Cube steak revelation: Cuban-style Bistec de Palomilla
photo from the NYT
I grew up eating cube steak, a cheap, thin cut of mechanically-tenderized beef. Calling it steak was a bit of a stretch, but it cooked up quickly for the Swiss steak dish that was a staple in my house: cube steak braised in tomatoes.
When we got cube steak for the first time in our Herondale meat CSA bags recently, I poked around for something different to do with the cut. This recipe from the Times caught my eye because of the flavor profile: lime, garlic and onion. Additionally, I hoped the quick marinade would further tenderize the meat.
This is basic weeknight fare, but definitely an improvement upon Swiss steak, in my opinion. Keep your eye on the meat and don’t overcook it.
Bistec de Palomilla, adapted from the New York Times
2 pounds cube steak, cut into 4 or 6 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Juice of 3 limes
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (optional)
1. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Put steaks, juice from 2 limes and garlic in a 1-gallon zip-top bag or in a shallow glass pan or plate. Marinate for at least an hour (I did mine overnight.)
2. When ready to cook, put oil and butter in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. When butter stops foaming, add onions and sauté until soft and just starting to turn color, about 5 minutes. Remove onions to a bowl, cover with foil and set aside.
3. Turn heat under pan to medium-high. Add steaks, being sure not to crowd the pan and adding a little more olive oil if needed. Cook about 2 minutes per side, flipping when juices come to surface. Remove to a platter or individual plates.
4. Add any leftover pan juices to onions, along with juice from remaining lime, and parsley. Top steaks with onions.
Rickke’s Four-Hour Lamb Revelation
My pal Rickke has had a breakthrough. A lamb breakthrough.
He went from “meh” on lamb (too “gamey”) to WHOA in one recipe: the fantastic and dead simple 4-Hour Lamb from Ina Garten.
This recipe lists a really large leg of lamb; 6-7 lbs. The cuts in our share aren’t typically that large, thankfully, but you can still use the recipe pretty much as written. There’s no need to reduce the wine and other ingredients unless you want to deprive yourself of the wonderful sauce. In any case, don’t stress about the size of the cut - it’s going to be great as long as you don’t undercook it. If your lamb is in the 3-4lb range, check the meat for doneness starting at the 3hr mark.
You absolutely do need a large (big enough to hold your lamb comfortably) and heavy Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset.
1 (6 to 7-pound) leg of lamb (see note)
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine
2 heads of garlic, broken apart but not peeled
15 large sprigs fresh rosemary
15 large sprigs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat a very large Dutch oven such as Le Creuset over medium-high heat until its hot. Add the lamb and sear on all sides for about 12 minutes, until its browned all over. Remove the lamb to a plate.
Add the wine and 2 cups of water to the pan and cook for a minute or two, scraping up all the brown bits in the bottom. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves and the lamb on top. Place the lid on the pot and bake in the oven for 4 hours, basting occasionally. (If you dont have a lid, you can cover it tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil.)
After 4 hours, the lamb should be incredibly tender and falling off the bone. Remove the lamb to a plate, cover it tightly with foil and allow it to rest. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce. The lamb will be too tender to slice; serve it warm with spoons and the sauce.
Many of my favorite cuts were included, and below I offer a recap of the recipes I’ve made with them.
Beef short ribs
1. Short ribs provencale (oven method)
2. Short ribs braised in ancho-coffee sauce (oven method)
3. Slow cooker Korean short ribs (crock pot)
4. Charlotte K’s Asian short ribs (oven method)
And if you’re a taco lover, you might try this:
Beef shanks (aka cross-cut shanks)
Like bone-in short ribs, shanks need to be braised (cooked long and slow with a lot of liquid.) But the payoff is immense; the meat is delicious and tender. If you don’t have enough shanks for a recipe (you’ll need more than 2), either wait til you receive more, or supplement from your local butcher.
This is one my very, very, very favorite recipes for any beef cut:
1. Peppered beef shanks in red wine (crock pot)
2. One of the many yummy things I did not eat on my Dominican vacation because the food was all Russian Immigrant Steamtable: Dominican sancocho
3. Butterflied leg of lamb
This was me when I saw the lamb in my bag:
I really, really love this cut. Especially grilled. But since I don’t have access to a grill year-round, I make it in the oven most of the time.
You can rub any manner of spices on lamb; it loves Mediterranean flavors (any combination of garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and lemon) as well as the classic flavor pairing of mint. It’s also a good friend to both Middle Eastern and North African flavor profiles.
Basic method: 1. Marinate overnight. 2. Roast. 3. Profit.
I strongly suggest you acquire a meat thermometer if you’re a beginner with roasting large cuts of meat. Eventually you will stop needing it, but it’s a very useful learning tool. I personally like my lamb rare so I take it out at 125 or so, and then let it rest, but you should play around with that.
