I’m beginning to think I should just call this blog “Sandwiches on the Brain.” I seem to get a lot more excited about making sandwiches out of the leftovers of something than I do the original dish. I made a beautiful roast beef last weekend, complete with Yorkshire pudding (I made the mistake of looking through The River Cottage Meat Book), and it was delightful…but it’s the roast beef sandwiches that are really rocking my boat this week.
The beef was a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our grassfed freezer cow, rubbed with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden, and roasted just until perfectly rare. Sliced, a lot of the nice herb rub came off, so the largest pieces didn’t actually have any seasoning, but they still had a good beefy flavor. I made a special trip down to the co-op for a loaf of Samish Potato Bread, one of my favorite Breadfarm products – it has a nice sourdough tang, and the potato makes it spongy enough to soak up a lot of juices without falling apart. The first few days I stuck to a formula of mayo, horseradish, beef, lettuce, and jarred piquillo peppers, but the very last of the beef was consumed with a good dollop of sauerkraut instead. Mmmm.
We have rather a lot of beef in our downstairs freezer, thanks to the half a cow we buy every couple of years, so any time the urge for steak strikes we tend to go with it. It’s a wonderful excuse to make chimichurri sauce, a traditional Argentinian concoction of parsley, lemon, hot pepper and olive oil. And as it turns out, it’s even better on roasted mushrooms than it is on beef. A little bit spooned into an omelet was a good move as well. Actually, I’m not sure what it wouldn’t be good on.
We looked through quite a few books looking for different chimichurri recipes. Some use lemon juice, some use vinegar. Some are just parsley, but many add oregano as well. All versions are good – you could basically make up your own depending on the ingredients at hand. We just tried a version out of one of our street food cookbooks, and it turned out spectacular. It was very liquidy, though – not a problem as long as everything on your plate tastes good with chimichurri sauce, because it’s all going to get souped up together. You could probably thicken it up by adding a lot more chopped fresh herb and folding it in at the end.
It’s always a bit odd to make a new recipe, taste it, then realize that you don’t know whether it turned out or not, since you have no idea of what it’s supposed to taste like. When we made dan dan noodles for the first time, it may or may not have been a success.
What I do know is that the noodles were flavorful, the sauce had an interesting sweet/spicy/salty tang, and the Sichuan pepper gave it so much ma that I couldn’t feel my mouth for half an hour afterwards. So perhaps it was a success. We decided to try it again another time.
That was our first time using Tianjin preserved vegetable, a fermented cabbage product that we had just recently found at a little Chinese market in Seattle’s International District. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, mistress of all things Sichuan, it’s not quite a perfect stand-in for traditional Sichuanese fermented vegetable, but it comes close. The flavor of it was sweet, a little funky and really, really, really salty. We keep trying to decide if we want to replace it when we use up the jar, or just use cabbage and lots of salt instead.
I don’t normally have the attention span to eat the same thing every day, but I ate this sandwich for lunch three days running and was still not tired of it. I kept trying to decide whether to change it up a bit, add a different condiment…and then made it exactly the same way. Again.
This all came about because we thought a particular day was going to be cold and rainy, so we planned a pot roast. As it turned out, the weather all week was ridiculously warm and springlike, but once the beef was defrosted it was too late to back out. We based the braise on the Yankee Pot Roast Redux recipe in Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, using a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our freezer and cooking it in Strongbow cider, chicken broth and onions, with carrots and potatoes going in near the end. It was fabulous, and we ate it two nights running with polenta and shredded Brussels sprouts, but there were still many leftovers.
Having thought ahead to this predicament, I had picked up a bag of rosemary potato rolls at the co-op, made by the Breadfarm, a wonderful bakery in Edison. These rolls, like so much the Breadfarm does, are spectacular – sour and chewy, with coarse salt on top and plenty of fresh rosemary scattered throughout. When it came time to make my sandwich, I cut a roll in half, toasted it lightly, spread it with mayonnaise (Best Foods), and fit a slice of pot roast onto it. I also remembered that we had a bag of cilantro in the fridge, so I pulled out a few sprigs to add. Squished down well, the ingredients melded together, and positively sang.
