Place, which was quite a fine public area a few acres in size surrounded with large buildings and superb statuary dating back 500 years. Ahh … to think that great artisans were creating these masterpieces 300 years before the USA was formed … it kind of makes us look like “Johnny come lately” … but that is a separate topic for a different venue.
What makes this dish special is the use of foie gras (duck or goose liver), which in combination with the filet mignon was an unforgettable experience. Do note that in general I despise liver, but this was/is a truly exceptional experience.
Okay … the general idea is that a 1 1/4” to 1 ½” thick filet is trimmed of fat and/or membrane and wrapped around the perimeter with bacon (attached with toothpicks). The filets are grilled on a hot charcoal grill to a medium rare degree of doneness, which means four to five minutes of grilling time per side based on the thickness of the filet and the heat of the grill. Remove the filets from the grill to a warm meat platter when done.
The top of each filet is coated with a ¼” thick layer of foie gras paste and put under a broiler for at most one minute to cook the foie gras, as the underside is cooking because of the high temperature of the grilled filet. Then a small amount of a hot clear brown beef glaze is poured over the filet and it is then served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and shallots.
The taste is to die for … and the general description I just gave above was the exact way the dish was served to me in Brussels.
Alas, I had to search the Internet to find something close to the recipe in Brussels. I was successful except the recipe called for searing pieces of foie gras and placing them on the filet instead of making a paste and using broiling to cook it. Ah well … I decided that just this one time I would suffer with the recipe recommendations instead of experimenting to make a foie gras paste.
Oh, do make your side dishes for this meal prior to grilling the filets. And serve a high quality merlot or pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon wine with dinner.
Ingredients: (Two servings)
2, 8 oz. pieces of filet, trimmed, about 1 1/4” to 1 ½” thick
¾ lb. of fresh mushrooms (use any type you want except pungent varieties like porcini)
¼ lb. of frozen Foie Gras (try to buy a horizontal cross section of the liver ½” thick)
1 medium shallot
2 strips of thick sliced bacon
½ stick of Butter
1, 14 oz. can of beef broth
1, tbsp. of Cornstarch
¼ tsp. of Sea salt
¼ tsp. of Pepper
2 tbsp. of crushed peppercorns
1, tbsp. of Herbs de Provence (see recipe for this simple herb combination below)
Heat the beef broth on a very low simmer to reduce the volume by one half, thus concentrating the beef flavor. Let the pan of reduced beef broth cool to room temperature. The tablespoon of cornstarch will be added to the broth late in the meal preparation and the mixture mixed and heated with constant stirring to slightly thicken the beef broth into a glaze consistency.
Herbs de Provence is simply a fancy name for a mixture of the following dry herbs. Use ½ teaspoon each of thyme, savory, rosemary, basil and bay leaf. Moisten the mixture with ¼ cup of water and set it aside. It will be used later during sautéing of the mushrooms and shallot. As an aside, French chefs put fresh herbs in a small cloth bag when cooking certain clear soups and call it a bouquet garni, and it is typically removed and discarded after use. Thus, in those recipes the herb flavors are captured but the herbs do not affect the visual clarity of the final soup. But in this foie gras recipe we want the herbs to be part of the final presentation.
Chop the mushrooms into pieces that will be bite sized after sautéing. That means the uncooked pieces should be about ¾” square cubes or anything close to that.
Dice the shallot into small pieces about ½” by ¾”.
Sauté the mushrooms and shallot lightly (on low heat) in the ½ stick of butter with the herbs de provence and water mixture added at the beginning of the sauté process. Add small amounts of sea salt and pepper, perhaps ¼ teaspoon each. You should cover the sauté pan with a lid to have the steam help at the start of the sauté process. The goal is not to overcook the mushrooms … they should still retain their original shape and not be shrunken or completely soft. You will know when to stop the sauté process as the mushrooms will have changed color, as in from white to light tan. Stir and check frequently. Remove the lid for the last few minutes. Remove the sautéed mixture to a bowl and keep it warm in a 180º F oven. Reserve the skillet that contains the butter residue for searing of the foie gras.
Chop the pieces of foie gras into ½” cubes. Sear them on all sides in the skillet that was used earlier for sautéing the mushrooms. Searing should turn the color from tan to light brown. Do not overcook. About three minutes on medium heat (after the skillet is heated) with frequent mixing is about right. Put the seared foie gras pieces in a bowl and keep them warm in a 180º F oven.
Wrap the filet pieces around the perimeter in raw bacon. Fasten the bacon multiple places with toothpicks. Sprinkle both sides of the filet lightly with the crushed peppercorns and a small amount of sea salt. Rub the pepper and salt into the meat. Grill the filets on a hot charcoal grill (4” from the hot coals) for anywhere from four to five minutes per side depending on the thickness of the filets. Put the grilled filets onto individual serving plates, remove the toothpicks (if you can) and put the plates into the warm 180º F oven.
Now is the time to heat the mixture of reduced beef broth and cornstarch. Heat on medium high stirring constantly until thickened and remove from the heat.
Okay … it is time to assemble the final product. I do hope you made all of the side dishes you want to serve with the filets before this point in time.
Remove the warmed serving plates with the filets from the oven. Encircle the filets with the sautéed mushroom/shallot mixture. Place the pieces of foie gras on the top of the filets. Pour just enough of the thickened beef broth glaze over the top to lightly coat the foie gras and the top of the filet and just a tiny bit on the mushrooms. Serve at once. Oh, my, is it good …
A word about cost:
I must tell you that the cost for foie gras is about $90 per pound, so you will spend around $22 just for the foie gras … and another $10 to $12 for the two, 8 ounce beef filets. You will have to find the foie gras in a specialty store or a supermarket that caters to the wealthy, like Janssens Market® in Wilmington, DE. It can also be ordered through the Internet. I know it sounds expensive, but how often do you celebrate with something this good? How much do you spend for pedestrian food in restaurants vs. this haute’ cuisine experience?
