What’s For Breakfast? Another Spring Salad


SpringSalad

Spring is in the air! I have been giving the “I’m watching you” eyes to my linen suits in my closet. I know the rules: linen suits are relegated to the closet except between Memorial Day and Labor Day; official summer months only. Despite that, there have been a few days in the high 60’s, and probably they were over 70 in the sun. And that makes me want to break out my linen suits! Or, at least start to wear the summer colors. And to go along with that “summer is coming” feeling I am taking full advantage of the spring fruits in my cooking!

What you’ll need:

  • Baby Kale (about a cup)
  • Strawberry (about 4 medium organic strawberries)
  • Kiwi (1 kiwi, skinned)
  • Cucumber (1/4 medium cucumber)
  • Crimini mushrooms (about 2)
  • Turkey (about 4 ounces)
  • Flax seed (1 tablespoon)
  • Olive Oil (Extra Virgin!) (1-2 tablespoons)

As with most salads, this one is fairly simple. Chop the ingredients, mix them all together, and you have your salad! So let’s talk about the ingredients instead!

SpringSalad2

I find that Kale is a seasonal treat. For “Spring” flavors, I find myself looking at “Baby” vegetables. And yes, I tend toward the mature plants in the summer and fall too – it just works out that way. I am sure that there is some science or chemistry behind that, but I’m not going to get in to that. I just think that this spring salad is supported by the “light” flavors of the baby kale. It’s a great vegetable, and the flavor of the “baby” version is just perfect for this salad! If I were to use other greens, I would likely go with “baby” spinach, or a “spring mix” of vegetables.

Kiwi and strawberry. For some reason, that seems to be a seasonal mix, though from the perspective of the individual fruit, I can’t imagine why… Kiwi is an autumn fruit, though mostly grown near the equator where seasons are less obvious. Strawberry is a spring fruit. Either way, I’m happy eating them together. Their flavors are definitely complimentary, and they make this salad quite delicious! In fact, as much fun as strawberry has been for me this spring, I think that the inclusion of the kiwi and the baby kale is what really sets this salad apart; or brings it together. These ingredients make a cohesive and delicious salad!

Questions:

  • I have a few quest posts coming up. The most interesting is a Paleo Cocktail which I will be trying to put together. Do any of you have a particular cocktail that you like/love and have been doing a Paleo version of?
  • What kinds of “Spring Salads” have you been eating?
  • I am continue to work on the “Slow-Cooker Smoked Meat” recipe, and have further refined it from the last attempt (though it was quite successful!). Have any of you made an attempt? What was your experience with it?

What’s For Breakfast? Crimini Mushrooms And Zucchini Scrambled Eggs


EggsMushroomsZuccini

I had a fantastic weekend! The sun was out, the temperature was quite nice, and the weather was fantastic all weekend! I got in a couple of great runs, and some workouts besides. All told, the weekend couldn’t have been better! So, of course, just to make sure that I meant it when I said it, the people in the apartment above me spent the entire night dancing on the only squeeky board in their apartment. And when I say all night, I really mean all night! My wife and I actually looked at each other at 2:30am and asked “Should we go up there?” Honest to god, I am not sure if they brewed several pots of coffee to stay up and dance on that floor board or not, but they did it clear through the night!

Needless to say, this morning I was in need of some serious comfort food. But, perhaps even more importantly, it needed to be something to help fuel me through the day, not something to give me a brief sugar-high so that I can crash at 10:00am. Without a full night of sleep, I know better than to think that I can recover from a sugar crash today… It just isn’t going to happen!!

One note: You may or may not have noticed the questions that I’m posing at the end of some of my posts now. Since you all are reading and commenting regularly, and it’s helping to keep me motivated, I have decided to give you a little something back: help me to understand what things you’re looking for, and I will try to respond!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Eggs (pastured, no-soy feed)
  • 1 small Zucchini, chopped (2 “baby” zucchini)
  • 2 Crimini Mushrooms, chopped
  • Rosemary, Sea Salt, Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut Oil

Cook and Prep time: About 20 minutes
Serves: 1 (but easy to double!)

