Where’s the Beef? It’s Time to Make Choices.

Two Favorite Beef Dish Recipes, Syrah Wine Pairing and a Rant About Choices

It’s now Week 1 of the, “we don’t have to stay-at-home anymore” order and my Week 11 at home. If it wasn’t for continuous rainy days, I think there’d be a lot more people outside enjoying all that South Florida has to offer. Before I get to the homemade hamburger buns and Béarnaise Sauce recipes, plus the Northern Rhône Syrah wine pairing, I thought I’d talk about making choices that we can or will make during the COVID_19 pandemic.

Where’s the Beef?

DYK the history of this slogan? It was part of a 1984 advertising campaign for Wendy’s. Ironically, this fast food chain recently announced that it was short of or had run out of beef at some of its restaurants. If you’re a marketing geek like me, you’ll find this story interesting and see how this catchy campaign set Wendy’s apart from its competitors.

Seems like everyone has something to say lately and our voices are amplified through social media because the reality is, no one can really hear you through a mask and we can’t get together like we used to. People reluctant to head to the beach or restaurants are called cowards (or much worse) by some, and the ones out frolicking around like immortals are named pillars of mass death by others. Yes, that is the extreme POV, but I’m not making it up – just check out the conversations on Facebook.

Filet Mignon with Roast Potatoes and Spring Mix with Pecans, Camembert Cheese & Apricots. © Author

Beef Choices

True to my Canadian nature, I’m more on the reserved side: quietly working and entertaining myself at home thinking that my stay-at-home actions are for the greater good. My biggest indulgences these days are a good meal and bottle of wine.

I love filet mignon, but at $13-$20 per pound, it’s a splurge meal. Rather than thinking that the cost of eating a prime cut is at least double the expense of at least one family meal, I put that rationale aside. I’m lucky to have this liberty, but If you prefer to stick to ‘Feeding Five Under 25 $,’ choose recipe one because there’s nothing better than a juicy hamburger to satisfy our craving for beef.

If you’re not interested in the recipes, be sure to scroll down and read about the ‘Que Syrah Syrah’ wine pairing and my conclusion about making choices.


Fast and Easy Hamburger Buns. © Author

Homemade Hamburger Buns (Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)

The recipe as stated worked best for sliders. If you want full size hamburger buns, double up the ingredients. Either make your own hamburger patties or buy prepared ones. I served the hamburgers with homemade guacamole and potato chips that I sliced whole potatoes with a mandolin.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Preheat oven to 425°.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Filet Mignon with a Béarnaise Sauce and Smashed Potatoes (Both Recipes found on Food Wishes.)

Notes: While hamburgers don’t take long, both the Smash Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce take quite a bit of time, so make this on a day with lots of free time. It’s a great opportunity to listen to a podcast since you shouldn’t take your eyes off of the Bernaise Sauce!


Béarnaise Sauce means lots of butter! © Author

Béarnaise Sauce

Compound Butter

  • 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Use a mortar and pestle to combine the ingredients. Wrap the compound butter in plastic wrap and refrigeration while you make the Tarragon Reduction.

Tarragon Reduction

  • 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 rounded teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup water

Simmer the tarragon leaves and peppercorns (or ground pepper) in the liquids until you have about 3 tablespoons of reserved liquid. Gently squeeze all of the liquid through a strainer so you have a clear broth.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar reduction
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon caper tarragon compound butter
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, optional

Add 2 egg yolks and tarragon reduction to a stainless steel bowl or pot and whisk until combined. Add all of the cold butter cubes and whisk together on medium heat. Keep whisking until the color lightens and it thickens.  Add the compound butter cut into cubes and keep whisking until combined. Remove from heat and add salt if desired.

Note: I seared the filet mignon (coated lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper) with a tbsp of butter and one of olive oil and then finished the meat in the oven set to 425 ° until medium. You can grill them too.

You can watch Chef John’s video for help.  I made the Compound Butter before the Tarragon Reduction. I suggest using room temperature eggs.


