Sunday, September 9, 2012

Catching Fire: How I Started to Cook

A quick note: The namesake of the post is dedicated to Richard Wrangham's Book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, not the Hunger Games one.

I've been here a week, and I haven't turned on the stove once. Until now. Up until now, I've been surviving off of checking out nearby places around me (check out my Yelp page) and making salads. I managed to miss the farmer's market on Saturday and another one on Sunday, but luckily, Whole Foods has an entire section dedicated to Local Producers.

All I knew was I wasn't getting enough protein. I typically rely on seeing what's in season and what's for sale in stores now to decide what I want for dinner. After staring at the counter for a good 5 minutes, I finally decided I'd rather work with the beef round than the ground beef.

Shopping Haul:

  • **Beef bottom round (1.65 lbs) - on sale
  • Saladini baby Italian lettuce
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Organic ground pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Organic figs (all gone by the time I started even thinking about dinner)
A great thing about Whole Foods is that they tell you what measures were taken to ensure your health. The beef I got was classified as Step 1 in the 5-Step (TM) Welfare Rating Standards.




If you're interested in the remaining steps, it's all listed on the Whole Foods website.

To me, beef rounds scream pot roast or a boeuf bourguignon or some sort of let-me-throw-it-on-the-stove-on-low-heat-and-forget-about-it-for-a-few-hours stew.

I had an open bottle of the 2007 Clos de l'Oratoire Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape. In retrospect, I probably should not have thrown a good 1/4 of the bottle into cooking, but I also didn't think I would finish the entire bottle within the next 2-3 days. And then it'd be even a bigger waste of good wine.

Had I a fuller pantry, I would've thrown in some onions, carrots, even beef broth and what have you. But no. All the spices I have are...salt and pepper. But hey, it works.

To add a bit of flavor, I seared the round in a pan, greased with some unsalted Smjor butter from Iceland, which I had purchased previously from Whole Foods. After patting some coarse sea salt and pepper onto the sides and getting a good sear, I placed the 1.65 lbs cut of beef into the crock pot. I poured in equal amounts of water and wine to cover the round, threw in about two tablespoons of sea salt, and turned the dial to "Low."

Within two hours, my place smelled AMAZING.

Eight hours later (at midnight), I turned off the slow cooker and removed the beef from the pot. I pulled the meat apart with a fork, tasted a bit, and stored the rest in the fridge overnight. As for the drippings, I kept them in a container, also tossed into the fridge.

For lunch, I did contemplate just reheating the beef and chomping away. But I decided to go with a bit more creativity.

Andrew's Cheese Shop is an amazing place just down the street. I managed to be the most confused customer they may have ever had, but I walked out with a good chunk of some delicious Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. With each purchase, the shop provides you a cheese card which describes the origins of the cheese and pairing suggestions.


"Cabot is very much a cooperative creamery. It is a union of 330 family farmers in Vermont that has existed since 1919. This quintessentially American product won the 2004 World Cheese Award for “Best Cheddar in the World.” Then in 2006, they won Best in Show at the American Cheese Championship. Taste this and tell me there are no great American cheeses, I dare you. This stuff is so good with beer, the richer and darker, the better. I also love this cheese with a nice, jammy California Zinfandel like Brown Family from Napa."

The sad part is that the only reason I was inspired to go is because my company's training website went down for an hour for routine maintenance. And I could not think of anything better to do than to go buy cheese.

Anyhow, with all my ingredients collected...this is how to make the most awesome beef salad ever.

  1. Wash and dry baby lettuce in a bowl. Place to the side.
  2. Place a few chunks of the torn pot roast in a microwave-safe bowl. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of leftover drippings on top.
  3. Microwave the pot roast on high for 10-15 seconds, until warm.
  4. Crumble a handful of cheddar on top of the pot roast. Pour in more drippings if desired. Return bowl into microwave for 10 seconds.
  5. Place the warmed pot roast and cheese on top of the lettuce. Dress with almonds, cranberries, and anything else your stomach desires.
Eat away. :)






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