First chop and saute the mushrooms in the Coconut oil on just under a medium heat, about 4 out of 10. These take the longest to cook, so start them first. Also, this is a great time to add about half of the rosemary that you’re going to use. Save the other half for when you add the zucchini, later. While the mushrooms are sauteing, chop up the zucchini. Stir the mushrooms every minute or so.

After about 5 minutes of cooking add the zucchini and the rest of the rosemary. At this point, turn the heat up to about 5 or 6, or just over medium. You want the zucchini to crisp a bit, but you don’t want it to soften much – the flavor is great when it’s browned, but it’s harder to cook with when it softens. Stir regularly for about 2 minutes.

At about 7 minutes of cooking total, or 2 minutes after you added the zucchini, go ahead and pour the eggs in over the top of the zucchini and mushrooms. As I have mentioned previously, I don’t pre-mix my eggs when I’m making scrambled eggs. There are a variety of reasons: I don’t see the benefit, I think that they’ll all be mixed up in the pan anyway, so why bother pre-mixing, I like the coloring of the yellows and whites, which you lose when you pre-mix. I think that’s enough reasoning for now, but if you pre-mix, that’s fine too – just be ready to add the eggs on time. On top of the eggs, you can add the rest of your spices. At this point, you can turn the heat up to about a 7 out of 10, letting the eggs cook very quickly. And make sure that you’re stirring constantly to keep the eggs from burning or sticking to the pan. There won’t be any coconut oil in the pan to make that easier for you – so be proactive and keep the eggs moving!

Serving:

I like my eggs well done, so I cook them until the eggs are starting to brown slightly. The extra flavor is something I find quite satisfying, and fortunately, my wife likes her eggs that way too! Once the eggs are cooked the way you like, go ahead and serve them on a bowl, or in a plate. If you need a bit more fat with your meal, this will go really well with some avocado!

Questions:

  • What’s a typical breakfast food for you?
  • How do you like it prepared? Why do you like it that way?
  • What breakfast foods are you looking to try, but haven’t yet? And what is the hold-up?

How Do You Fuel The Fire?


BaconShrimp-Plated

I was asked a really interesting question the other day while working out with a friend. See, in our workout-chatting, he asked me about my workouts for the past several days, and marveled at my claim to have had 3 workouts within 24 hours, and still able to put together a good, strong workout! He asked me: “How do you fuel your workouts? What do you eat before and after your workouts to prepare for that kind of an output?” So, today’s post is going to answer that question.

I’ll get to my macronutrient breakdown in a minute. First, let me tell you why that question is important. I had had a rough 3 days! They were great – but they were rough! Here’s the breakdown: On Sunday, just for the heck of it, I ran 14 miles. It wasn’t planned. I just headed out for a run, and each time I came to a fork in the road, I chose the one which would lengthen my run. I got home after my unplanned long-run and mapped out the distance I had run, learning to my delight that it had been just a bit over 14 miles! So Monday I took it easy, letting my body recover. I had every intention of running on Tuesday morning, but I stayed up late on Monday night and slept late on Tuesday, missing my run.

Soshable.com Starting Line photo

Photo courtesy of Soshable.com

Tuesday night I came home with that familiar “itch” to go for a run, so I did! I pumped out a 6-mile run with a really hard sprint workout in the middle, and came back beaming with excitement from my workout! I felt great, and that leg-“itch” was completely taken care of! So on Wednesday morning when I woke up, I figured I would do a quick “recovery run” to keep my legs nice and loose, and to get back in the morning run pattern. I felt good! A little bit of soreness, which was expected, but otherwise comfortable. Then, Wednesday night I got a text from a friend asking me if I wanted to join him on a workout. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, doing a thorough mental systems-check to see if it was even feasible. “Sure!” I texted back, after mentally confirming that I would be fine.

Where is all this headed? Well, let me tell you: None of those three workouts was planned. So, since this blog is all about food, let me catch you up a bit on how I feed myself; fueling my capacity to output 3 workouts in 24 hours, and still be in good shape.

How do I fuel the fire?

