Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Wonders of Leftover Braised Beef

On my last post I made a Mexican Braised Beef with the intent of showing you how versatile this meal really can be. I've already posted about Beef Chalupas and a Beef and Noodle dinner. I was in the mood for soup and after looking around at what I had on hand I came up with this recipe for Southwest Onion Soup using, you guessed it... leftovers and some odd ingredients you may have on hand too.

I used one giant Spanish onion, leftover braised beef, olive oil, a can of beer, a can of kernel corn, a can of rotel, beef bouillon cubes, and chipotle chili powder.

This was my inspiration, a photo from a cookbook.

This recipe comes from a Swanson soup cookbook my mother gave to me. This recipe calls for:
1 T olive oil
2 large spanish onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into cubes
1 t ground chipotle pepper
4 cups Swanson beef broth
1 bottle Mexican beer
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeno
1 cup frozen corn
Tortilla chips
1 package shredded Mexican cheese

By reading this ingredient list, I could see where they were going with the recipe. For one, I didn't want to make four cups of this soup, I wanted a smaller portion. Secondly, I didn't have all the ingredients, exactly as they had listed. So I made this up as I went, using thier recipe as my guide.
I began with some olive oil over medium heat in the bottom of a large stock pot.

Next, I sliced my onion and stirred it into my pot, coating with the olive oil...then leaving to cook low and slow until they were translucent and slightly caramelized. Stirring every now and then.

About halfway through the cooking process, I just eyeballed about a teaspoon of my chipotle chili powder. You could use any seasoning you like here...garlic powder, paprika, regular chili powder, cumin.

Then I took my leftover beef and cut it into small chunks.

Then added the meat to my soft onions.

These few cherry tomatoes were about to go into the trash if I didn't use them up by the end of the week, so I cut them in half and threw those into the stock pot.

Add the can of rotel with all the juices.

Next, I drained a can of corn, and added those into the pot.

To build my flavors up, I added about a teaspoon of each Ground Cumin and Garlic Powder.

Using bouillon cubes, I made two cups of beef broth and added that to my meat and veggie mixture.

I don't have a picture, but I also added about 1/2 can of the beer. I would have preferred a Mexican style beer or a dark lager...but all I had was Bud Select. What are you gonna do? I brought this mixture to a boil and then covered and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Using my cookbook photo as inspiration, I toasted a few tortilla chips in the oven sprinkled with cheddar cheese. Garnised my warm and comforting soup with the chips and a sprig of cilantro, excellent. This was easy and tasted great. The meat fell apart and the flavors melded well. I liked the spice from the rotel and the chipotle chili powder. A great way to use leftovers - what about leftover pulled pork? Add cilantro to the soup, add hominy or add diced potatoes.

Printable Recipe for Southwest Onion Soup.

Have more beef leftover? I threw some into a small skillet and added 1/2 cup of BBQ Sauce. That makes chopped beef! Put that on a sandwich or on top of a spud! Jim loved this quick baked potato dinner topped with spicy bbq meat.

Still have more meat left? Shred the meat, place between two tortillas with some cheese and melt in a skillet. Instant quesadilla. This was quick and easy for a light dinner or in our case, a mid day snack for Jim.
In these economic times I try to find inexpensive cuts of meat and do my best to stretch them into as many different meals as possible. Its challenging but fun. I hope I've inspired you to be creative in the kitchen too.

{Print Recipe}

Monday, March 22, 2010

Versatile Mexican Shredded Beef

I joke that the menu at a Tex Mex restaurant really contains 50 varieties of five main ingredients. Tortillas, beef, beans, tomato or tomatillos and cheese. With these ingredients you can make enchiladas, fried corn chips with salsa, flautas, nachos, chalupas, fajitas....the list goes on and on. There is only some truth to my rash statement. But I do prove a point with this recipe: I stretched this shredded beef into at least four different meals! See how I did it below.

I enjoy reading the blog, Homesick Texan. She often posts recipes for entrees I've loved for years and never knew how to make. Her post for how to make flautas, to me, is basically a pot roast recipe with a mexican twist. We braise the beef chuck in all these wonderful flavors until the spices and richness of the ingredients infuse the meat with so much flavor!

You will need the following (or a variation of the following, I don't follow rules/recipes very well.)
2 pounds of chuck roast, cut into four-inch chunks
1 tablespoon fat: lard, bacon grease or canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-4 jalapenos, diced
1 pound tomatillos, quartered
1 cup cilantro chopped
2 tablespoons cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
Juice of one lime
12 corn tortillas (I stopped here, and didn't make flautas, just the tender shredded beef)
About 1 cup of canola oil (omitted)
Salsa, lettuce, chopped cilantro, diced onions and sour cream for garnishing

I begin by rendering a little fat from some chopped bacon.

