Boeuf Maison

Winter in the Southern Appalachians

Though the Appalachians extend all the way up to the northern sections of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. and actually into the French territory of St. Pierre, off the Canadian coast, we are already seeing signs of spring down here on the distant southern end. High temperatures are in the sixties and seventies, and the wild blueberries are blooming along our riverfront. It’s time for some outdoor cooking.

Perhaps in honor of the French end of our mountains, I gave this dish the somewhat ridiculous name of Boeuf Maison, which is best translated as “Home Cooked Beef.” It is better when cooked outdoors. It is also ludicrously simple, which is why I gave it a fancy French name, to make it sound difficult.

Ingredients

Lard

Beef Roast (I always get local grass fed, when available), marinated in Salt and red Wine

Onion, chopped

28 ounces of whole canned Tomatoes (If I don’t have home canned, I use Cento Tomatoes from Italia)

Seasoning–Salt, Thyme, Oregano

That’s it. Here’s a perfect example of when the quality of ingredients and the cooking method make all the difference. It helps to have a really heavy Lodge camp dutch oven as well. The first step is probably the most important. PETA members, stop reading at this point. If you want to find some people who make PETA look rational, check out the website of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). They liberate things like pet bunnies.

Roasting Hot

The sear is the most important thing for me. I have a hot fire of hardwood and hardwood charcoal, and put the dutch oven directly above it. Add some home rendered lard, and sear away. Be brave with the brown of the sear.

Now We’re Cooking

Sear both sides of the roast nicely, and add the rough chopped onions. Rough chopped is fine, as this sauce will be strained after the dish is finished. When the onions begin to soften, add the marinade, and the tomatoes, and then the seasoning. Time for it to cook low and slow, for two or three hours.

Anticipation

Move the pot to a cooler spot in the fire, if cooking outdoors, or the lowest heat on a stove top. When the meat is completely tender, strain the sauce and nosh away. Mashed potatoes are the perfect sauce soaker.

On a serious note, and I am rarely serious, this fire pit survived the super tornado outbreak of 2011, though it was mashed completely down into the ground by a giant pine tree that fell and smashed into it. A larger pine tree was blown onto our house, and I cut it off using a German crosscut log saw. I lost a half of one roof shingle; 238 people in Alabama died, most in Tuscaloosa, the home of one of my Alma Maters.

Enterprise #34 Juicer

One Honking Big Piece of Cast Iron

Coming into the ring at over 10 pounds, this Enterprise Juicer can seriously crush some fruit or vegetable. It would probably also work as the world’s heaviest food mill, but it is something of a pain to clean. I have used it mostly to juice excess blueberries to make some pretty tasty blueberry wine. I have also juiced some key limes with it, like the one in the foreground (a Meyer lemon is behind it). I bottled and then pasteurized the juice.

Technically, the Enterprise Company called the #34 a “Combination Fruit Press.” I found this in the booklet they printed called The Enterprising Housekeeper, which I downloaded for free from one of my favorite websites, Project Gutenberg. Check it out, and download some Jane Austen novels as well, while you are there.

The screw at the pointy end is the adjustment for how fine you want the fruit pulp to be, which also determines how thoroughly crushed the fruit will be. That also determines how much juice will come from whatever you are running through this beast.

Now it is time to wander off into the weeds of food history, as these juicers were also used to produce “meat juice.” This came right along with the worldwide craze for a product known as Valentines Meat Juice, which was a huge seller from 1871 onwards, and naturally, it was a Southern product from Richmond, Virginia. Four pounds of heated (not cooked) raw beef produced just two ounces of meat juice, which is more accurately called myoglobin.

The Enterprise company especially recommended giving meat juice to invalids. Nothing like giving the remnants of raw squeezed beef to invalids. Food crazes never fail to entertain. I hope the Paleo crowd doesn’t find out about this.

Germany’s Most Beautiful Cow Is Dead

Sad news from Deutsche Welle, the Voice of Germany. The German cow who won more cow beauty pageants than any other, is dead at the age of thirteen. She actually won more than twenty bovine beauty contests, and was named “Lady Gaga.” I wish I could make this up.

Worse than that, this Holstein was born in France.

Beef Stew Al Fresco

Is Al Fresco related to Al Pacino?

This is nothing but a simple beef stew, but it was cooked in a cast iron camping Dutch Oven over an open fire, which always makes everything taste better. I will disclose the small wrinkles which add layers and layers to the dish. First, marry-nate some cubed up chuck roast, in red wine, salt, and pepper. I left mine in the fridge overnight, and then browned it in some home rendered lard, over some blazing heat.

The One Spoon

It helped that I had the One Spoon to cook with, which I got from a small fellow with furry feet. He told me it was the one spoon to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. Actually, I made that monstrosity out of some Carolina Buckthorn, a weed tree if there ever was one. It’s almost as long as my Amish made fireplace poker. It does keep your hands away from the fire.

Deglaze

I threw in a whole chopped onion, cooked it, and deglazed the whole thing with some apple wine that was mysteriously sitting next to my fire pit, and the red wine marinade. Who would have guessed?

Milled Tomatoes

The next step is to add milled tomatoes, and cook for an hour or two. Throw a lid on that thing, to conserve heat.