StewedShankSteakMy daily macronutrient intake is almost identical, regardless of the season, my fitness goals, or what social situations are going on. An average of once a month, I fast for a day or so. Similarly, about twice per month I have a high-carb day, ingesting perhaps 200 or more grams of carbs. These are usually fruit, dried fruit, or some other Paleo appropriate form of carbohydrate. Other than that, I eat approximately 70-80 grams of carbs per day, every day. Here’s the big deal: I did not eat any differently on Tuesday, or Wednesday, than I do almost every other day. I can give you a meal-by-meal breakdown, if you like. I meticulous about my eating, and don’t mind sharing it. But my guess is that you all don’t really want to know exactly what I eat. You want to know what I do to make the workouts work, right?

Managing my macronutrient intake.

Here’s the big question: If I know that I’ll eat a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats throughout the day, will choosing when I eat those make any difference in my output potential? Well, research suggests that the answer to that question is “Yes.” According to the current research available, carbs are processed and absorbed faster immediately following a workout. Similarly, current research supports eating protein immediately following a workout.

Now don’t go grabbing a Power Bar just yet! The body, as I have come to understand, responds best to what I like to call a “Whole Meal” – that is, if you’re going to have protein, eat a steak. If you’re going to have some carbs, eat an apple. And if you want to consume both protein and carbohydrates, have a meal. A real meal. Eat a steak and a salad. Or, like I’ve done in the past, follow one of these “Post Workout Meals” that I use:

As you can see, I go for the whole-meal plan. It doesn’t have to be a big meal, mind you. But if I’m going to eat, I’m going to give my body the full spectrum of what it needs: the obvious macronutrients consisting of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and I will also make sure, by using whole-food meals, that I am giving it a battery of the vitamins and minerals that it needs too!

How did this help me do 3 hard workouts in 24 hours?

Well, the first of the workouts was right before dinner, so I cooked a “Post Workout Meal” while I was working out, and ate when I returned. It was delicious, nutritious, and precisely what my body needed at that time! The following day, I worked out right before breakfast, so, again, I had a meal waiting for me! In both cases, recovery was maximized by having the full spectrum of nutrients, vitamins and minerals all completely available as the body needed them! And that made the difference between having to say “No”, or actually getting to say “Yes!” when my friend called me for my third workout in 24 hours! Would I do anything differently? Absolutely not.

What’s For Dinner? Ground Beef, Sauteed Bella Mushrooms, And Bacon Mashed Sweet Potatoes


GroundBeefBaconMash

My legs are a bit sore from the triple-workout day-and-a-half I pulled off on Tuesday/Wednesday. It’s a good sore! I like feeling like I accomplished something, and that mild residual soreness 2 days after a tough workout is a great way to know that you’ve put together a solid workout! The keyword, of course, is “mild” when talking about the post-workout soreness – if it’s a sharp soreness, you may have overdone it. To make sure that I’m ready for a great weekend, I’m going to get in a decent workout this evening, and have a great meal when I get in tonight!

What you’ll need:

  • Beef and Simple Cilantro Sauce:
  • 1 lb Grass-fed Ground Beef
  • Italian Seasoning, Salt, and Pepper
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 can Coconut Cream
  • 1-inch Ginger
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Sauteed Bella Mushrooms:
  • 6-8 ounces Crimini Mushrooms (also known as Baby Bella)
  • Rosemary (fresh is best, dried will be fine)
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut oil
  • Bacon Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
  • 1/2 lb Bacon, crumbled
  • 2 medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 1-inch Ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Butter (or 4 tbsp Coconut cream)

Prep and Cook Time: About 1 hour
Serves: 2, with some leftovers

BaconYamMashHalfWayStart with the Sweet Potatoes – they take the longest to cook. Chop these up in to 1/2 cubes, or so, and drop them in a pot to boil. Add water to the pot until it covers the sweet potatoes, then set it to boil. Keep an eye on the pot, and stir it occasionally until the sweet potato chunks start to fall apart in the pot. Hopefully that will start to happen at about 15 minutes before dinner time.

CilantroSauceBlendWhile the potatoes are boiling, make the cilantro sauce. First wash the cilantro – this usually does not come pre-washed, and I think it’s better that way! Next chop the cilantro, garlic, and ginger. Throw it all in a blender with the rest of the ingredients, and blend thoroughly until the color is mostly uniform. Some recipes call for using only the cilantro leaves, but I think the stems have a lot of flavor – so I use the whole bunch. As this is fully blended, give it a taste and decide whether it needs just a bit of salt or not. Remember, though, that you’re also likely to salt the beef while you cook that, so don’t overdo the salt in the sauce! Once this is done and ready, stick it in the refrigerator to cool while you’re making the rest of dinner.