I did not try to make a foie gras paste as was served to me in Brussels. If I were to try that instead of searing the foie gras I would use a small blender and perhaps a very small amount of butter and a bit of dry white wine to create the paste. Then I would coat the top of the grilled filets and put them under a low broiler setting for about one minute … just enough time to cook the foie gras. Remember that the grilled filet will provide heat from the underside, so broiling doesn’t have to take very long. At some point I will try this variation.
About Foie Gras:
A bit of Internet research revealed a lot about foie gras. When purchased as we did there was no cleaning necessary as we purchased what turned out to be a cross section of one lobe of the liver, about ½ inch thick. We had no cleaning to do because it evidently had been cleaned for us.
Had we purchased an entire lobe or the entire liver there would have been a considerable amount of work soaking it in salt water and then cutting it to remove the complex network of blood filled veins, etc., just to get it ready for cooking.
Beyond that, my guess regarding making a paste is probably pretty good, but the fat content of the foie gras is so high that perhaps the butter and wine aren’t necessary. Perhaps a fine dicing and blending with a very tiny amount of butter would work fine.
Osso Buco - ☺♥
This great veal dish is perfect for a cold winter day. It is most tasty and very satisfying. I thank Marie for introducing me to this great dish. Either buttered parsley potatoes or Marie’s oven browned potatoes go great with this dish. A nice loaf of crusty French bread and butter are nice as well.
Serves two adults.
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of thyme
1 dry bay leaf
2 whole cloves
3 whole veal shanks about 1 lb. per shank, trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour for dredging
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 small onion diced into ½ inch cubes
1 small carrot diced into ½ inch cubes
1 stalk of celery diced into ½ inch cubes
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
1 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
3 tbsp. of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley chopped
1 tbsp. of lemon zest
Place the rosemary, thyme and cloves into cheesecloth as a bouquet garni.
The veal shanks should have all moisture removed with paper towels. Secure the meat to the bone with kitchen twine. Season each shank with salt and pepper. Dredge the shanks in flour.
In a large Dutch oven heat the vegetable oil until it starts to smoke. Put the tied veal shanks into the hot pan and brown on all sides about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shanks and reserve them for later use.
In the same Dutch oven add the onion, carrot and celery. Season the mixture with salt to help draw out the moisture from the vegetables. Sauté on medium heat until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
Return the browned veal to the pan and add the white wine and reduce the liquid by half (about 5 minutes) on medium heat. Add the bouquet garni and 2 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the Dutch oven and simmer for about 1½ hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Check every 15 minutes, turning the shanks and adding more chicken stock as necessary. The level of cooking liquid should always be about ¾ of the way up the shank.
Carefully remove the cooked shanks from the pot and place them in a decorative serving platter. Cut off the kitchen twine and discard it.
Pour all the juices and sauce from the pot over the shanks. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest.
Roast Beef – Old Fashioned Skillet Seared Method - ☺♥
There are many ways to prepare roast beef. Some are more effective for tougher cuts of beef and other ways most effective for choice or prime beef in the best cuts. Degree of doneness is also highly variable, from rare steamship rounds of beef and cuts like medium rare prime rib all the way to the opposite extreme of being drier and well done, or, thoroughly cooked in moisture to develop tenderness, like pot roast. This recipe is intended to produce well done but tender beef roast from cheaper cuts, specifically boneless chuck roasts, or from better cuts like sirloin.
Let’s start with a five pound boneless chuck roast, which has been partially de-fatted (Simply cut off any excess outside fat) and to which cracked peppercorns and coarse sea salt have been rubbed onto both sides. Use Pam® to spray each side generously after the addition of the salt and pepper, to hold the seasonings in place. Put the beef into a large ovenproof skillet that has a well fitting lid. Chop one large onion into small pieces for later use and set it aside.
The general idea is to thoroughly sear both sides of the seasoned roast in a covered skillet on top of the stove on high heat. This takes from two to four minutes per side. The PAM® sprayed on earlier helps the searing process and in turning the meat over to sear the second side. After searing a small amount of water is added (about ½ to ¾ cup) and the covered skillet is put into a 375º F oven. After thirty minutes, the chopped onion is added and mixed with skillet liquids. The roasting continues for one additional hour, with stirring after the second thirty minutes to mix the caramelizing onions with beef drippings and to check that the skillet contents around the beef are not turning too dark. Reduce the heat for the last thirty minutes to 325º F.
Check the roast beef for doneness. It should be very tender. If not, roast it for an additional thirty minutes, covered. If the skillet contents are becoming too dry then add ¼ to ½ cup of water to keep the drippings from burning/becoming too dark during the final roasting process. Repeat this process as necessary until the beef is very tender. Why the variable roasting times? Meat thickness determines how long it will take to cook through and become tender.
Remove the beef from the skillet to a platter, cover it with aluminum foil and put it into a 200º F oven. Place the plates you plan to use at dinner into the oven to pre-warm them, along with any serving dishes you will use for cooked vegetables, etc.
Now let’s assume you cooked four very large finely diced russet potatoes in one quart of canned beef broth, boiling on medium heat for ten minutes, to make mashed potatoes to accompany your roast beef. Once the potatoes are cooked the liquid/beef broth is to be poured through a strainer into the skillet used to roast the beef, which also captures the cooked potatoes in the strainer. That method captures the potato starch for the gravy and some amount of vitamins and the beef broth.
Make the mashed potatoes with softened butter, milk, salt and pepper. Mix at medium and then high speed in a large bowl using an electric mixer. For four very large potatoes use ½ stick of butter, ½ tsp. Salt, and ½ tsp. Pepper. Add up to ½ cup milk after thorough mixing, a little at a time while continuing mixing at high speed until you have the desired consistency. Vary the milk as necessary, seeking whipped potatoes that are soft and moist but which also hold their whipped shape well. Too much milk will create a soupy mess. Too little milk will yield mashed potatoes that are too firm and dry. Transfer the finished mashed potatoes to a bowl, cover it and put it into the 200º F oven with the roast beef.