This is Merely Medium Sized

I’ve always thought of Dutch Ovens as something like primitive pressure cookers, because it takes some serious steam to leak through that massive lid. The last ingredients are salt, pepper, carrots, and naturally, taters, precious.

Ready to Stew

It would take another good hour to finish this, so I just went back to work on my great American novel, which is closing to a finish. If only it was as good as this stew turned out to be.

To-Feud! Tofurkey and the ACLU sue Arkansas over the Meaning of the Word “Meat”!

This is a regular to-food fight, brought to you by the state whose most famous politician once said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” That would be slick William Clinton, who is the only person who could ever have pulled off that sentence.

From the AP: The Tofurkey company is having none of the new Arkansas law that states a producer can’t say “veggie burger” or “plant based meat” on its labels. So now it’s all up to the federal courts, over whether or not Arkansas can outlaw such outlandish verbiage.

Several other states have turned into word police when it comes to “meat,” including my home state of Alabama. I at least hope our legislature spelled the word “meat” correctly. It is four letters long.

Enterprise #22 Food Grinder

An Industry Standard

This 1886 design is so perfect that it is still being made today, and has become the standard meat grinder. (This one has the 1886 patent date on it.) Though this is the hand crank version, there is a pulley available that can be used to hook this up to an electric motor. I happened to see one in use during a cooking show set in Cambodia, where an entire sausage factory was being powered by just one of these grinders.

Full of Heavyosity

One of the benefits of this being the standard is that one can be had on the cheap, and I paid fifteen bucks for this one. Someone had put the cutter on backwards, which had made it non-functional. I re-ground and sharpened it, and put it back on the right way. There are also innumerable attachments.

Grinder Plates and Sausage Stuffers

Here’s a vintage grinder plate, a used one, and a new one. The one with the large holes is used with the somewhat deadly looking sausage stuffers, which allows anyone to go crazy making sausage. That’s why I have intestines in my fridge, aka sausage casings.

There’s an even larger version of this, the #33, which is handy if your name is Dr. Lecter.

Enterprise #602 Food Grinder

American Foundry Work at it’s Best

This little one hundred plus year old food grinder has become my favorite. Simple and easy to clean, it’s everything a food processor isn’t. I have even managed to assemble a complete set of cutters for this beauty.

A Nut Butter Cutter. Seriously.

Yes, that really does say “nut butter cutter.” It works like a charm. The others grind meat like no body’s business. I also have a giant Enterprise #22, which is large enough to run a small sausage factory. I’m only going to use it for whole pork shoulders from now on. Buy one of these off of Ebay while you still can, if you’re into old school and sustainability.

A Chance Encounter at Whole Foods

BeefVegans, don’t read this. An animal was killed and eaten as part of this story.

You know that the following narrative is true, because no one could possibly make up something as crazy as this. I also doubted the following quote from Joel Salatin, aka “the world’s most famous farmer,” but now I have incontrovertible evidence that it is true:

The indigenous knowledge base surrounding food is largely gone. When “scratch” cooking means actually opening a can, and when church and family reunion potlucks include buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, you know our culture has suffered a culinary information implosion.

Hyperbole? Here’s what happened during my last weekly trip to the Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

Thrifty person that I am, I play every angle imaginable when shopping, as long as there is no compromise on quality. I rarely buy any meat other than chicken at Whole Foods, as our local butcher, Brickyard Meats, regularly has local grass fed beef and local pork. They were mostly wiped out on my last trip, and all I scored was some slices of fresh ham, which I marry-nated in a Saumure Anglais, which I believe means something like “English brine” or “English pickle.” So if I wanted decent beef, it was Whole Foods or bust. I was headed to the wealthiest zip code in Alabama, and one of the wealthiest in the South.

Apparently I exuded a false air of respectability, as I was picking out a good chunk of beef from the Amazon Prime specials display, because a young woman with a small child trailing behind her, decided she wanted to know what I was buying.

MBH (Mountain Brook Housewife): “What is that?” She was wearing a Patagonia down vest, zipped up to her neck, even though it was sixty degrees outside.

ME: “It’s a chuck roast.” I pointed at the label while I answered her.

MBH: “How much is it?”

ME: “This is the regular price, and this is the Prime price.” I pointed at the two signs that displayed the prices in large numbers.

MBH: “Could I make beef stew out of that?”

ME: “It would make excellent beef stew or a roast. I’m making a roast.” That answer was a mistake.

MBH: “Could I cut it up?”

ME: “Yes.” I was mentally debating whether or not I should make a run for it.

MBH: “Will they cut it up for me here?” Apparently she had a knife-less kitchen.

ME: “Probably, if you ask the people down at the meat counter.” Those poor suckers.

She made a bee line down to the meat counter, and as I walked by, a tall woman with a butcher’s apron was explaining to her that they had stew meat already cut up in the meat display. I decided it was a good time to head to the restroom. Later, I peeked at her cart while she was checking out, from a safe distance away. There was no stew meat in it. In fact, it appeared that she had nothing but prepared, processed food in there. I had to feel sorry for the poor kid.

MBH had just confirmed one of the most notorious jokes about a Mountain Brook housewife. What is the best thing they make? Reservations.