Posts Tagged With: beef

date night dinner – 4.7.12 – stuffed dates, beef stew over polenta, and a third wheel

Before I came along, Micah and his best friend Eric were pretty much inseparable. They played tennis and video games together, ate together, and even occasionally slept on Micah’s futon together. Purely platonic, I assure you, but these guys are close.

Eric met his wife Jinny in the summer of 2006, the same summer Micah met me, so the four of us have shared many a double date. But sometimes, one of us won’t be around to hang out, so 75% of our foursome ends up on a three-person date night.

Jinny had to work last Saturday evening, so you could say Eric was the third wheel for our date night dinner. But I’d like to counter that when Micah and Eric get together, their bromance wields a power so strong that I am most definitely the spare somebody in the room. And this doesn’t hurt my feelings at all, because who am I to stand in the way of true love? 🙂

Plus, the meal we were planning for that particular dinner was going to make plenty more than we could eat anyway, so why not share the bounty with a good friend?

sweet, salty, smoky, crunchy, yummy

Our pre-dinner snackie: celery and manchego stuffed dates, inspired by a dish at one of our favorite fancy restaurants, The National. We can’t really afford to eat at this upscale eatery as often as we’d like, but when I found some nice looking dates at Daily Groceries, and then we spotted some manchego in the cheese case at Shiraz last weekend, we knew we had to try to replicate our favorite National appetizer.

What’s in it:

  • 8 pitted dates
  • about 1.5-2 ounces. aged manchego cheese (you could sub sharp white cheddar with good results)
  • 1 small stalk of celery
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • smoked paprika, salt, and pepper for sprinkling


  • Slice the dates almost in half lengthwise so that they’re still attached on one side (kind of like you would a hoagie roll for a submarine sandwich).
  • Cut the cheese into 8 sticks that are about the same length as your dates and about 1/4″ thick.
  • Cut the celery into 8 sticks about the same size as the cheese.
  • Stuff each date with a piece of celery and a piece of cheese.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with smoked paprika (a little goes a long way), salt, and black pepper.

Our taste buds suitably tickled, it was time for the main event: a beef, carrot, and sweet potato stew that had simmered all afternoon, served over creamy polenta:

Warm and hearty, perfect for sharing with the one you love (and his best friend).

This was one of those magic one-dish concoctions where I winged it and hoped for the best, and it didn’t suck. In fact, it was pretty freaking amazing, maybe even better as leftovers for lunch later in the week.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound beef stew meat (you could probably also use this recipe to make a delicious pot roast or short ribs)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • zest from one lemon, one lime, and one orange
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder


  • Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Generously season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl or plate.
  • Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and saute until translucent and lightly browned.
  • Return the beef  to the pot (plus any delicious juices that might have dripped from it). Immediately add the red wine and stir to scrape up any brown bits.
  • Add everything else! Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • At this point, you could simmer the stew on the stove at low heat OR stick it in a 300°F oven for several hours until the beef and veggies are tender.
  • We wanted our stew to be thicker than this turned out, so Micah used a slotted spoon to scoop the meat and vegetables into a covered serving dish, left the cooking liquid in the Dutch oven, and reduced the sauce until it was nice and thick, more like a gravy. Then we stirred it back into the dish of meat and veggies.
  • Serve over your favorite starch–polenta, grits, rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, gnocchi….gotta love those carbs!–and top with some chopped fresh cilantro.
  • Enjoy with the rest of that bottle of red wine!

This will come out seasoned kind of like a good pot of chili, dark and smoky from the chipotle and coffee and cocoa, but brightened up by the tomatoes and citrus zest. The beef was falling-apart-moist and juicy, and the carrots and sweet potatoes were sweet and tender.

Next time you end up being the third wheel, share a meal like this with the sweethearts and I guarantee you’ll all be feeling the love. 🙂

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supper tonight – 4.2.12 – not too offal…

My Pappaw loved braunschweiger (also called liverwurst…?) on crusty bread with brown mustard. I remember cutting myself a little sliver of this spreadable liver sausage when I was about five or six, reasoning that if Pappaw liked it, it must be good. And it was…kinda. But I don’t think he ever convinced me to try it again.

Then, somehow, inexplicably, I grew up to be a liver eater.

A few years ago, Micah and I got on a kick where we would make open-faced sandwiches by toasting a piece of bread topped with braunschweiger, thick-sliced tomato, and a generous helping of extra sharp cheddar. That was pretty darn tasty, and I’m kind of wondering–why has it been, like, three years since we made one of these?

Aside from this deli meat, I’ve somehow managed to sample plenty of other liver dishes in the last five or six years, maybe because I married a man who hates normal things like broccoli but loves to eat pretty much anything weird.