About 20 minutes before the meal, you’ll want to start cooking both the beef, the mushrooms, and the bacon. I hope it’s not necessary to say this, but these should be cooked in different pans. Go ahead and season the beef and mushrooms now too, so that the seasoning has a chance to cook in. I would suggest cooking the bacon on high heat, so that it cooks fast, and gets nice and crispy! I find that crispy bacon is easiest to crumble. And remember to stir the beef and mushrooms regularly. As a note: depending on your stove, you may decide it’s best to cook the beef and mushrooms together. This is a fine, and quite delicious alternative way to make this meal. Some of the time, that’s exactly what I do. But some times I just want to enjoy the singular flavor of the cooked mushrooms – they really can be quite delicious on their own!

Once the beef and bacon are started, it’s time to turn your attention back to the sweet potato mash. At this point, the water should be almost entirely boiled off, and the sweet potatoes should be disintegrating in the pot. If you’ve timed it right, it should be about 15 minutes before dinner time, and the sweet potatoes should be ready for a quick mashing, before being set aside for serving. Add the coconut butter or cream, and start mashing! I always use a hand-masher, but I understand that a food processor works quite well for this too. Don’t forget to stir the beef and mushrooms.

BaconYamMashAlmostDoneAs the bacon is done, pull it out of the pan, dry it on a paper bag, and crumble it. I really like using a paper bag for two reasons. First, a lot of the grocery stores I shop at give them instead of plastic for my groceries, so I always have a few on hand, and I would much prefer to re-use these than to throw away a paper towel! Second, the paper bag is extra convenient because it is strong enough to allow you to use it (getting now three uses out of the same bag!) to crush the bacon after you’ve dried the bacon in the bag. It works great! Give a quick stir to the beef and mushrooms too.

Serving:

If you’ve timed things right, everything should be finished up at just about the same time! The bacon should be ready to be sprinkled on top of the mashed sweet potatoes. The beef should be just about done, and ready to serve. Serve the mushrooms first, if you did not combine them with the beef. The sweet potato is plated next. If you elected (great for family-style meals) to bring the sweet potato and bacon to the table separately, just make sure that the bacon is sprinkled on top of the sweet potato after serving. Finally, serve the beef, drizzling the cilantro sauce across the top of the beef. This sauce will be delicious with the mushrooms too, so if you have extra, it’s ok to serve a bit on the plate to dip the mushrooms in as you eat them. Or save the extra for a dip and veggies mid-day snack tomorrow!

And enjoy!

What’s For Dinner? Another Post-Workout Meal!


AfterWorkoutSteakAndCuminCarrots

I am in a GREAT mood today! I had an awesome workout last night with a friend that I’ve been trying to catch up with for weeks! I slept well. The weather is amazing! It’s not too warm, nor too cool, and it’s bright and sunny outside! It is literally the best kind of Spring weather! And I’ve been getting some great workouts, eating some amazing food, and everything is just peachy! Actually, since it’s spring, it’s more strawberry-y. Or, maybe blueberry-y. Or something like that. But anyway, back to the topic at hand: My post workout meal. I wasn’t planning a workout last night, but was pleasantly surprised by a text message on my way home inviting me to join my friend for a workout. I immediately accepted, got home, changed, and set up today’s “What’s For Dinner?” meal to be ready for me when I returned!

What you’ll need:

  • 1lb Grass-fed beef (any cut will do, even ground)
  • 1 inch Ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 carrots
  • Cumin on the carrots
  • Fresh black pepper on the steak
  • 1 large Avocado

Prep and Cook time: about 70 minutes
Serves: 2

AfterWorkoutSteakAndCuminCarrots-PreCooked

Put the steak in a pan to cook on “simmer” or about 2 out of 10. Slice the carrots the long way in to nice, thick slices. These are going to simmer with the beef, so they need to be thick enough to not fall apart while they’re cooking. Carefully place the sliced ginger on top of the beef, spreading it out to cover the beef. As I’ve mentioned before, this helps to keep the moisture in the beef while it cooks, making sure that the final product is nice and moist. Spread the carrots around the steak, put the coconut oil on top of the steak, season the steak with the black pepper, and season the carrots with the cumin. Now cover, and leave it – it should be ready for you in an hour, or so, when you’re done with your workout!