If you de-fatted/removed the excess fat from the beef prior to roasting you will not have to remove any fat from the skillet before making the gravy. De-glaze the skillet with the potato/beef broth added earlier, which means scrape the skillet bottom gently to unstick the beef drippings so they can be blended well into the broth prior to adding thickeners. Do that blending with a plastic spatula or wooden spoon. Do not have heat on under the skillet.
Prepare a mixture of thickeners to convert the skillet contents into very rich and tasty gravy. Use six tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of cornstarch in a bowl with one cup of water, adding the water gradually while mixing to produce a smooth thickening sauce.
Add the thickening sauce gradually to the skillet while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to avoid clumping of the thickeners. Turn on the stovetop heat to high and continue stirring the gravy to keep it uniform in thickness. When the gravy comes to a medium boil it is done. You may choose to strain the gravy or not depending on its consistency … if you have lumps you didn’t mix the thickeners properly or you didn’t stir continuously or you didn’t wait to heat the juices before adding the thickeners … we all must learn from our errors. Transfer the gravy from the skillet into a two-quart bowl directly or through a strainer and place it, covered, into the oven that contains the roast beef platter. Note that it was not necessary to add salt or pepper to the gravy due to pre-seasoning the roast beef prior to searing. Seasoning adjustments can be made by each individual later at the table to suit their wants.
Make whatever other vegetables, salads, etc. that you want to serve with the meal. When they are done serve the entire meal at once … The beef can be pulled apart easily as it will be very tender. The warmed plates and other serving bowls/contents will make the meal even more enjoyable.
The gravy is to die for delicious on the already delicious beef and the mashed potatoes. The secret was the onion, the beef broth from the potatoes and the pre-seasoning of the beef and, of course the searing process.
Yes, I love medium rare prime rib, steaks, etc., but this old fashioned recipe from my childhood creates an equally delicious but very different roast beef from what is typically served today in homes and restaurants. My grandmother Cora and my mother, Dorothy, pleased family and friends many times with this great tasting roast beef dinner. And my children love it. It will go on …
Rouladen - ?
If you are German, you have probably heard of rouladen, a very traditional dish in German cooking. If you haven’t, rouladen (roo-la-din) is a pickle slice and a few other vegetables and seasonings, and usually bacon also, wrapped in a thin piece of steak. It may sound strange, but it is delicious. I have a very pleasant memory of another traditional German meal that Marie and I enjoyed in California when our friend Norbert invited us to dinner ... Sauerbraten. Yes, Norbert was from Germany, and his sauerbraten was similar in preparation by using red wine vinegar as a tart ingredient like the pickle juice used in the rouladen recipe.
The recipe below is a composite of two recipes I found on the Internet. Note that there are two alternative ways of using the bacon provided in the directions so be sure to read the directions all the way through and then decide which method you will use. I have to try this recipe and then I will report back with results, and I intend to use the alternative method of pre-frying the bacon and tying the rouladen rolls with string prior to cooking.
Note that typical items served with rouladen are spatzle and hot pickled red cabbage. Noodles can be substituted for the spatzle. Hot freshly made applesauce is another nice accompaniment.
Thin-cut top round steak (About 1.5 pounds cut into 4 thin pieces)
2 whole dill pickles (cut into fourths)
Pickle juice (32 oz.)
1 to 2 teaspoons of beef bouillon or two to four beef bullion cubes
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
One Green Bell pepper sliced thinly with each piece cut in half
One medium size sweet onion sliced thinly and cut in half to form small pieces
8 slices of raw Bacon
If you use the primary recipe directions below then do not fry the bacon first. If you use the alternative method then fry the bacon until it is almost crisp and then drain it on a paper towel and set it aside. Reserve the bacon grease in a small dish.
Flatten and tenderize the steaks with a meat mallet.
Cut each piece of meat in half so that you have 8 pieces of meat, each about 6 inches long.
Cut the two whole dill pickles into quarters lengthwise.
Lightly sprinkle each side of the meat with garlic salt and dried parsley.
Spread a very light coating of mustard on the top surface of each piece of meat.
Put a few slices of the green pepper and the onion, evenly distributed, on the top surface of each piece of meat.
Place a piece of the pickle across the meat at the narrow end and (but see alternative method below) roll it up tightly inside the meat along with the other vegetables, being careful to keep all the ingredients inside the rolled up meat and evenly distributed.
If you do not use the alternative method described below then wrap a piece of bacon around each piece of meat to hold it together.
In a typical rouladen recipe the meat is tied up with string to keep it together, but wrapping it in raw bacon (as opposed to putting fried bacon inside) is an easy trick so you don’t have to cut off strings at serving time.
The alternative method is to pre-fry the bacon until it is nearly crisp and put one piece inside the meat roll with the vegetables, and then tie each rolled up piece of meat with string fairly tightly, once around the middle of the roll and also once end to end. The tying guarantees that each roll will remain tight and not lose any content into the skillet during cooking.
The rouladen is now ready to cook.
If you used the method of putting the pre-fried bacon inside each roll then add two to three tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease to a hot skillet.
Brown the meat in the skillet at medium to high heat, turning the pieces every few minutes to cook each side. The meat will slow cook all the way through later during the simmering step.
When the meat is browned, or the wrapped raw bacon mostly fried, add 2 cups of water to the skillet and bring it to a boil, using a spoon to scrape any meat drippings from the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the meat for 30 minutes, uncovered. The water should bubble slightly during simmering.
Add 1 to 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of pickle juice after the 30 minutes, and continue doing this every 15 minutes for two hours total, but do not add too much liquid, ergo, don't completely submerge the meat. If you haven’t used all the pickle juice by the end, add the rest. Also, you can always add more water during simmering to make sure the meat is barely covered, depending on how quickly the water evaporates.
After two hours, take the meat out of the pan and place the pieces in a serving dish, leaving the remaining liquid in the skillet.
Make the gravy for the rouladen. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons of beef bouillon or two to four bullion cubes into the liquid. Taste it and add more if you want it saltier.
Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to make a thickener.