Micah and I enjoyed the beer-battered fried chicken livers at Farm Burger in Decatur, Georgia, so much that we asked for–and received–the recipe. (When Micah tried to replicate our magical crispy-fried liver experience at home, he managed to set the kitchen on fire…but we still got to eat some livers, and they were delicious, and our house didn’t burn down.)

We’ve had various liver pâtés and mousses at some of our favorite restaurants, and they’ve all been amazing. If you’re ever in Savannah, eat at Cha Bella and cross your fingers that the chicken liver mousse is on the menu that night. Same for Empire State South in Atlanta. And the butcher board at Farm 255 here in Athens often includes a liver mousse that’s perfect with some of their buttery grilled bread and house-made pickles.

Even a few controversial liver delicacies have made it onto our plates, including monkfish liver (which is freaking amazing, but unsustainably over-fished) and foie gras (even more heavenly, though the folks at PETA might challenge Chef Dan Barber to a knock-down, drag-out brawl over it one of these days).

Now that I’ve got the guts to try just about anything, I’m a liver lover at heart…but there’s one animal’s organ meat that I still can’t quite stomach.

The cow.

Micah convinced me that we should buy a beef kidney a few years ago. It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tasted. It looked, smelled, and tasted like cat food…but even Cheesepuff and Magellan wouldn’t eat it.

And, as you can probably tell from their fluffy
fatness,these guys don't usually turn down food.

Only slightly better was the beef liver, which we cooked just a few weeks after that awful kidney experience. We breaded it and fried it and sprinkled it with lemon juice and ate it on tacos, and it was….pretty gross.

So when one of our Moonshine Meats CSA orders a while back included a pound of beef liver, I tucked that little vacuum-sealed package deep in the cavernous reaches of our freezer and crossed my fingers that the appliance elves might make off with it before Micah remembered that he wanted to try cooking beef livers again.

He found that bag o’ beef liver last week and put it in the fridge to defrost.

Yay. More cow guts.

We looked at different preparations before finally settling on this recipe for Barbecued Beef Liver from, because the description promised,

“Beef liver simmered in a sweet and tangy sauce will tempt the picky eaters in your family! Even our teenagers like this.”

And one reviewer said,

“This recipe is the bomb!!!! The liver taste is gone. I eat it likes its hamburger.”

(Plus, we figured that smothering almost anything, even a hunk of organ meat, goes down easier with a heaping helping of barbecue sauce.)

So smother we did, with lots of barbecue sauce and a big pile of leftover mashed potatoes from Friday night’s dinner.

Notice how you can't really see the beef liver in this picture?
That's exactly what I was going for.

The mashed potatoes were delicious, of course. The barbecue sauce was sweet and tangy, just as promised. But the beef liver…well, it still tasted like beef liver. Thank goodness the ratio of taters to sauce to liver was something like 5:4:1.

If you like beef liver, by all means, try this recipe! And if you don’t like beef liver, just skip the first few ingredients and make the barbecue sauce, because it would be pretty tasty on pretty much anything…even, kind of, on beef liver. 🙂

What’s in it:

  • 1 pound of beef liver, thinly sliced (we soaked ours overnight in lemon juice, though we also could’ve used milk)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil


  • Whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, canned tomatoes, and beer. Enjoy the rest of the PBR while you cook those stupid beef livers, if you have to. (If you don’t like beef liver, I recommend only doing this step and skipping all the rest.)
  • Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a plastic bag. Add the liver slices, seal the bag, and shake it up to coat the liver.
  • Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the liver pieces to the skillet and brown on both sides.
  • Pour in your barbecue sauce, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • To serve: put the liver at the very bottom of your bowl or plate. Ladle on a very generous helping of your delicious barbecue sauce, and pile on a big heap of mashed potatoes for good measure. Make sure every bite includes a tiny tidbit of liver smothered by plenty of the other stuff in your bowl.

Micah and I tend to agree on most food-related subjects, but as we ate supper tonight, he said he would make this recipe again. (Really?) I guess that means he’s in charge of finishing our leftover liver, since he’s clearly more of a liver lover than I’ll ever be.

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date night dinner – 3.30.12 – steak ‘n’ taters

The weather here in Georgia has been unseasonably warm lately.

It’s been dang hot! Like, mid-80s in early March hot. Shorts and flip-flops hot. Summer hot. (Except that now, summer will probably be keep-your-babies-and-elderly-indoors-for-the-love-of-God hot.)

Hot weather makes me want to do several things:

  • Shave my legs (which Micah can tell you I’m not so diligent about in the winter)
  • Sip mojitos (but, of course, we have no rum or mint or limes in the house…)
  • Eat dinner outside (because the AC is on in here, and that makes me cold!)