Smash Potatoes can be made ahead. © Author

Smashed Potatoes (All Recipes)

  • 3 ½ pounds medium yellow potatoes, washed
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Infused Butter
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, or to taste
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or to taste

Place potatoes into a 5-quart stockpot and cover with 3 quarts of cold water. Add kosher salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Let potatoes cool just until they’re safe to handle.

Transfer potatoes onto a sheet pan and continue cooling to room temperature. Make 4 or 5 shallow cuts down the sides of each potato, about every inch or so, to ensure the skin splits evenly when smashed. Refrigerate until completely chilled and ready to smash; 8 hours to overnight is best.

Combine butter, sliced garlic, rosemary, and thyme in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and begins to bubble, and garlic softens and starts to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). Line 2 metal baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpat®) and generously brush on some of the infused melted butter.

Remove potatoes from the fridge and gently smash each between two pieces of plastic using a flat, heavy object until 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, being careful not to break potatoes up into small pieces. Transfer onto a sheet pan, being careful not to overlap potatoes. Very generously drizzle and brush most of the melted butter on top.

Bake potatoes in the preheated oven until well browned and crunchy around the edges, 35 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pan with the remaining garlic and herb butter back over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic starts to turn a very light golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Carefully transfer potatoes onto a serving platter and scatter over the golden brown slices of garlic. Crumble the toasted herbs on top if desired. Serve immediately.


Que Syrah Syrah: Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah

Every day I learn something new about wine. However, each day I also realize that I still know very little. If you’re a wine newbie like me,  I think that one of the first things you question is the high cost of certain wines and how to justify the expense. It’s a safe assumption that if you have an opportunity to pay more for a wine made by a top producer, you should. However, if you can’t, I am learning (thanks to Wine by the Bay) that some winemakers offer affordable choices that allow you to experience for example, a winemaker’s expression of a vineyard or grape variety; or a winemaking style. These offerings also don’t compromise quality for the sake of affordability.

You could say that today’s wine is like the hamburger substitute for filet mignon – multiplied exponentially! Domaine Jean-Louis Chave wines fetch anywhere from $20.00 to more than $8,000.00 per bottle! Needing to taste a Crozes-Hermitage for the WSET 2 class, I luckily found myself at the lower end of the price spectrum. However, this wine is fantastic and since I’m nowhere near being one who can judge, I suggest you rely on these recommendations by two reputable wine critics: Erik Asimov and Josh Raynolds.

Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah © Author

Bright violet. Mineral-accented cherry, boysenberry and smoky bacon aromas are complicated by suggestions of olive and candied flowers. Energetic and focused for the vintage, offering concentrated bitter cherry, cassis and violet pastille flavors braced by a spine of juicy acidity. Closes sappy, smooth and quite long, with sneaky tannins and a lingering suggestion of juicy black and blue fruits. Drink date: 2022-2030. Score – 92. ~ Josh Raynolds


The Whatever Will Be, Will Be Philosophy Isn’t That Comforting

Freedom of choice, too many choices, making choices, and no choice. It’s just too easy and I think irresponsible to say, “Que Sera, Sera?” Whatever choice you make today may greatly affect what happens tomorrow.

Freedom of choice is also freedom to decide when you do not want to choose. ~ Simona Botti.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ : Easy Flatbread Skillet Recipe

I live in South Florida and as the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID_19 continue to rise, everyone is running around trying to find the basic food and household necessities fearing that everything except essential businesses will shut down. Wait! Everything has shut down, but things are moving faster than the Florida Everglades wildfires, so I temporarily forgot.

With parents struggling to work at home and also home school the kids, there are more meals to make. Items like bread, eggs and meat are hard to come by or not available.  Rather than buy supermarket convenience food,  I’ve put my mother’s World War II “how to feed a family” strategies into place.

Periodically on my blog, you’ll find tips on how I’m, “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” dollars. Keep eating healthy and exercise because that will help you manage the stress.

Here’s my first “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” recipe:

Cast Iron Cooked Flatbread Filled with Leftover Meat

1 package of active dry yeast

2 tsp of sugar

1 c of warm water (115°) – use only ½ c of water for the yeast

2 ½ c of all purpose flour

1 tsp of salt

3 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ c of water and reserve the other half.