Slowly whisk the thickener into the liquid to make a gravy. Heat the gravy to a boil while whisking until it thickens.
Serve the rouladen hot with the gravy ladled over it in the serving dish.
As noted in the introduction, spatzle and hot pickled red cabbage are traditional accompaniments served with rouladen. Noodles can be substituted for the spatzle. Homemade hot applesauce is also a nice addition.
Serendipity Steak - ☺♥
Well, sometimes life just goes our way. Yes, I know it doesn’t happen often, but hey, it does happen. Tonight my wife and I had a delightful meal that went far beyond our expectations. Here is the story…
She wanted a steak for dinner. It is very cold outside (January) so I don’t want to charcoal grill anything! Thus, I offer her two weak choices … skillet fried or broiled. She delays answering while I search the depths of the deep freeze hoping to find something respectable. I come up with a hunk of vacuum sealed frozen rib steak 2 inches thick. Where did that too thick steak come from?!!!
Hmmm … what to do? It is too thick to grill as a steak and it is too thin to roast as a prime rib.
Enter one kitchen guardian angel … she blesses me with a nutty idea. I accept as I have no alternative. Here we go …
Suppose I treat this hunk of meat as a skinny rib roast … if I use a small enough vertical side skillet and some small salad forks to keep it upright then I can roast it as a prime rib for two. Delightful if it works.
So, I turned on the Dacor® oven to a convection/sear setting at 550º F. Holy smokes! Well, no, that comes later.
Okay, I thawed the beef and coated it with peanut oil. Then I rubbed freshly ground peppercorns and kosher salt into each side. About that time the oven beeped as the extra high temperature oven exhaust fan came on.
I stuck the two salad forks into the meat at a 45º angle down on each side and then opened the very hot oven and slid out the rack holding a steel skillet … a very hot steel skillet I might add. The forks and meat settled in flawlessly and the meat was sizzling immediately even with the oven door open. I mean to tell you the skillet was really hot. So I closed the oven and set one timer for 10 minutes and a second timer for 30 minutes.
Ten minutes later I reduced the oven heat setting to 375º F. I kind of felt I had to do that as the oven was rather smoky inside. Understatement!!!
My kitchen guardian angel prevailed … I did not have to call the fire company.
20 minutes later I extracted the beef and we sat down to dinner, which besides the beef consisted of our home grown butternut squash and a tossed salad with my recently created sesame salad dressing. Okay, a fine red wine too.
One cut to divide the beef in half was all we needed to see. Heaven on Earth! The outside was crisp and we had everything from well done to medium to medium rare to rare in the middle. What a delight! We each ate a pound of this stuff like hungry pigs … forget the rest of the meal! We finally got around to the squash and the salad after many grunts and moans about dying and going to beef heaven.
So, I suppose you get the impression we felt very fortunate as the house did not burn down and the meal was to die for … that doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?
We were thrilled and we decided to bore you with our story in the hope that you too can experience this kind of delight. All it takes is a silly ass problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place combined with a wild idea and a bit of luck, not to mention a kitchen guardian angel to keep a holocaust from happening.
So, now you have it. You just read a narrative recipe.
Standing Rib Roast - ☺♥
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love a medium rare prime rib? If so, I feel sorry for you. We are carnivores, plain and simple. Playing games about which type of animal or fowl or aquatic life we will kill and eat for religious or health reasons is simply that … playing games. In no culture are humans vegetarians by choice, only by supply limitations and resulting cultural practices. We are genetically programmed to love the taste of beef. Beef provides us excellent protein, albeit with a huge investment in grain to make it happen in a tasty and tender manner. That’s it. There ain’t no more to say.
Having said it all about killing Elmer for meat I can now move on to how to make this luscious treat. It is so simple a fool could do it, and I do. It is so good if done right that your guests will ask you to adopt them. Let’s proceed.
Ingredients: (serves 4 to 6 hungry adults)
1, 4 to 6 bone standing rib roast (the weight is determined by trimming, etc.)
¼ cup of crushed black peppercorns
¼ cup of kosher salt
Set the oven at 500º F.
Trim any excess fat from the rib roast. Put it in a large skillet with a rack inside so that fat rendered during roasting will not touch the roast.
Coat the surface with the pepper and the salt and rub/pat it in.
Put the skillet and beef in the pre-heated oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 450º F.
Roast based on the weight of the standing rib roast. Allow no more than 15 minutes per pound.
Remove the roast and let it stand on a wood cutting board for ten minutes before carving.
Carve the roast so that each cut contains a rib bone. Serve.
I hope you realize that the other parts of your meal need to be ready when you carve the beef. I like to bake large russet potatoes in the same oven where the beef is roasting. I simply time the placement of the potatoes in the oven so that they are well roasted when the beef is done. That means roughly 50 to 60 minutes before the beef is done, based on the size of the potatoes and the oven temperature. Also, potatoes baked at temperatures above 400º F develop a wonderful crisp skin and a fluffy interior, which is superb. Simply keep an eye on them based on the size of the potatoes so they don’t bake beyond the development of the crisp skin.
I also like a tossed salad with this meal, with my bleu cheese dressing, and a glass or two of a good Merlot wine. A loaf of warmed crusty French bread served with butter is a nice addition. Ice cream, homemade of course, is a fine dessert.
So yes, you will feel good about the world after this meal. So should it be.
Steak Au Poivre - ☺♥
The following recipe is wonderful. I learned how to make this dish back in the early 1980’s at a restaurant in Wilmington DE, named Leounes Mansion®. The chef was Tony Leounes and his version of this dish is totally unlike any found in any other restaurant I ever visited, anywhere in the world.
Typically steak au poivre simply means a grilled steak, using a charcoal grill or a broiler, which is prepared and served medium to medium rare and covered in a brown sauce or gravy loaded with peppercorns. Thus, there is a strong but very good flavor from the pepper, hence the French name Au Poivre meaning “with pepper.”