Hot weather also makes Micah want to do several things:

  • Turn on the AC and complain about how hot it is
  • Drink beer (though he’s pretty good at that one year-round)

Yep. I married a sweet, sensitive musician type, but he’s definitely a manly man at heart. When we started discussing what protein from the freezer we might want to defrost for date night, his first statement+question was: “I wanna grill something. Steak or pork chops?”

I let him pick, and he chose the steaks. Two big, beautiful 1-pound T-bone steaks from our pals at Moonshine Meats. They’d been in the freezer for a little while because we generally don’t eat steak very often, so when several packs of them come in our CSA box, it usually takes us a few months to get through them all.

These steaks were real purty. Nice T-bone shape, intense blood-red color, thick strip of white fat around the edges (which I don’t eat, but it does seem to make the surrounding meat nice and juicy, so I don’t usually trim it until after it’s cooked).

Then there was the smell. I haven’t gone around sniffing raw beef all my life, and honestly, I never noticed my ground chuck or rib-eye ever having much of a odor (which I guess I’ve always taken as a good sign). But somehow, all the beef and pork that we get from Moonshine Meats has this intoxicatingly gorgeous aroma. It smells…well, meaty. A touch grassy, too, like you can smell the farm where that cow or pig lazily grazed before becoming your dinner. And when you eat this stuff, that meaty, grassy, farmy scent becomes a meaty, grassy, farmy taste, too. It’s a magical experience.

I didn’t mean for this blog post to be an unpaid advertisement for Moonshine Meats, but it’s hard not to gush.

Anyway, that mouth-watering steak scent burst from the vacuum-sealed package as soon as Micah slit it open last night.

And then…

We checked the hourly forecast, and it called for rain.

Not grilling weather.

Poor Micah.

Undaunted, he decided to bring the party inside and pan-sear those shapely T-bones in a big cast-iron skillet.

(If you ever do this, by the way, please flip on the vent hood above your stove, turn on your ceiling fans, and open all your windows and exterior doors before those steaks hit the smoking-hot pan. Because those suckers are going to smoke. A lot. And while this magical Maillard reaction creates a satisfyingly crunchy, caramelized char on the outside of your steak, it also makes your house as hazy as the inside of a hookah den.)

Meanwhile, I whipped up a couple of sides: mashed potatoes (because steak ‘n’ taters is one of those classic combinations that’s hard to beat, and I had some milk and a bit of Gruyere that needed using), plus some balsamic-glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts (because even in a meat-and-potatoes meal, I like to enjoy some veggies, too).

A stick-to-your-ribs steak-'n'-taters feast.

You’ll see that, with the exception of salt and pepper, our recipes all call for five or fewer ingredients. No fancy cooking techniques, either. And no disasters! In fact, except for the lung-smothering smoke that filled our kitchen, this was one of the most stress-free date-night dinners we’ve cooked in a while.

What’s in it:

  • Steaks (adapted from Bobby Flay):
    • Two T-bone steaks
    • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
    • Salt and pepper
  • Taters:
    • 2 pounds potatoes
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • Shredded Gruyere (we only had 1 ounce, but would’ve added more if we’d had it)
    • Salt and pepper
  • Veggies (adapted from
    • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
    • 1/2 pound carrots
    • 1/4 small red onion
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • Salt and pepper


  • Start with the steaks: Remove your steaks from their packaging and let them warm up to room temperature while you are prepping the vegetables. Why? ‘Cause Bobby Flay says so.

* * * * *

  • Turn your attention to the taters: Cut your potatoes into small cubes. They don’t have to be beautiful since you’re going to mash them, but small, evenly-sized pieces will cook more quickly and evenly. (Also, I leave the peels on my taters because I like them.)
  • Dump the potatoes into a big-ish saucepan. Pour in the milk. If the liquid level is low, add water until it’s about even with the top layer of potatoes, and then add a good sprinkle of salt.
  • Heat this pan on a back burner on medium heat until it’s almost boiling. (Don’t let it boil unless you want to curdle your milk!) Reduce to a low simmer and let the potatoes cook while you’re working on everything else. (Ours were done in about 20-30 minutes.)

* * * * *

  • Now, start the veggies: Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on low heat for your veggies.
  • Slice your carrots and cut your Brussels sprouts. For a normal-sized Brussels sprout, this will probably be halved or quartered. Ours were crazy-huge end-of-season behemoths, so we cut them into eighths.
  • Finely chop your onion. Add it to the butter in the skillet and turn the heat up to medium.
  • When the onion is translucent, add the carrots and Brussels sprouts. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until they get some color on them.
  • Add 1/3 cup water to the skillet of veggies, cover, reduce to medium-low, and let cook for about 10 minutes.

