The Spice of Life: My first attempt at Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

I’m going to be upfront about something. This is the first time I’ve ever eaten or made beef rendang, so I can’t tell you how it compares to other versions out there. I can’t even tell you if it’s at all authentic, but I can tell you it was delicious!

A little back story: I’ve had this recipe for Beef Rendang kicking around in my arsenal for a long, long time (3 years to the month!) and for some reason I never think to actually make it. But finally, last weekend, I had a beef chuck roast that needed some love and attention.

My first instinct was a traditional beef stew, this one in particular, but I didn’t have a whole bottle of wine on hand to just use for cooking. My next thought was to do more of a curry-style braised beef and then I remembered this recipe. I even had the ingredients — clearly it was meant to be!

Since I was unfamiliar with rendang in general, I read a little bit about the history of the dish to get some background. It originated in Indonesia and should contain a serious list of spices, most often ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and chillies. It’s often mistaken as a cousin to the curry but rendang should actually be dry — as in cooked so slowly that the meat absorbs all of the liquid.

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Beer-Braised Beef: Helping to keep you warm this winter

Stout Braised Beef StewEven though it’s December, it’s still been fairly temperate in Portland. There was one day when I woke up to see a light dusting of snow, but for the most part it’s been a mellow winter. Which is pretty perfect as far as I’m concerned. As someone who bikes to work year-round, I am loving that when I go outside it still looks like autumn.

And while I haven’t been feeling the intense desire to hibernate, I still have had the usual cold-weather culinary urges — stews, soups and crockpots, oh my! I’m sure you all know the feeling, these are the things that get us through until spring. It seems so comforting to have a pot on the stove filled with chili or split pea soup.

So when I picked up a small chuck roast at the store, my first thought was beef stew. I usually make a pretty traditional version — mire poix, tomatoes and lots of woody herbs. However, I was feeling a little frisky and decided to try something different. Which is where this recipe for stout-braised beef comes in.

Now first let me assure you that I know cooking with alcohol is nothing innovative. I’ve been a dedicated believer in the power of beef and beer for quite some time. Perhaps it was the horseradish garnish that made this recipe so intriguing.

Which leads me on a slight tangent…As a kid, I thought horseradish sauce was the most disgusting thing ever. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the taste — I never got that far — it must have simply been the name. But my stepdad (a longtime horseradish lover) swore that some day I would discover its amazing and spicy deliciousness on my own. And, crazily enough, I did. I’m not certain of when it happened, but if you give me roast beef, my first instinct is to look for the “horsey sauce,” the hotter, the better.

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One Loaf to Rule Them All: Cheese-Studded Kobe Meatloaf

No Need for Ketchup Glaze Here

Usually I am a pretty healthy eater. I eat a lot of raw veggies, dine frequently on farro and try to avoid fried foods (unless I’ve been drinking *ahem*). So when I pulled a pack of ground Kobe beef from my freezer a while ago, I had already made my peace with eating some seriously fatty meaty goodness. And when you’ve come that far, it’s best to just don a pair of sweatpants and embrace it.

So I did exactly that.

While the beef thawed, I rooted around in my massive recipe binder for something new to try. It seemed sinful to waste Kobe beef on something like burritos or spaghetti, though I have no doubts it would have been delicious in either. Then I found the perfect recipe — one I had been dying to make for quite some time and had just been waiting for the heat of summer to dissipate. Which, let me tell you, has certainly happened here in rainy Portland. If there was ever a time for some “hibernation food,” it’s now.

So I set to work on making this masterpiece: Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy from the Nov. 2011 issue of Food & Wine. And oh, sweet Jesus, am I glad I did. I thought I made good meatloaf before — I always make it with sautéed onions, carrots and celery and I often use grated Parmesan cheese in it for extra goodness.

But this meatloaf…it was divine. It was magical. I used the entire three pounds of meat and I think it was gone in a two days. I don’t know what happened. Oh wait — I know. It looked like this:

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Pink Lady, Meet French Onion

If a bowl of crispy, cheesy French onion soup doesn’t say “autumn is here” I don’t know what does. And when you add a lovely, perfectly in season Pink Lady apple and a hefty splash of apple cider, it becomes downright magical.

My husband and I hit up the Montavilla Farmer’s Market (in SE Portland) a few weeks ago and came home with a beautiful selection of apples. There were so many varieties to choose from it was a little overwhelming. My new favorite is the Pink Pearl — which has bright rose-colored flesh and a tart flavor reminiscent of a Granny Smith.

I picked up a dozen or so apples and upon arriving at home, I set a Pink Lady aside because I had a plan in mind. This plan, to be specific: French Onion and Apple Soup.

It was a Cooking Light recipe that I had been staring at for quite a while and finally it was cold enough in Portland to justify making it. I admit, I was a little over excited. I’ve mentioned before that fall makes me nervous because it’s so close to winter, but here’s a secret — as soon as autumn is in full swing, I love it. The smell of cinnamon, the desire to bake cookies and toast pumpkin seeds. It’s like that feeling of being a kid when you realize you can finally start the counting down the days until Christmas.

And this soup definitely helped usher me into autumn! The cheesy topping and crunchy croutons were as comforting as always. And with its slight sweetness and rich beef broth, it brought about an immediate and serious craving for hot apple cider with Applejack.

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Was it Worth it? Pinto Bean and (not) Turkey Chili

  • The Source: Food & Wine February 2012
  • The Menu: Turkey-and-Pinto Bean Chili *only adaptation was using lean ground beef instead of turkey. This is actually the opposite of my MO. I am constantly substituting turkey for other ground meats, but strangely this time I had fresh ground beef on hand.
  • The Background: It was 75 degrees outside — which seems crazy considering it’s October in Portland. But regardless, there were enough leaves on the ground and candy corn in the stores to make it seem like Chili Season!
  • How It Looked Naked: 

Pretty as a Picture

  • How It Looked Dressed:

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Before summer is gone…

This week I noticed it’s getting dark by 8 o’clock and you can feel a certain chill to the air. My driveway is littered with fallen leaves, I have begun to see Halloween candy in the supermarket and I finally had to start using a bike light for my evening commute.

These things terrify me because it means that fall is approaching. Now I have no problem with autumn — we get along okay. I like the changing of colors and snuggling up on the couch with my kitties while a chicken roasts in the oven. My problem with fall is that winter is close behind it, and well, let’s just say it’s my least favorite season.

But before I get too sad, there’s still some leftovers from summer here to enjoy. One of my favorite things is tomatoes — delicious, sweet, warm tomatoes. Growing up in Alaska, I had no idea how good a tomato could be until I moved to Oregon. I was astonished.

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