Tony’s version replaced the brown sauce/gravy and the whole peppercorns with a combination of bleu cheese, cracked peppercorns and butter. That topping is prepared independently before the steak is grilled and it is slathered about ¼ inch thick on the top of the steak after grilling. Tony then used a small amount of a high proof brandy, which he poured over the dish and flamed. Wow, was it great!
I found the dish easy to copy and I had a lot of fun serving it to family and good friends. High compliments were dependably offered. Later I learned that Tony’s version was just as good without the brandy, but in that situation I would put the coated steak under a hot broiler just long enough to partially melt the bleu cheese and butter and peppercorn mix.
Recently I have improved this dish yet again. I use bacon wrapped filet mignon, charcoal grill it to a medium rare level of doneness and then the remainder of the recipe is the same. As you might guess, the use of the bacon imparts yet another great flavor to that of the bleu cheese and cracked peppercorns.
4, 12 ounce filets of beef about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches thick
8 oz. of bleu cheese softened to room temperature
1/3 stick of butter softened to room temperature
¼ cup of black peppercorns, cracked
4 slices of thick sliced bacon
A medium size charcoal grill … like the domed Weber® Kettle grills.
Charcoal briquets sufficient to fill the grill so that the hot briquets are four inches below the grate on which the steaks/filets will be grilled.
Charcoal lighter fluid.
A good quality spatula for turning the steaks/filets during grilling.
Prepare the softened blue cheese, softened butter and cracked peppercorn mixture by mixing all three ingredients manually but thoroughly in a small bowl. Set aside. Note: I usually put the whole peppercorns in a Ziploc® freezer bag first and crack or smash them with a flat wooden mallet before adding them to the other ingredients of the mixture.
Prepare the steaks/filets by wrapping each in bacon secured to the perimeter of the meat with toothpicks. Set aside.
Prepare the charcoal grill and light the charcoal. Do not cook the meat until the briquets have been completely gray for 15 minutes, to cook off any residual charcoal lighter, which could adversely flavor the grilled meat. Do not cover the grill while grilling unless the ambient temperature is below 50º F. If you have to cover it be certain the lower and dome vents are wide open.
Turn on your oven broiler to high to preheat the broiler. Warm a small meat platter on a very low rack during the preheating.
Put the prepared meat on the open grill and cook uncovered (unless the weather is cold as discussed above) for five minutes on each side. You may have to move the meat once or twice during initial grilling to avoid excessive flaming from the melted bacon fat. Remove the grilled meat to the warm platter and proceed as follows:
Use a simple kitchen knife to spread the bleu cheese, butter and cracked peppercorn mixture on to the top of each piece of meat, about ¼ inch thick.
Place the platter with the coated meat into the oven on a rack about 5 to 6 inches below the hot broiler heating element. Slide the oven rack and platter out after 30 seconds of broiling and see if the cheese and butter mixture is melting. If so, the dish is done. Otherwise broil for an additional 30 seconds. Repeat as necessary.
Serve hot. Note that no salt was used in this recipe. The bacon provided some salt as did the bleu cheese and each guest will further season the meat to suit their preference.
Given the focus on preparing the steak au poivre it is best to have all other meal items prepared first and on the table ready to eat before the coated steak is even grilled, else the steak will likely not be at optimum serving temperature when it is eaten. That would be a tragedy, so plan ahead.
My grandmother Cora insisted on having hot food served very hot. She was right. Folks who let their hot food lose heat before serving it just don’t get it. Great becomes ho hum.
Steamship Round of Beef - ☺
I recall with pleasure the times in my life when I ate steamship round of beef at good buffets, weddings and in some better restaurants. Roasted right and kept warm and cut into thin slices it is tender, juicy and very tasty. That means the degree of doneness is such that it is crisp on the outside and medium rare on the inside.
I decided to make that roast at home for a family gathering of twelve of people. What I purchased was a Choice grade 12 pound beef round tip at Costco® for a mere $29. Then I searched the Internet for different ways to prepare it so I could make an informed decision about what I would do. As it turns out, the very first recipe I found was unique from all the others, for it involved high temperature roasting, and that vastly appealed to me so I made my decision. Maybe the appeal is from the great results from very high temperature initial roasting in doing standing rib roasts and the similar effect making the Serendipity Steak.
My decision was to use the high roasting temperature recipe with the addition of kosher salt. Why? High temperature charcoal grilling of beef as done in Brazil includes rubbing the exterior with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt before grilling. Since this recipe calls for very high temperature initial roasting I decided the kosher salt would be a great addition to the pepper.
I now report back after making this roast, which came out fine. My only recommendation is to use a meat thermometer to assure the wanted results.
12 lb. Choice Beef Round Tip
16 medium size garlic cloves (The general idea is to use one to one and one quarter cloves of garlic per pound of meat)
¼ cup of freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup of kosher salt
Preheat the oven to a temperature of 500º F.
Cut slits about one to one and one quarter inches deep evenly on all sides except the bottom side of the beef to contain the garlic cloves, one clove per slit.
Cut a garlic clove into four pieces and insert the four pieces into one of the slits. Repeat that procedure for each slit until all the garlic has been processed.
Rub the outside of the beef with the freshly ground pepper and the kosher salt.
Put the roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan or large all metal skillet.
Roast the beef at 500º F for five minutes per pound. With a 12 lb. roast that means one hour and that will put a good crust on the exterior of the completed roast.
Turn the oven off and let the roast remain in the oven for two hours. Do not open the oven door.
After two hours turn the oven on and set the temperature to 250º F. Roast the beef for an additional thirty minutes.
After those steps check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast but not into fat or next to bone.
According to the different recipes I read an internal temperature of 140º F will be a rare roast. 145º F will be a medium rare roast. 160º F will be a medium roast. 170º F will be a well-done roast.
If necessary, continue to roast the beef until the internal temperature is about 5 degrees lower than your goal. I prefer medium rare. If necessary you can increase the oven temperature to 300º F if the roast is too cool in the center after you finish the second roasting period and check the internal temperature, like below 140º F.