Wait at least 5 minutes until the yeast becomes active. The top will resemble beer foam.

Combine the flour and salt. I use a mixer with bread hook, but with a spoon is fine. Slowly add the yeast and then the olive oil and the water (you may not need all of it) and blend until almost combined. I do the rest by hand and then knead until everything comes together and you can form a smooth ball. You don’t need to knead it too much, but here’s a ‘how to’ video.

Coat your mixing bowl with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a (warm water) damp tea towel.

Go do something else for an hour. I chose to run outside because it’s a great way to get some Vitamin D and restore my sanity while in quarantine.

The dough should double within the hour. Punch it down and remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a tube and cut into six even pieces.

I used semolina flour, but any flour for rolling will do. Sprinkle some flour onto a rolling pin and roll into a thin disk. You can also rotate and stretch the dough like you’d do when making pizza. See this link which BTW is my favorite pizza dough recipe.

Heat a cast iron pan on medium until it is very hot (think pizza oven hot!) Add one of the rolled out dough pieces and watch it bubble up quick. Wait about 3 minutes and take a peak. You can flip it when it’s golden or get the charred look. Cook for another 3 minutes.

Note: A cast-iron pan gets very hot, so lower the temperature slightly if you think the dough will brown too quickly.

To keep the flatbreads warm and moist, wrap them in a tea towel.

I filled the flatbreads with leftover carné con papas (beef stew) from the night before. Shred the meat and chop the potatoes into small pieces. There wasn’t a lot of meat left so I added some chorizo too. Top the meat with chopped tomatoes, avocado, shredded cheese and cilantro. I didn’t have sour cream, but it’s healthier without it.

If you’ve read this far and hopefully making this recipe, I hope you’re now sharing my joy of creating something wonderful to eat. More than that, here’s a great time to stop watching the news or checking social media. You’ll have a yummy distraction for yourself and make your loved ones very happy.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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Eating for the Gram at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

It’s Foodie Friday and unlike last week, I’ve eased back into routine ready to tackle deadlines and a long ‘To Do’ list. Although the memory is far from my taste buds, through the joy of social media I can savor and share with you another yummy experience.

Speaking of social media, I have a love/hate relationship with it. While for years I’ve valued its marketing potential, affordability and used it long before many others did (and nah nah to all of those people who thought I had nothing else to do with my time), I feel it imposes on private me.

Our decision making in so many ways, is formed by social media, whether you’re a: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ user like me who likes, comments, follows and unfollows every day: or those silent stalkers (what I like to call them), who claim they don’t have time or like social media, but have an active account and silently watch what everyone is doing all of the time. Which one are you?

While preparing for the trip to Spain, I turned to YouTube rather than reading travel blogs because after spending a whole day reading and writing, it was nice to just let pictures and sound fill me with information. Plus, how great is it to know that there’s so much more to watch about travel than Rick Steve’s Europe? A lot of my travel decisions were influenced by Devour Tours co-founder James Blick and wife Yoly. The two of them are so cute, so if you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, Spain Revealed, check them out!

Because of all the hype, I was debating whether or not to visit tourist infiltrated, Mercado de San Miguel. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I greatly enjoyed visiting the humble, Mercado Anton Martin. However, since I planned to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor anyway, I figured that a good lunch stop would be nearby, Mercado de San Miguel.

Note: For me, Google Maps did not work in Madrid. Whether, it was tech ignorant me or because everything in Madrid is an abundance of circles (or maybe squares,) using my phone for directions seemed to get me where I needed to be, four times longer than it should have. After two days of trying, I just parked the phone and relied on remembering landmarks and talking to people. Besides, the old fashioned way is so much nicer. Get your face away from the phone and enjoy getting a little lost because asking for help in Madrid, seems to always turn into a nice, five minute conversation.

Like I said in my last blog post, it’s good to enjoy getting comfortable with standing room only and that’s all you’ll get when you visit Mercado de San Miguel. However, that is a large part of the experience. Food and social gatherings are synonymous in Madrid. And while millions of us share our food experiences on social media to connect with others, here is the ultimate, in person, communal opportunity. The energy is impressive and contagious. Although they must answer the same questions every few minutes, the vendors treat each customer courteously and share their joy of food with speed and efficiency.

