“When Serving Beef . . .”
An interesting letter from one who has worked a lifetime as a chef in large restaurants.
My dear Friend:
This is in answer to your request for a few practical tips on home cooking for your family. You particularly asked about preparing meals when serving beef.
Since there are so many ways in which beef can be served, it is good when buying your meat to select a cut that is suitable for the way it will be cooked. For example, if you desire a juicy steak you need a choice cut of either rib or loin from a young steer, meat that looks bright red. It should also have a creamy cover of fat on the outside, as well as fat distributed between the meat fibers in a marbled effect. It must be aged properly too, for if the meat is fresh-killed it will still be tough. The same is true in regard to tender juicy roasts, either rib, loin or rump. Aging mellows them too. These, of course, are the most expensive cuts, since they are limited in supply.
If, on the other hand, you want to serve a pot roast or some boiled beef or stew meat, select the cheaper cuts, since they are just as nourishing. For pot roast, use chuck, neck, round or shoulder cuts. For boiling, use brisket, plate, flank, tongue or heart. For stew, use shank, neck, flank or round. If you buy chopped meat, be sure that it is fresh, not grayish looking, and free from excess fat, gristle and tendons.
Now, once you have made a good selection for the menu you have in mind, then follow through by cooking it properly. As you know, there are several ways of cooking STEAK, depending on the equipment available and on individual tastes. You can broil it in your range, in an electric pan with a broiler element or outdoors over charcoal. Whatever method you use, preheat the unit to 450° F., brush the steak with a little oil on both sides and broil quickly. Salt it afterward, because salt draws out the juice and prevents it from searing and browning. Also, be sure to serve it immediately while it is sizzling hot.
Another tender cut of beef that particularly lends itself for a family dinner is a STANDING ROAST of rib or loin. For a rib roast make sure the backbone or vertebrae are cut out so you will have no trouble later slicing the meat, but leave the ribs standing in the meat. Also, there should be a half inch of fat on the outside to protect it from drying out in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. and put the roast in an open roasting pan with the fat side down; season with pepper and a little garlic. Sear and brown the roast for twenty minutes and then reduce the heat to 325°, allowing it to cook for fifteen to twenty minutes per pound of meat. As it heats through, the meat gets firmer to the touch. Do not test it by pricking with a fork, as this lets the juice out. Avoid overcooking a tender piece of meat, for this will toughen it and dry it out. Be sure to reduce the heat as soon as the meat is brown or it will shrink and burn. Some persons make the mistake of carving a roast as soon as they take it out of the oven. Instead, let it rest for about fifteen minutes. If it is carved while too hot, the slices will curl and lose their juice.
Although the meat used for POT ROAST is not as tender and juicy, by simmering it in the gravy it will get soft and will be just as nourishing; and you will enjoy the rich, tasty gravy with your potatoes and vegetables, which can be cooked right with the meat in a Dutch oven or frying pan. Brown the meat on all sides with a little fat. Season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf, and add water or tomato juice, cover and let simmer. When it is half cooked, put small carrots, onions and potatoes in around the meat and finish cooking.
A variation of this is SAUERBRATEN (meaning sour roast), for which the meat is pickled for at least four or five days in cider vinegar, with spices, onions and garlic. Then take it out and roast it. Be sure to add the pickling liquid to the gravy, for this gives it a tangy flavor. This dish is usually served with potatoes or dumplings and vegetables.
For variety serve your family BOILED BEEF. First, select a piece of brisket, plate, flank, heart or tongue. Put it in boiling, salted water. Lift off the scum as it forms on the top and season with bay leaf and pepper. Cook until the meat is tender and then let it cool off in the broth so it will not get dry and darken. In the meantime, make a sauce by mixing a little flour with melted butter in a saucepan. Then add some of the hot broth, a little at a time, until it has the consistency of a thick sauce, as you stir it over a low heat. For the desired flavor you may add horseradish, chopped parsley, dill, sliced braised onions, mustard, curry powder or capers. Then slice the meat across the grain, place on a platter and pour the sauce over it. Serve with potatoes or dumplings. The leftover broth can be used as soup stock. A variety on this theme is corned beef boiled with cabbage or root vegetables.