Remove the beef to a serving platter and put it into a warm 150º F oven until you are ready to serve it. It will actually continue cooking briefly and the internal temperature will increase to the level you want … thus the removal from the hot oven when the actual internal temperature is 5º F lower than the goal temperature. Leave the roast in the warm oven at least ten minutes to rest it before carving but no more than twenty minutes is necessary.
When the meal is served, slice the roast horizontally starting at the smaller top section, cutting thin slices about one quarter to one third inch thick. Do not cut more at one time than is necessary for each serving so that the meat remains warm. Cover it with aluminum foil if necessary, which means if it is not completely used during the first serving.
Note that with the very high temperature initial roasting the degree of doneness will vary considerably from the exterior to the center of the meat. This is particularly true on the thinner end or top of the roast, and people who prefer well done or medium meat will find what they want on that end. The medium rare or rare areas will obviously be in the thicker parts of the roast about one third of the way down from the top. It is typical in restaurants to cut the roast into two or three pieces at the beginning of carving so customers can have exactly the degree of doneness wanted in their individual servings.
Restaurants have to keep the beef roast warm during serving as the time frame for serving might be as long as two or three hours. They use carving stations that usually have a heat lamp above and close to the top of the uncut meat to assist keeping the meat warm. At home, the amount of beef roasted should correspond to the number of people eating, and it is likely most or all of the roast will be sliced and eaten immediately after it is served. Making provision for keeping it warm is unlikely to be necessary, but you can use the 150º F warming oven if necessary.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - ▲
This recipe is courtesy of Martha Stewart via the Internet. Some courtesy! I tried it and it needed a lot of help as it was way too bland. Beyond that, the recipe did not include the celery in the sautéing of the raw vegetables. Also, the 2 tbsp. of "unsalted" butter in a recipe that uses coarse salt is a joke. Four tbsp. of regular butter is better by far. The "garlic" ingredient is not specified as a clove or a complete head of garlic. I used half a head and more would have been welcome. The cooking pot required more liquid so in the future I will use three cups of reserved cabbage water, not two as stated in the Internet recipe. The tomato flavor was weak so I needed to address that.
Hmmm … as is so often the case, recipes from TV or the Internet can have major flaws, regardless of whose name is attached to the recipe. I decided to add a can of tomato paste and a tsp. of oregano and 2 tsp. of basil, then simmer the liquid to concentrate it some and then re-coat the already cooked cabbage rolls. Ahh … they came out just fine. Whew!
2 quarts of water
1 large green cabbage (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
2 cups of cooked rice
8 ounces of ground beef
8 ounces of ground pork
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes
1 medium green pepper, grated
2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
4 cups of tomato puree (we used tomato sauce)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup of sour cream, plus more for garnish
Plus my additions and recommendations:
Increase garlic to one head
1 tsp. of dried oregano
2 tsp. of dried basil
1, 6 oz. can of tomato paste
Increase reserved cabbage water from 2 cups to 3 cups
Using a paring knife, remove the center core of the cabbage.
In a large non-stick stockpot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the cabbage and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the outer leaves are bright green and tender.
Lift the cabbage from the water with a large skimming utensil, and remove the outer leaves.
Return the cabbage to the boiling water, and repeat the brief cooking and removal of leaves until all of the leaves are partially cooked and removed.
Reserve 3 cups of the cabbage cooking water.
Trim the thick center vein from the bottom of each cabbage leaf and discard it.
Reserve the four largest outer leaves to line the bottom of a Dutch Oven.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and the celery, and cook until golden and tender, about 8 minutes. (I cover the skillet with a glass lid for part of the sauté process to speed it along and not burn the onions or the garlic, so I only need five minutes, not eight) Golden? NO.
In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, rice, beef, pork, salt, pepper, parsley flakes and green pepper. Add the oregano and the basil. Stir to combine the ingredients and create the filling.
Add about 1/3 cup of the filling to one cabbage leaf. Fold the sides of the cabbage leaf over the filling, and, starting with the stem end, roll the cabbage up. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
Line a 5-quart Dutch oven with the reserved outside cabbage leaves. Transfer the stuffed cabbage rolls to the Dutch oven.
In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce, the tomato paste and the reserved 3 cups of cabbage cooking water and mix them. Pour some of the resulting tomato sauce over the cabbage to almost cover it. Sprinkle the apple pieces over the top of the cabbage leaves. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer; cover.
Cook for 1 hour or more until the cabbage is very tender, adding additional tomato sauce as needed.
I skip the following step and simply serve sour cream with the cabbage rolls:
Place the sour cream in a small bowl, and ladle in about 3/4 cup of tomato sauce from the cooked stuffed cabbage rolls. Whisk to combine. Add the sour cream mixture to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Serve the stuffed cabbage rolls with additional sour cream.
Stuffed Green Peppers - ☺
I had the pleasure of eating excellent stuffed green peppers made by none other than my daughter, Patty. They were so good I asked for her recipe so I could include it in Food Nirvana. She graciously provided it. See below. I guarantee you will enjoy this dish.
Enough green peppers, halved lengthwise and cleaned, to cover the bottom of a 12" by 18" oval roasting pan
1 cup of uncooked rice
2 cups of water
3 lbs. of ground beef
½ cup. of Ragu® Light spaghetti sauce (Use Ragu® Light or other sugarless sauce to avoid unwanted sweetness) to be added while making the ground beef mixture.
1, Two pound 13 ounce bottle of Ragu® Light spaghetti sauce (less the ½ cup listed above)
1 Tbsp. of Salt
1 tsp. of black pepper (or more)
1 Tbsp. of Onion powder
1 tsp. of garlic salt
1 Tbsp. of dried Parsley
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Use the rice and the water and follow package directions to cook it. It should make two cups of cooked rice. Parboiled rice usually takes 15 minutes of simmering on low heat, covered, and regular uncooked rice takes about 22 minutes, covered. Some brown rices have a 45 minute cooking time.
Halve and clean the green peppers and place them open side up on the bottom of the 12" by 18" oval roasting pan.