Since we’ve done this meal before, I’ll talk more about why I love it, and less about how to do it. Letting the carrots simmer with the cumin and the steak juice is really delicious! The carrots on the bottom will ever so lightly caramelize, while on the top they will soften like they’re steamed. The water vapor inside the covered pan will help the carrots to absorb the cumin flavor. And because the cook time is so short, they will maintain just a bit of their crispness, so the combination of the flavor of the spice, the different textures, and the caramelized flavor from the bottom will be really great!

I love slow-cooked meat. The way that the flavor of the meat, with whatever spices you’re using mix is almost always just exactly what I’m looking for. I was looking for something a little more on the spicy side last night, especially to help my muscles recover from the workout. I’ve read a lot about how much cumin, pepper, and ginger are great for assisting in recovery. Not to mention having a great source of protein, like grass-fed steak. Fortunately, the flavors of cumin, pepper, and ginger seem to mix really really well in a slow-cooked steak! So I get to eat something that will aid in my recovery, while still tasting delicious! What a combination!

Questions:

  1. I was asked recently why I don’t do any diet-related posts, why my posting is almost entire food-specific. Would you like to see some posts from me that are diet or exercise specific posts? If so, how many?
  2. I LOVED the crock-pot smoked meat post the other day, and I really can’t wait to give it another try! What kinds of things would you guys like to see me try? Which flavor combinations (alcohol? vinegar? other fruits? tubers/veggies?) and/or meats (pork, chicken, beef, turkey, fish) would you like to see me use? And are there any other ingredients that you’d like to see (cedar plank? applewood plank? juniper berries? fresh-cut pine boughs?) me try out?
  3. This may be the most important question: I am actually planning on doing a “Weekend Food Commentary” post for this weekend. Do any of you have a topic that’s been sitting in your head that you’d like to see me tackle?

Niman Ranch – Maple Uncured Bacon


NimanRanchMapleBacon-InPackage

Niman Ranch – Maple Uncured Bacon

Returning to the “Uncured” label on bacon, I owe a big thanks to Chris from Vermont Smoke and Cure for his explanation. Apparently I should expect “Uncured” to appear on most of the bacon products that I will be consuming, since I tend to go for the ones which are void of unnatural products, which the FDA has determined requires the labelling “Uncured”. This likely has something to do with not eating the bacon directly out of the package, or something like that. My thoughts on that are not very nice things to say, so I’ll just not say them.

The Ingredients:

This is a new section, but one I will be sure to include going forward. I took a careful look at the ingredients, the serving size, and the amount of sugars. This is an important consideration, since a lot of times the makers of bacon intentionally mislead their consumers. Here is what the package has to say:

NimanRanchMapleBacon-Ingredients

So to break this down:

  • There are four types of sugar: “Turbinado sugar”, sugar, brown sugar, and maple syrup
  • The 1 lb package has 10 servings in it.
  • Each serving has 1 gram of sugar; so the package has 10 grams of sugar.

You have to do this math EVERY TIME you purchase bacon! I can help you a bit, by laying it out for you here, but this is important. What this means is:

  • Realistic serving size: 2 servings per package.
  • 5 grams of sugar in each serving.

That’s not bad, which is why I bought it in the store. For a premium meat, raised by sustainable family farms (on the package and website), I don’t mind a bit of sugar. But let’s be clear: in my opinion the added sugar does not improve the product.

Cautionary Note: Some bacon producers will reduce serving size further so that they can put a “0” in the grams of sugar per serving under the nutritional facts. Do not buy these bacon packages! Because they put a “0”, there is no way to actually know how much sugar is there.