Another very good, yet inexpensive, way to serve beef is in a STEW. The cuts used for this have more sinews but these will get tender by slow cooking and the release of their gelatinous substances, which are very nourishing. And there are so many varieties of stews that nearly every appetite can be satisfied.
For brown beef stew with vegetables, cut the meat in 1 1⁄2-inch cubes and brown in a little fat, then add a little flour and season with salt, pepper, garlic and bay leaf. Next add water, broth or tomato juice and let it simmer until half done. Then add the cubed vegetables, small carrots, onions, celery, turnips and potatoes and cook until done. This hearty dish goes very well with flour dumplings, which can be steamed in the same pot on top of the stew.
For BEEF STROGANOFF, add to the browned diced meat chopped onions, garlic, parsley and mushrooms and finish with sour cream. For BEEF BURGUNDY, add chopped onions, garlic, a little flour and burgundy wine and let simmer until done. For GOULASH, add plenty of chopped onions, a little garlic and plenty of sweet paprika. Then add water and let simmer till done. These last three dishes can be served with potatoes, rice, noodles or dumplings.
You can also make what is called a white stew or fricassee, simply by putting the diced meat in boiling, salted water, bringing to a boil again and lifting off the scum. Season and let simmer until half cooked. Then add choice garden vegetables or mushrooms. When done, thicken the broth by taking a little flour or cornstarch, stirring it into some cream and beating in an egg yolk and then stirring this into the boiling stew. Season with lemon juice and a little Worcestershire sauce. This certainly tastes good with rice on the side.
Chopped beef is very versatile and easy to prepare in many different ways. For hamburger steak be sure to use a good grade of meat. Just flatten out the ground beef into thin patties and grill on both sides and season afterward. Or you can make a MEAT LOAF. For each pound of beef use three or four slices of bread soaked in water and then squeezed out, one egg, one onion chopped up, salt, pepper, a little garlic powder (or, some folks like a little nutmeg or herbs added). Mix all together well. If it is too dry, add a little water or tomato juice. Shape into a loaf and bake in an oven at about 350° for about three quarters of an hour. Or you can bake it in an electric frying pan. You might think that the bread is for the purpose of stretching the meat, but not so. It absorbs the juices that the meat releases, and it holds in the flavor, thus making the loaf softer and more palatable.
The same meat loaf mass can be used for small individual loaves (called Salisbury steak) or it can be formed into meat balls and browned in fat, then simmered in tomato sauce and served with spaghetti. Or you can use it as filling for a delicious dish of lasagna.
Do you folks like a chili dish served with beans and rice, or on split buns—sometimes called “sloppy Joe’s”? If so, brown the loose chopped meat in a little fat and add chopped onions and garlic. Then add the chili powder and tomato sauce and simmer. Chopped meat prepared in this fashion can also be used as a stuffing for vegetables such as cabbage leaves, tomatoes, squash, eggplant or peppers. You could add a little cooked rice to the meat, season with herbs and roll into parboiled cabbage leaves or put it into other vegetables and bake in a pan.
LEFTOVER BEEF cooked in any one of these aforementioned ways lends itself to a great variety of economical dishes in combination with other foods such as potatoes, beans, rice, macaroni, and so forth, either hot or cold. For instance, leftover beef can be used in hash, creamed beef on biscuit or toast, or croquettes, or it can be reheated in gravy, or served as cold cuts or shredded up in salads.
By having some of these points in mind when you buy and prepare beef, you will be able to get more than one meal out of a piece, and in this way save money and time. Above all, your family will enjoy a much larger variety in their menus.
When serving beef you are providing your family with an important source of protein, which their bodies need for building and repairing tissue. Especially are the meats of liver, heart and kidneys important as rich sources of iron for building blood. Properly prepared, they too lend aroma and flavor that stimulate the flow of digestive juices that contribute to the enjoyment of a meal.
Now I have talked mainly about various ways of preparing and serving beef. But let me also suggest that you not overlook the importance of balancing out your meals with a variety of salads, vegetables and fruits. This will contribute to good health for you and your family.
And as you enjoy these delicious foods, may you never forget to thank Jehovah, the One who provided us with so many good things to eat.—Contributed.