Mix all the ingredients except the bottle of Ragu® Light sauce together by hand until they are thoroughly mixed.
Fill the peppers with the ground beef mixture evenly.
Cover the peppers with the jar of Ragu-Light spaghetti sauce (minus the ½ cup used in the ground beef mixture).
Hint: Pour ½ jar of the spaghetti sauce over the peppers, then add ½ cup of water to the rest of the sauce in the jar, put the lid on tightly and shake the jar. Then pour that slightly diluted sauce over the peppers and you will get virtually all of the sauce from the jar.
After the peppers are covered evenly, cover the roasting pan with a lid and bake at 350º F for 1½ hours.
Stuffed Green Peppers II - ☺♥
I found the recipe below on Allrecipes.com and I decided to give it a try as the precooking of the meat significantly shortens the baking time, which should result in higher moisture content and tenderness. It sure did! When I tested the recipe I made a number of changes/improvements and those changes are reflected in the recipe below. Friends Dottie and Roland loved the dish, as did my wife. Now we get to a real departure from typical stuffed green pepper recipes. The big change is to avoid overbaking the green peppers so they still have some substance and better color. This is accomplished by reducing the typical baking time and starting with raw peppers, which works because the other ingredients, except for the cheese and the second can of tomato sauce, are precooked. The peppers in the real dish looked much better than the ones in the picture shown with this recipe. Well, enjoy ... we certainly did.
2 1/4 cups of water
1 cup of uncooked white rice
4 large green bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded with the white membrane and stem removed
1 pound of lean ground beef
1/2 pound of loose sausage (either sweet Italian or mild breakfast sausage, without casings)
1 cup of diced onion
2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tsp. Sea salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2, 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
2 cups of grated/shredded mozzarella cheese
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice and stir. Reduce heat to very low, cover the saucepan with a lid and simmer the rice for 22 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave it covered.
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Place the halved and cleaned green bell peppers in a 9"x13" baking dish.
Brown the ground beef and the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat and then drain it. Return the meat mixture to the skillet and mix in the diced onion, cooked rice, diced garlic, salt and pepper. Pour in one can of the tomato sauce and mix thoroughly. Let the mixture simmer on very low heat for about 10 minutes, covered. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Spoon the skillet mixture, heaping, into/onto each half of the green peppers. Pour the second can of tomato sauce evenly over the mixture/peppers.
Bake the stuffed peppers in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of each stuffed pepper. Return the peppers to the oven and bake them for 10 minutes.
Serve hot. Expect applause.
Swedish Meatballs - ?
Marie’s recipe for Swedish Meatballs was pretty popular among her friends so I have included it in this book. I have not made this recipe so I will have to try it.
3 lbs. of ground beef
4 slices of bread
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tsp. of sea salt
1 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of garlic salt
1 tsp. of nutmeg
2 tsp. of dried oregano
3 cans of whole cranberry sauce
2 cans of tomato sauce
Mix all ingredients except cranberry and tomato sauces and form small meatballs.
Put the cranberry sauce and tomato sauce into a large pot.
Drop the raw meatballs into the pot and cook them on low heat for two to three hours.
Serve in a heated crock-pot. Maintain a low heat setting.
There is a general question that occurs to us when we entertain. It is “What beverage(s) are best for this event given the foods that will be served?” There can be no single answer as guests may or may not want to consume alcohol, some of the guests may be children, some guests may like beer and others wine. The home chef wants the selection of beverages to complement the specific food(s) being served whether any individual guest wants or does not want a beverage containing alcohol. This means a brief look at the types of food and the corresponding complementary beverages can be useful.
I am not attempting to provide an exhaustive list of anything. What I am doing in this discussion is to suggest types of beverages that are often favored with certain types of food. To complicate matters, the enjoyment of sweeter beverages is related to age, in which, for instance, young adults will tend to favor light sweet wines while some of us older folks will favor drier wines with more intense flavor. This latter truth has nothing to do with the food being served. Similarly, other than water children tend to drink only two basic types of beverages … milk in any form or fruit drinks, carbonated as in sodas or non-carbonated as in fruit juices and punches. Young adults too young to be offered alcoholic beverages often favor stronger tasting carbonated beverages like colas or root beer.
With the above caveats I will now attempt to provide some useful generalities. To experienced chefs these will be “no-brainers.” Here is one quick piece of advice: Enjoy mixed alcoholic drinks as you will, but in general they are not suitable for serving at meals as they get you drunk if consumed in quantities necessary to quench thirst. Thus, this discussion does not cover mixed alcoholic drinks in any context. I enjoy mixed drinks as much as anyone but they do not belong at the table for maximum enjoyment of the food. The exception is at cocktail parties where hor’s douvres are served.
The taste intensity of a beverage should match the taste intensity of the most highly seasoned or naturally strongly flavored food. Thus, a beer with strong flavor (like Heineken™) goes well with intense flavor foods like chili con carne, while lemonade and iced tea or even white wine spritzers (wine and Sprite™ or 7-UP™) are perfect for light salads and delicately flavored soups like seafood bisques. Lighter tasting beers like Corona™ are perfect with tortilla chips and salsa. Hot freshly made coffee complements sweet pastry or pudding or pie desserts.
A beverage basically has two purposes at a meal. The first is to quench thirst, either with something neutral like ice water or with something flavorful that also contrasts with the flavor of the food while still being complementary. The second is to clear the palate so that the next bite or bites of food will provide the most intense taste and comparative texture. In other words, if we consume a whole steak or bowl of chili without taking sips of a suitable beverage after every few bites we will actually miss out on a lot of the flavor and smell available from the food due to overwhelmed taste buds and olfactory (nose) overload. A spoonful of a creamy soup or bisque is appreciated more after a sip of a light neutral white wine, like a French white burgundy or a Pinot Grigio.