Opening The Package:NimanRanchMapleBacon-InPlastic

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent carried a heavier “smokey” scent than the previous two bacon batches that I’ve had. It wafted out from the bacon powerfully, and I could tell that the cooked smell would fill the house, and water my mouth! Perhaps because of the strong smokey smell, I didn’t smell any of the maple. I thought that was strange at the time, but elected to note it and move on. As I said, there’s a reasonable chance that the smokey scent overwhelmed the maple scent. Maple, even concentrated as syrup, is not a strong smell.

The coloring was excellent. The red of the meat was striking, and bold. It was almost like it had been painted! Now, that could easily be a perception based on contrast. The meat was more marbled than most of my other Bacon Project posts, so it could be that it merely appeared strikingly red. Reviewing the pictures of my previous Bacon Project posts, it would seem as though that’s likely the case. Either way, I was impressed by the coloring.

NimanRanchMapleBacon-Cut

Cooking:

I cut the slices in half, so that each slice of bacon was about 5 inches long, rather than the 10 inches that they would be out of the package. Heating the bacon up, the smoky smell that I first smelled began to waft about the house enticingly. My wife, not the most patient of people, started walking in and out of the kitchen, doing “food laps” as we are fond of calling them. The bacon was definitely getting our mouths watering, and our stomach juices gurgling! On a slight down-note, the maple flavor that I was hoping would start to come out in the cooking was still not present. My wife’s sense of smell is superb wasn’t able to smell it either. I’m not sure if this is a batch-thing, of if the maple used was a less aromatic batch… Anyway, while the smoky bacon smell was quite appealing, I was expecting to get some of the maple smell as it cooked, and didn’t.

The Taste:

The smokiness of this bacon was sublime! I am very impressed by how well the meat and fat held on to the smoking process that Niman Ranch put it through! They must have had a higher water-vapor level in their smoke house, because the smoke flavor is deeply satisfying, and carries the flavor of the pork very well. As was true of the smell, the maple flavor was definitely missing in the bacon. I’m not terribly surprised by this: of the four sweeteners used, maple was the last of them, and in 5 grams of sugars, there isn’t a whole lot of room to skimp on the maple if you expect the flavor to come through. I understand: maple is expensive. But if you want to compete for repeat business, you’re going to have to step up your game.

NimanRanchMapleBacon1

Presentation:

The bacon was very good. As bacon products go out there, this definitely qualifies for the “premium meat” title. The smoky flavor was top notch. The coloring was excellent. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of the reason for the coloring was the way that they smoke the meat. As I mentioned, a higher water-vapor level in the smoke house will transfer the flavor better. This will also transfer the nitrates from the celery, and make the meat red. So it could all be related.

On the downside: I felt a little disappointed by the complete lack of maple flavor. There was clearly maple syrup in their product, it’s on the ingredients. But the ingredients also show that price was a more important consideration than flavor for the producers: they skimped on the maple in favor of other, cheaper sweeteners. My advice: get rid of all the sugar, it’s completely unnecessary. Use only maple syrup for the flavoring, and use only enough so that the flavor comes through. There’s no need for 5 grams of sugar in a 1/2 lb serving – 2 or 3 grams will do just fine, and if it’s all maple syrup, it will taste incredible!

NimanRanchMapleBacon2

My conclusion:

This bacon does not compete with either of my previous American Style bacon reviews. If you have either of them available to you, skip this one and buy those. For my Bacon Project posts on the other, better brands, please take a look at the Bacon Project page.

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a baseline for evaluating my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for all four categories! This is only the second time a Bacon Product has earned a check-mark in all four categories! This is impressive, and deserves a bit of patronage. Fortunately, my guess is that the other, better brands are also more challenging to come by… So when you can’t get Vermont Smoke And Cure, Niman Ranch is an excellent second choice!

And finally, where did I buy it?

Whole Foods – I picked this up at Whole Foods. Because this is sustainably farmed pork, I will keep my eyes peeled for this at Stop And Shop, Shop Rite, Pathmark, A&P and the other major chains. If any of you stumble across this, let us know so that we can keep track of where it’s available. Thank you all for reading another of my Bacon Project posts!

NimanRanchMapleBacon3

Crock-Pot Smoked Beef – First Try!