And when eating in Madrid, as the travel experts also claim, you can find great quality food and better prices elsewhere. Unless it’s something you really can’t do without, I suggest you avoid those 15 Euro tapas. However, to not go would be a shame.  Plus, here’s a place where it’s totally okay to pull out your camera and capture every moment — just be courteous of others who want to get up to the counter just as much as you because they’re hungry. Things move very quickly and I greatly enjoyed this rhythm and pace. Don’t miss it!

Amaiketako

Tip: You can buy a glass of wine (or another libation) and walk around with it to as many stops as you like. Just don’t linger and eat at a stand where you didn’t buy any food. The outer perimeter of the market is lined with a glass counter with enough space for your small plate and glass. Again, elbow room only makes for a great social experience and ‘yum’ is the international language!

Here’s some of the highlights:

La Hora del Vermut

La Hora del Vermút: If you know me, you know that I don’t really drink. Ha, you may exclaim after checking out my Instagram. Me and alcohol don’t really get a long, so I limit even the amount of wine I drink and it’s consumed almost always with a meal.

I must thank James Blick for having me try something new. Spanish Vermouth is a must-try when in Spain and I had a dry option with some delectable olive tapas at La Hora del Vermut. Make it your first stop.

Read more about Spanish Vermouth here.

La Casa del Bacalao

La Casa del Bacalao: Unless you hate fish, you must visit La Casa del Bacalao. Aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, try a variety and you’ll be satisfied with a nice selection of tapas for about 10 euros total.

Morris

Mariscos Morris: I know the next time that I return to Spain, I’ll be visiting Galicia. If for some reason, you can’t make it there either at least you can get a little taste of what can be expected of Green Spain’s culinary landscape at Mariscos Morris. The plates shown above (which are more like a meal portion, rather than a tapa) are 12-15 Euros each.

El 19 de San Miguel

El 19 de San Miguel: Speaking about Galicia, my glass of Vermut is long gone and it’s time for wine! Less than elbow room only, it amazed me how the nice folks at El 19 de San Miguel were able to still keep a lively conversation going on, while serving up glasses of wine and Cava. I loved the Albariño from Rias Baixas (Galicia.) It was a bit more than the other whites at 4.50 Euro, but worth the extra (and wine is still much cheaper by the glass than it is in the US.)

Tip: Buy a bottle for no more than 40 Euro (and most offered are much less) and split it with your friends or make new ones! Remember that you can carry the bottle and your glass around with you.

Amaiketako

Amaiketako: Yes, there is much more at Mercado de San Miguel than seafood, but that day I was indulging my pescatarian doppelgänger. Amaiketako began three years ago as an online store specializing in artisanal products from the Basque country. Try the Gazpacho with Ahi Tuna bits and garnished with watercress. I’ve forgotten the prices of each tapa, but I’d say about $3.50 average.

Horno de San Onofre

Horno de San Onofre: For just 2.50 Euro you can end (or begin) your San Miguel experience with a rich and creamy meringue. You’ll never go back to those crunchy and messy blobs of egg whites again. Or for 1 Euro more, find happiness on a plate with one of their Milhojas.

Café Negro: Your last stop should be a coffee to get you through the next part of your uphill and downhill day in Madrid. You’ll enjoy and value the choices at Café Negro because it’s no secret: it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Spain.

Tip: Save one of your receipts to get you into the restroom, otherwise you’ll have to pay.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

Until next time, know that it’s okay to eat ‘for the gram’ because you’re part of a worldwide community united in one of life’s greatest past times. However, find balance and opt more to enjoy the day’s unrecorded and flavorful moments with friends, family or even strangers – standing room only.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

About Mercado de San Miguel: More than 100 years have gone by since the Mercado de San Miguel opened its doors as a wholesale food market. Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

  • Monday – Thursday and Sunday
  • 10:00 am – Midnight
  • Plaza de San Miguel, Madrid 28005
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