So that’s it for this month. Any CBSBK/Herondale CSA members who haven’t signed up to continue past April - contact the Farm now before all the slots fill up! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My co-worker is preparing for a bikini competition (and I’m super stoked for her), but I saw our lunches in the office fridge today and just had to take a picture.
Stoked is not the emotional reaction I have to this, but ok :)
A Ton of Sweet Potato Recipes
Apparently ever other food blogger in the world knew about this, but I didn’t.
In February, ONE, the charitable/activist organization that U2’s Bono co-founded, hosted a Sweet Potato Day. An inexpensive and hearty tuber, the sweet potato is a good candidate for helping to end world hunger, they argued, and asked food bloggers to submit their best recipes.
What looks good to you?
1. Broiled yellowtail flounder.
2. Shrimp sauteed in garlic and red pepper flakes.
I’ve been battling insomnia for over a year. My particular flavor involves very early-morning wake-ups and the inability to go back to sleep.
I’ve never been someone who needed much sleep and I’ve been a night owl my whole life. I feel great in the evenings and don’t go to bed before midnight, ever. For many years, going to bed at 2 and waking up at 8 was standard for me, and I felt fine. I cannot nap and never have.
But when I started with “the wakes,” I realized I was no longer someone who could get by on less than six hours’ sleep.
I played around with Valerian and melatonin. The Valerian gave me ominous dreams - not nightmares, but dreams too weird for me to want to keep taking the herb. Neither the Valerian nor melatonin, which I later tried, had any impact.
I’ve slept in a pitch-black, very cool room for several years - thanks, Robb Wolf! - so I already had that part covered. I didn’t know what else to do. I am tired when I go to bed - I don’t really have trouble getting to sleep - but I can’t stay asleep to save my life.
In desperation, I recently started trying to solve this problem more aggressively. A naturopath subjected me to a ton of blood tests (examining everything from adrenal function to hormone levels) and we did find that my cortisol was elevated. I’m not convinced that’s the only culprit, but it’s what I have to go on for now. (Other hunches: female hormonal changes, broken adrenal function, broken metabolism from chronic low-carb eating and/or chronic caffeine. Oy.)
With the results in, she suggested a slew of tactics, and I added a few of my own. So far, there’s been no impact.
After the initial consult with the naturopath, I tried the following supplements:
- More melatonin
- A lowish dose of phosphydatyl serine (to reduce the cortisol)
- Vit D supplementation (blood tests revealed a deficiency)
And these behavioral changes:
- Backing off my powerlifting training. Instead of pushing to PR all the time, I asked my coach to program me in “maintenance” mode
- Reducing caffeine, which I have long abused
- Not eating my biggest meal so close to bedtime
- Conscientious planning of carbohydrates before/after workouts
- A meditation class to help me chill the heck out when I wake up at 4:30 AM
The naturopath admitted that a course of sleeping pills was sometimes in order for people with stubborn insomnia, but she wouldn’t prescribe it until I made a big behavioral change - one I’d said I’d only do as a last resort.
I’m talking about switching to morning workouts.
But she said I needed to give it three months.
I’m two weeks into the experiment, and it’s absolutely hellish. I always already had Sunday-night “don’t wanna go to bed” anxiety, and the fact that I have to get up at 6:15 or something now makes it much worse. Since I started this early-morning working out, I’m near tears with fatigue by midday Monday.
It’s a blast.
Anyway, here’s my new routine:
- Way more Phosphydatyl serine (bumping to a 500-mg dose before bed)
- More HTP-5
- Vitamin D
- 2 of my 3 weight workouts a week are now in the AM
- Even less caffeine. I’m down to a half cup of caffeinated coffee a day (mixed with decaf) and I’m about to titrate down to 100% decaf
- Midday sunshine exposure - a long walk at lunchtime most week days
- 10,000 steps/day using a pedometer - fulfills some of my need to work out with a very low-impact, non-cortisol producing method
- Attending various relaxation classes
- Avoiding stimulating TV/computer stuff a couple hours before bed (This is surprisingly difficult.)
Things I’m about to do:
- Normalize the time I wake up. Right now I arise early twice a week, but the other days, I can’t bring myself to do it. I need to change this.
- Get a sleep study (I’m not really clear how this will help, but I’m desperate. I don’t need a study to tell me I’m not sleeping enough or getting enough REM sleep - I already know that perfectly well, thanks. I don’t have sleep apnea. What I need to know is why the FUCK I wake up like a shot so regularly and can’t go back to sleep, and I don’t think the study will show me that.)
- Create some sort of before-bed routine to replace TV and computer.
Things I’m considering:
- A light machine to get full-spectrum light in the AM before work
- More detailed blood tests measuring specifically neurotransmitter function/levels
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which has shown some efficacy in treating insomnia
- Self-trepanation. Just kidding. Sorta.
I’d love to hear comments from folks who’ve struggled with this.