Only people who have known me a long time know this story: One day when I was in 6th grade we had a someone come in to give a special lesson whose purpose we didn’t exactly know (I’m still not sure really what the point of it was), but two of the 6th grade classes joined together. The presenter asked for a volunteer or picked me as a volunteer I don’t remember. I participated a lot in class and wasn’t shy, so standing up in front of the group was not a biggie. It happened that I was pretty overweight. I also wore glasses, and may I just point out that in the mid-nineteen-seventies, eyeglass frames were not so well designed as they are now. Mine were typical tortoise shell with a keyhole above the bridge. I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself carefully saved from that period. Anyway, I was told that I’d be answering a few questions and then I will be sent out of the room. That’s cool, it seems like a little treat to be quizzed about oneself this way. I answer an innocuous question or two about whether I have a pet and what’s my favorite flower and then the person asks me, what is my favorite food?
I don’t have to think about it for very long. I see visions dancing in my head of steaks and prime rib – for which I am the self-designated Yorkshire Pudding maker at home when we have it – and also the spherical chuck roasts my mom would spin on the rotisserie. So I gave my one word answer, “beef.”
I was red meat myself, blushing as the class rightfully sputtered and laughed at this overweight girl saying “beef” with the reverence and directness of a sumo wrestler. The presenter looked embarrassed too, not really understanding what he had risked by choosing someone of my size to volunteer and answer questions about food. (It turns out we students were just supposed to be quizzed after I left the room on whether they’d observed details about me, like what color my shirt was, etc. as I stood answering questions.) I won’t say anything as dramatic as I never lived it down, but if anyone wanted to take me down a peg in the years to come they’d just casually interject the word “beef” under their breath in my presence and snigger. This followed me through high school for sure, though not mercilessly. I have a good friend who wasn’t even in the classroom for this episode but she will remind me of it every five, ten years.
I will say today that I am neither proud nor ashamed of the fact that I eat red meat. There have been high-living times in my life, like that spring I lived in Missoula, Montana when I was in my late twenties and ate high off the steer. They definitely know their beef up there. I also think fondly of that time when my sister and I had one of the greatest meals and the greatest sirloins of all time at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica.
Understanding that beef is not an ideal staple food for the environment or for my health, I have consciously cut back making steak or a cut of red meat a once in a while treat. We’ve moved to eating grass fed at home, which I at first considered a duty but now much prefer to the mass-produced feedlot fed version taste-wise too. I also grind my hamburger meat from Marin Sun Farms stew meat packages on those fairly rare occasions when we have burgers at home. I say with a tad of self-righteousness that I have been grinding-my-own since before the pink slime story broke. It may seem like the practice is a little over the top, but when you or a loved one has been felled by e.choli, you just don’t want to take chances. Beef is also not always the easiest thing for me to digest, and I don’t enjoy smelling like beef tallow the day after a trip to Izzy’s Steaks and Chops on Steiner for what I think is the best prime rib in town.
So perhaps I don’t love beef with the same innocent abandon that I did when I was twelve and I don’t think I would choose it as my last meal, but it does have a place close to my heart (insert 2nd DIY joke here). In honor of my inner carnivore, I am sharing a recipe for what may be the dish most able to transport me to beef heaven: braised short ribs or flanken. This is a specialty of my husband’s and we made it together as a team for dinner yesterday and I recorded the recipe as we went. Cooked for hours, then broiled before serving, this dish makes beef about as delectable as it gets. Mmm, beeeeef.
Boiled Beef Flanken
- 3-4 pounds short rib/flanken
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 1-1/2 cups onion (2 small or 1-1/2 medium onions)
- 1 cup celery root, large dice
- 3 carrots (2 cups) sliced
- 1 cup slice shitake mushrooms
- 2 cups beef stock
- OR 2 tsps. Beef Better than Boullion with 2 cups boiled water
- 2 cups red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon
Preheat oven to 325F. Season meat with salt and pepper. Sautée the sliced garlic in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a dutch oven, remove the garlic and reserve. Prep the veggies and mix the Better than Bouillion with 2 cups boiling water to make a broth.
Brown the strips of short rib meat in the dutch oven where you sautéed the garlic, turning meat so strips will get browned on all sides – this step should not be rushed. It might take 15-20 minutes.