I ate that first sandwich and immediately made another.
It was hard to know what to eat after getting home from Duckfest. We’d eaten so much good food, I found myself wanting meals relatively light on carbs but not too depressingly healthy. I didn’t want to give us whiplash, after all.
This was a dinner that really hit the spot. Jon made up his favorite recipe for kofte kebabs with a mix of beef and lamb, but turned it into meatloaf instead of individual burgers or kebabs. I roasted a panful of cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, cumin seed and mustard seed, and stirred up some yogurt with fresh garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper.
It was the perfect combination of comforting, spicy and virtuous.
When we flew into Kansas City last week, getting in just in time for dinner, we were sorely tempted to go back to our favorite BBQ joint, Oklahoma Joe’s. In the pursuit of knowledge, however, we felt that we really needed to try somewhere new – you know, so we can say with authority where our favorite KC barbecue is. We’ve tried Gates, Smokestack and Joe’s, but we had never made it to one which is often touted as the best in the city: L.C.’s Bar-B-Q.
Located on the corner of Blue Parkway and Sni-a-Bar Road, just off of the eastern curve of 435, L.C.’s isn’t hard to find – there are even signs on the freeway to get you there. It’s not much to look at, and they don’t serve beer, so I would suggest getting takeout – that’s what almost everyone else was doing when we stopped in. If you eat in, though, you get a big bottle of extra sauce and plenty of paper towels. We also got to eavesdrop on a really interesting conversation L.C. was having with another guy at the corner table.
This wasn’t an unqualified success, but it was fun. I had never, ever made sloppy joes before, so it was a total experiment. Both of us being products of the public school system, we were each traumatized by the high school cafeteria version of this dish (there’s a reason I ate peanut butter sandwiches all through school). As I recall, it’s basically a cheap hamburger bun topped with bad spaghetti sauce – anyone else remember more details? Anyway, we had some sweet potato rolls left over and I thought it would be fun to top them with a sort of piquant ground beef sauce and let them get all soggy. And it was!
For the sauce, I sauteed an onion, mixed in a pound of ground beef from our previous cow (the new cow is in the freezer, but there’s still a bit left of the old one) and added a bit of Pendleton’s barbecue sauce. That tasted a little odd to me, so I added half a can of diced tomatoes, some fresh garlic and quite a bit of salt, and it came together pretty well (I think the garlic really did the trick). I cut the rolls in half, toasted them lightly, and dumped the sauce all over, with a bit of fresh sauteed spinach on the side. We opened a rich toasty Zinfandel. It was not at all like high school.
We had been doing so well on our self-imposed mission to eat tofu once a week. Not that I really think soy is particularly beneficial (the jury still seems to be out on that one), but we do eat a fair amount of meat, and I try to work in other sources of protein when convenient. Besides, tofu is cheap. We recently discovered silken tofu in boxes that keeps on the shelf for several weeks, so now we can stock up and have it ready to hand. Lately, though, we’ve slacked off on our tofu consumption.
After a few weeks of somewhat disorganized menu planning, I remembered that there was a box of silken tofu in the cupboard getting past its sell-by date, and a recipe for Ma Po Tofu in our Sichuan cookbook that hadn’t yet been tried, so that’s what we had for dinner one night after work. It was incredibly quick and easy, so I suspect we’ll have it again before too long.
One of the treasures that we brought back from Kansas City (and, no doubt, were responsible for our suitcase being searched) was this bunch of gorgeous skewers. They’re just what we’ve been wanting: long, flat and wide. Finally, we thought, we can make ground-meat kebabs without the meat falling off the skewer!
We were wrong, of course. Continue reading
St. Patrick’s Day is coming right up! For us, this week generally means playing several musical gigs in a row, driving across a variety of high mountain passes in snowstorms, and drinking a lot of wine, but I realize that this isn’t most people’s idea of the holiday. However, to get in the mood in advance this year (and to provide photos for an article I was writing), I made up a batch of Irish soda bread and some beef stew to go with it. And damn if that wasn’t the best beef stew I have ever made! The bread wasn’t bad, either.