I cut the chuck roast into four pieces and brown on all sides in the rendered bacon fat.

Ohhhhh... nice and brown!

Before bacon got too dark and crispy, I removed with a slotted spoon and set aside.

I quartered an onion and halved a bunch of fresh garlic.

I only had one sad little jalapeno on hand so I gave it a rough chop.

Top left you can see the quartered tomatillos, moving counter clockwise the chopped celery, then a small bowl of chopped cilantro, some chopped carrots and my bacon, chopped jalapeno and quartered onion at the top.

Into my dutch oven I add all the seared beef.

Then start layering the chopped fresh ingredients. Onion and garlic.

Carrots, celery, tomatillos.

For MUCHO flavor, I add about a cup of red wine.

Add a couple squirts of Worcestershire sauce.

Chopped cilantro and bacon pieces.

Oh, I found a half used can of tomato paste in the fridge, lets add the rest of that!

Now add four cups of beef stock, or enough water/stock to cover the meat with liquid.

Season heavily with salt, pepper and cumin.

Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for two hours until meat is tender. Everyone in my house, including the two dogs Madeline and Cole are salivating. This smells divine!

Once cooked through, remove the beef and start shredding. This is so tender, it's not much work. Just take two forks to the meat and pull apart into a nice pile of succulent beef.

Meal number one was an easy stack of beef with guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa and sour cream all atop a crispy tortilla.

This my friends is a chalupa, and I love eating them more than a taco.

The next night, I thinly sliced half an onion and caramelized it in in some olive oil. Then I took another quarter of the braised beef and sliced/shredded the cold meat into the hot skillet with the onions. For the sauce, I opened a can of petite diced tomatoes. Let this heat through until meat is falling apart in the skillet. Taste and season with salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro if you have it.

I served this tomato beef and onion mixture with egg noodles. Jim thought I was genius. For more ideas on what to do with mexican shredded beef, stay tuned! Next will be an easy soup recipe!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BLT Scallop Salad

Jim and I love scallops, especially when they are on sale! A bunch of fresh (and cheap) scallops inspired this lunch meal. If you like scallops, and enjoy rich foods, let me also point you towards two of Ina Gartens recipes I tried last year. Bay Scallop Gratin and Scallops Provincial. They are easy, "fancy" and very tasty.

This recipe I'm sharing today came from Sarah's Secrets on the Food Network.

For the original recipe, for two servings you will need:
4 slices of bacon,
10 or so large dry sea scallops,
1 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar,
1 head bibb or boston lettuce, rinsed and spun dry, (I used spinach)
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced, (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 baguette, cut into slices and toasted, (I skipped this ingredient)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus crushed black pepper. (a little salt and pepper seasoning is all you need.)

Cut up the bacon and cook in a large saute pan until crispy and fat is rendered.

I always rinse and pat dry the scallops first.

Remove bacon to a paper towel and let drain. Reserve for later use.

I seasoned the scallops with salt and pepper, then added to the hot skillet to sear on both sides.

Flip when a nice crust has formed on one side. The funny thing about a scallop is you really don't want to overcook them because they get chewy which I think is totally disgusting. If you have oil or bacon grease in a pan, get it nice and hot and drop DRY scallops in there and don't touch them. Let them sear for a minute or so before you flip them. They really don't need to be fussed over too much, just give them nice color. (Have you heard Gordon Ramsey go off on his chefs that bring him raw and undercooked scallops? I find it hysterical.) Color is Key!

Set aside once they are cooked.

Now, I've mixed a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar into my balsamic vinegar and we are going to deglaze the saute pan by pouring this mixture in. Stand back folks, the strong fumes could knock you out! Turn the heat to low, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and let this reduce for a good 8-10 minutes until you are left with about a 1/2 cup of liquid.

Meanwhile I prepped the rest of the salad ingredients. I halved my cherry tomatoes, and added back the bacon to the spinach leaves.

It's sizzling away and reducing just like the recipe said it would. I love it when things happen as the recipe says it would.

Toss the hot dressing with the spinach, tomato and bacon (the BLT).

Serve with the seared scallops on top.

This was lovely folks. The dressing was sweet and tangy, and I loved how it wilted the spinach leaves a little. The cherry tomatoes were bright and added so much to the salad. I could see how a crunch of a crouton would be nice, but not completely necessary. Serve with a nice sav blanc. Could easily be prepared as a wondrful starter course or light dinner. Jim and I found it to be a perfect and filling lunch.

{BLT Scallop Salad}