Add the garlic and onions and redistribute beef so onions are the bottom layer. Add the celery root, mushrooms and carrots. Add the beef broth. Give the contents of the pot a stir, then add 2 cups or roughly half a bottle of wine. (Not too pricey, of course, but the wine should be good enough to drink! ) The liquid should just cover beef.
Cover the pot and place in preheated oven. Leave it to cook there for 3 hours. Check liquid level and stir every hour, adding water if liquid seems too low.
Remove the beef from the oven. Separate meat, gravy and veggies, allowing it to cool before storing if you are not eating it right away. You can cook down the liquid and make a thicker gravy if you choose. When you are ready to serve, baste the meat with the liquid and broil it for a few minutes a side (longer, if it is taken straight out of the refrigerator. Serve with the veggies and gravy.
Thanks for sharing your childhood story. And now, I’m curious about grinding my own beef. I thought we were safe with buying the organic, grass-fed ground beef from WF, but perhaps grinding our own is the new way to go. Can you share your process with me sometime? Thanks!
Hi Dawn! I was in Whole Foods today and was impressed with the four little clocks at the meat counter showing when they ground various beef products last, btw. Pretty serious. I use the Cuisinart to grind the beef, the regular default blade. If you buy the stew meat it is already in cubes, or if you buy a portion of chuck roast you can cube it yourself and then chop it down. I just try to go through it a little by hand afterward, because coming upon an oversized chunk in the cooked burger can be a little unappetizing – too chewy. You get used to it and it doesn’t happen when you take that step. It makes you feel a little safer cooking it medium rare, and the taste is very good. Grass fed does cook up faster, so you have to watch it more closely. It’s leaner.
Joe Oppenheimer said:
I love short ribs although I don’t make them very often. It looks like you use boneless. I am used to doing them with the bone in.
It’s funny, Joe. I pulled these out of the freezer and was like ‘whoa, where are the bones?’ Forgetting that I’d bought boneless cut. I think I prefer with bones because it’s more traditional but this batch was great too.
Joe Oppenheimer said:
I love these Korean style short ribs from Bon Appetite (the bone in is essential here because you essential make a stock).
Korean-Style Short Ribs
Gourmet | March 2007
yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
active time: 20 min
total time: 1 day
A long marinade in a mixture of Korean ingredients infuses these short ribs with spicy-sweet heat. Braising the ribs locks in the fiery, garlicky flavor and results in incredibly tender meat that pulls easily away from the bone
• 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted and cooled completely
• 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons gochujang (Korean hot-pepper paste)
• 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
• 6 pounds beef short ribs or flanken
• 3 cups water
• 1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, smashed
Grind sesame seeds to a coarse powder in grinder. Reserve 1/4 cup scallion greens, then whisk together remaining scallions, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, hot-pepper paste, sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame-seed powder in a large bowl. Reserve remaining sesame-seed powder for serving. Add short ribs to soy sauce mixture, rubbing mixture into them. Transfer ribs to a large sealable plastic bag and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours.
Transfer ribs to a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and add water and ginger. Simmer, tightly covered, until ribs are very tender, about 3 hours.
Transfer ribs to a platter using tongs and keep warm, covered with foil. Skim fat from sauce and pour sauce through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into a bowl, then discard solids. Serve ribs with sauce in shallow bowls and sprinkle with reserved scallion greens and remaining sesame-seed powder.
•Ribs can be marinated up to 1 day.
•Ribs can be braised 2 days ahead and cooled in sauce, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove fat from sauce, then reheat, covered, over moderate heat and proceed with recipe.
Mmmmm. These look delicious. For a short while there was a Korean barbeque sauce in the stores, Annie Chun brand, that worked beautifully for char shiu, which was a nice time saver, but I cannot find it anymore. Thanks for passing this recipe along!
Joe Oppenheimer said:
I find those Korean ribs are best if you let them sit in the sauce overnight and then strain and reheat the next day. That means it’s a three day process (one to marinate, one to cook, and server on the third day) so my wife likes to call them “Three Thousand Year Ribs.”
Hah! 🙂 I know and love some recipes like that. That’s the beauty of slow food, though. Time is an important ingredient.