PulledSmokedBeef

This has been a LONG TIME COMING! I first stumbled on this a while back, and wrote about it. I accidentally left a pork-roast in the slow cooker all day without any of the normal water-adding ingredients to help it cook properly. I came home, smelled the smoke, and immediately realized what I had done. Fearing the worst, I looked in to my slow cooker to find a wonderful gift waiting for me! It turns out, I did leave something in the slow cooker to mitigate the direct heat on the pork roast: I left Beef Short Rib bones, which I had expected to add their valuable nutrition content to the stewing process. Instead, they crisped slowly, giving off a slow-burn of smoke and water vapor to “smoke” the pork roast. And it was amazing!

I inadvertently did it again a week ago when I left the kitchen to make a “quick update” to one of my posts while cooking. I had a handful of carrots underneath some steak, cooking on a low temperature. Well, my “quick update” ended up taking more than an hour, and I completely forgot about the food! I know, it’s embarrassing… But even Chefs make mistakes! Trust me when I say: we don’t get every recipe right every time. We just have the dedication, perseverance, and passion to keep trying after we mess something up! Well, when I finally got back to my food, the carrots were crisped, but the beef had a delicious smoked flavor – it was amazing!

But this time, I did it completely on purpose! Here’s what I did:

  • 8 Beef Short Rib Bones
  • 2 lb Beef Shank Steak (grass-fed, of course!)
  • 1 inch Ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 Apple, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Black Pepper (thick coating)

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedGingerI arranged the short-rib bones on the bottom of my crock-pot so there was a fairly even surface across the top. I wanted to ensure that as the shank steak started to cook, it wouldn’t sag down to the base of the crock, gaining direct access to the heat. I want as much of the heat as possible to go in to the bones, causing them to crisp and release their smokey water vapor to slow-cook the beef in.

On top of the bones, I spread the sliced ginger out, giving an even coverage. This is important. Ginger is an amazingly versatile spice, and can add some of the extra flavoring that you might normally expect from a smoked meat. It gives it some of that smokey flavor in the sharp spicy flavoring of the ginger. Also, it will help to retain some of the water content in the meat, so that it cooks off the water more slowly.

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedApplesOn top of the ginger, I spread out one layer of the apples. As you can see from the picture, I’m not terribly concerned with the bone portion of the shank steak – it’s the meat that I want to ensure proper moisture to. In a smoke-house, this is done by adding water to the smoke, but in a crock-pot or slow-cooker, you don’t have the space to really play with the smoke. Or, at least, I don’t yet have the experience to design the cooking-process like that. Soon, though, I hope! Anyway, the apples helped a LOT!

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedPepperI added the coconut oil in two discreet gobs on each steak. Location, in this, is essential! I carefully placed the coconut oil where it is so that as it melted, it would have a lot of surfaces to work with before draining off the side of the beef. As I said: location is key. The more work it has to do to drain off the beef, the longer it will be there adding it’s flavor and moisture back in to the beef during the cooking process. I’m not making jerky here – so I don’t want my final product to be all dried out. I want it cooked, but smoked! Finally, the spicing.  Using a pepper grinder, I applied a thick layer of pepper over everything. That black-pepper flavor is one of the key ingredients in replicating a smoked meat!

PulledSmokedBeefThe results?

I loved the final product. The beef was delicious, full of flavor, and moist enough to really enjoy! I haven’t decided yet if it was a good thing or a bad thing that it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the crock. I ended up pulling it mostly apart and serving it like a “Pulled Beef” dish. Perhaps the cut of beef is important here? But the flavor and texture were spot on, and it steamed away on my plate as I looked at it. There is definitely more work to be done. This, as much as I enjoyed both the process and the results, is definitely not a finished product. But I have succeeded in starting the process. And the final product, whenever I manage to get there, will be excellent!!

Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. There needs to be water in the process (somehow) for this to work.
  2. The success of this attempt notwithstanding, somehow I need to make something in the crock pot thoroughly crisp. And I have to select that something with care.
  3. I can’t wait to try again!!!

Questions:

  • Have any of you ever done anything like this?
  • What are your results? Do you have suggestions on my process? How about flavoring?
  • Which cuts of meat do you generally try to us? Does cut matter for the final product?

I look forward to your responses! And I hope all of you go ahead and try something similar to this – it was an experience worth the effort! And the final product was definitely tasty!