Note that breads work well in combination with beverages to provide contrasts in texture and taste and to reset your taste buds and your nose. Thus it is wise to provide breads, crackers and the like that also complement the beverages as well as the food entrees and side dishes. If a cracker has an intense flavor then it should be served with a light tasting cheese and/or meat and vice versa, and the beverage should not compete with the intense flavor. This does not mean the beverage has to be mild, but it must live in its own flavor world. The perfect example is the dessert of Port wine, Stilton cheese and fresh fruit like pears and white grapes. The wine has intense and sweet flavor, while the cheese has intense and comparatively dry bleu/cheddar flavor and texture. The light moist fruit clears the palate for the next sips of wine and bites of cheese, making this sequence of eating very enjoyable.
Most of us have heard about using red wines with red meats and white wines with fowl, white meats like veal and pork, and seafood. That is good advice and beyond the basic advice is the selection of the red or white wine that addresses the age of the guests but more importantly the intensity of the taste of the entrée. This means a Cabernet Sauvignon that works well with an intensely flavored grilled steak is less appropriate for a lightly seasoned lamb chop. There a lighter red wine like a Merlot or a Pinot Noir is more appropriate so as not to overpower the taste of the lamb chop. The seasoning used with fowl or pork or seafood should help determine the selection of white wine. More tart Chardonnay is right for creamy dishes, while buttery Chardonnay is best for more highly seasoned dishes. White Burgundy, Fume Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are excellent choices also as they are more neutral in taste and will clear the palate without in any way competing with delicately or strongly flavored fowl, veal, pork or seafood. They leave a clean and neutral aftertaste.
Sweeter wines like Riesling also have a place, for some of our foods accentuate sweetness and sometimes also tartness, thus the complementary aspect is best realized with a Riesling wine. For example, wiener schnitzel with hot German potato salad and hot pickled red cabbage provide a neutral and sweet and tart environment that calls for a white wine that will not contrast too strongly with the food. Thus, Riesling is perfect. The cheaper white wines like Reunite Bianco™ that are relatively sweet and favored by younger adults with unsophisticated taste are better used just for drinking, so do not even attempt to match them with foods.
Blush wines like rosé or Zinfandel are true neutral territory and they can be used without much concern regardless of the entrée being served. This is true because those wines do not have intense flavor or character and they cannot truly be called reds or whites. They are simply there in a kind of non-participation sort of way other than to cleanse the palate and/or quench thirst. That does not mean they aren’t good in their own right in terms of beverage taste. Rosé d’Anjou® is a light French rosé wine with only 10.5 percent alcohol that has excellent clean taste and is perfect with poultry or creamy seafood dishes.
Sangria is the perfect beverage to provide fruity flavor, quench thirst and also provide some alcohol for a whole host of different foods. While sangria is based on red wine, the wine used is typically a mild, low alcohol content table wine, with light taste compared to other red wines. And sangria has a large component of fruit and fruit juice. Because sangria is best served chilled for taste it is best with highly seasoned food and hot foods. It is suitable for all guests regardless of age.
Chianti is a strongly flavored red wine produced and favored in Italy for pasta dishes that use intensely flavored red sauces of any type. In this instance, any wine with a milder or lighter flavor would simply be lost in terms of being able to taste it and thus appreciate the taste. Chianti is most inappropriate with Italian or French cooking that features white sauces or delicate seafood, like linguine carbonara or veal piccata or veal Marsala or linguine with white clam sauce or mussels in white wine and butter and garlic. Use light white wines like Pinot Grigio for those dishes.
Now we take a brief look at beers and ales. Basically they come in four types in terms of flavor and carbonation and alcohol content. Light beers like Coors Light™ are low in alcohol, carbohydrates and taste. Carbonation is also typically light. They quench thirst best and they compete with nothing so they are suitable if not very exciting for almost any dish that is not sweet. In general, almost all beers are bad choices for sweet foods, with a few like Bock beer or stout excepted for certain foods. Musty strong beers like Heineken™ and most stout beers are best used with intensely flavored foods. Lagers like Corona™ are suitable for most any use except sweet foods, as lagers have some character without intense flavor. Utility beers like Budweiser™ are harsh with carbonation and medium in flavor and best used with foods like salty French fries and hamburgers. The very finest beers are made in Europe, like Budvar™, and those beers are for true beer aficionados who simply want to taste the beer. Top quality European beers should seldom be used while eating any food other than light salty snacks as it is a waste of great beer. Ales come in many varieties, like beers, and you drink those simply to get more alcohol, and sometimes more intense taste. Ales are not suitable for delicately flavored foods.
Non-alcoholic beverages are usually best for desserts with the possible exception of after dinner liqueurs. The earlier remarks about complementing the tartness or sweetness or neutrality of any given food with a corresponding beverage apply to non-alcoholic beverages in the same way. In general the more intense the character of the beverage the more intense the flavor of the food should be and vice versa. This means mild drinks like iced tea can be adapted in strength, sweetness and tartness (using lemon) to fit almost any food selection. Lemonade is very refreshing and it also can be a good fit with most foods provided tartness and sweetness are controlled to match the food being served. In short, there is no “right” recipe for iced tea or lemonade as both can be adapted to the event. They are versatile. Other non-alcoholic beverages are very much food dependent, like eggnog. Dairy products are typically neutral or sweet and they do not mingle well with tart foods. Sodas vary in taste intensity from utterly neutral like Sprite Zero™ to richly flavored colas and root beers and some orange sodas. Picking the right soda to go with any given food is primarily a matter of choice but if you have learned anything while reading this section you know to match light with light and strong with strong.
This concludes my general comments on beverages. Experience is the best way to learn about all beverages, so try drinking all types in the company of a lot of friends at a party you hold, with no food being served other than possibly some neutral crackers, simply to develop your knowledge of what people like, including yourself. Take time to discuss what foods might go best with the beverage you and your friends taste, and by all means write the conclusions for each beverage as it is discussed around the room. Keep the portions small lest you gain a house full of drunks! Minimize your cost by holding the event as a tasting party in which you assign each person or couple to bring a few specific beverages in quantities sufficient only for tasting by the group. Start with the lightest tasting beverages and conclude with the strongest tasting beverages, and use plain water between tastings to clear the palate.