* * * * *

  • Steak time! While the veggies cook, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in another large skillet on high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season them with plenty of salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Your skillet will start smoking. When it does, add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium-high. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side if you like your steaks medium rare like we do. (If you like your steak more done than this, move it to a 450ºF oven for a few more minutes afterwards. But I’m telling you, you’re missing out!)
  • Remove the finished steaks to a plate and cover with foil. They’ll rest for about 10 minutes while you finish up the taters and veggies.

* * * * *

  • Veggies: Remove the cover from your skillet of veggies, turn the heat back up to medium, and add the balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables look glazed and shiny. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Taters: Take the pot off the heat. Mash the taters in the milk with one of these:

'Cause I prefer my taters
smashed 'n' chunky.
(image from

  • Add two tablespoons butter and the shredded cheese to your mashed potatoes and stir until they’re all melted in. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Put it all on a plate and eat! (We enjoyed all of this with a bottle of Chianti. Mmm.)

While my body is still fatigued from our school’s spring book fair, and while my lungs are still recovering from a pollen-filled week and our smoke-filled kitchen, my taste-buds and belly were completely pleased with this delicious meal.

One note about portions: this dinner procedure resulted in 2 giant steaks, 3-4 servings of veggies, and 6 good-sized heaps of mashed potatoes. So you may want to take that into account if you try this out–unless you like random leftover veggies as much as we do. 🙂

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supper tonight – 3.14.12 – Paula Deen married Alton Brown and they made a meatloaf baby

A few months back, Micah and I got a craving for meatloaf. We had ground beef, an egg, breadcrumbs, and ketchup–all the stuff I remember grownups putting in and on their meatloaves when I was a kid–but no idea how long or how hot it needed to bake, no idea what proportions to use. So, we decided to consult some experts for their opinions.

Google meatloaf and you’ll come up with lots of hits: “I Would Do Anything for Love,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad“…

…and plenty of recipes, too.

(Sorry. My love for meatloaf is rivaled only by my penchant for cheese and corn. :))

Anyway, we probably read a couple dozen recipes that afternoon, some really basic, some a little strange (breakfast sausage and clams? so weird I might just have to try it one day!). But since we were both craving that classic, homey, comfort-food meatloaf flavor, we ignored some variations like the Pioneer Woman’s that sounded really good in favor of the recipes that were a little more traditional. (Plus, we were out of bacon.)

The only problem was, instead of finding “the one,” we narrowed it down to two, and we weren’t going to do that whole one-for-the-wedding-and-one-for-the-reception thing.

First, Paula Deen’s recipe. It’s pretty standard, but it called for quick-cooking oats. We only had steel cuts, and I thought those might make for a too-chewy substitution. We did like the addition of canned tomatoes (which seemed like they would add moisture and flavor), and the recipe had heaps of good reviews. (Plus, Paula’s the self-proclaimed goddess of Southern cooking, and this meatloaf called for zero sticks of butter and no deep frying.)

The other contender? Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats (which was one of our favorite Food Network shows before we cancelled our cable). Also fairly classic, also well reviewed. Pros: carrots, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and the ease of chopping lots of yummy veggies in the food processor. Cons: Cumin is one of my favorite spices, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it in my sauce (and some of the reviewers were a bit iffy on it as well).

So, we lovingly welcomed into this world Alton and Paula’s meatloaf love child, a sweet little guy with just a bit of a fiery temper. While we did improvise a little (hey, it’s what we do!), this baby’s got Paula’s tomatoes, Alton’s carrots, and hopefully a good shot at inheriting both celebrichefs’ fortunes one day.

This is now our go-to meatloaf recipe, which we spiced up for supper tonight with pork sausage in place of some of the ground beef and a little more hot sauce in the glaze. We enjoyed this yummy stuff with the last of those leftover butterbeans and some collards:

What’s in it (the loaf):

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork or mild pork sausage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

What’s in it (the ketchupy glaze):

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (or less, if you want a not-so-spicy loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard


  • Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • Put the ground beef and pork sausage in a big bowl.
  • Finely chop the carrot, onion, and garlic (or let your food processor do it for you like I do–thanks, Alton!). Add these to the bowl.
  • Add the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, tomatoes, and egg.
  • Roll up your sleeves and get to mixin’! Combine everything thoroughly, but don’t smoosh the meat too much.
  • Transfer the meat to a 9″x13″ baking dish and mold it into a loaf-shaped mound.
  • Wash your hands! 🙂
  • Mix together the sauce ingredients and spread that out on top of your loaf.
  • Bake for about an hour, cool for a few minutes, slice, and enjoy! (It’s even better if you drizzle some of those yummy pan drippings over the top.)

We were meatloaf-challenged a few months ago, but now we’ve got a recipe we can count on. (Tonight’s was the best batch yet!)

What’s your favorite way to make meat(or meatless)loaf?


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