Tag Archives: beef

Dim Sum: Xian Zhu Neu Rou (Meat Balls)

Noble Court – Bellevue, WA – 6/6/2011

Name: Xian Zhu Neu Rou
Primary Ingredient(s): Beef
Type of Dish: Meat
Method of Preparation: Steamed

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so it is time.

From a beginner’s perspective, it’s always good to find a dish that seems familiar. This dish fits squarely into that category. Let’s face it – meatballs are about as familiar one can get in Dim Sum.

From an expert’s perspective, meat balls, because of their ubiquity, can provide insight into how good (or not good) the kitchen can be. If a place screws up something as simple as meatball, how can you count on them to provide any level of quality to dim sum dishes that require a more delicate touch? Yes, it may be difficult to make a bad meatball. It’s difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Meatballs aren’t often the first choice when I head into a dim sum restaurant, as I wish to explore the unknown (to me) rather than a food that can be found in nearly every culture on the planet. However, there are times when it is worth it, especially when looking to taste other aspects of what a restaurant has to offer. It is when I get a meatball that I tend to turn to the condiments on the table to provide some level of excitement to the dish, and I’ve chili oil (or chili paste) and meatballs make a tremendous pairing. Granted, most restaurants tend to use a store bought brand of condiments, but there are times when a place will make their own. These are the places that should hold a special place in your soul.

..and, as always, my chinese is little more than a guess. Feel free to correct.


We Get Letters v.33: The colors of ground beef

From the inbox comes a question from Bill:

Hi Kate.

Happy Birthday. I turned 40 this year too. Sigh.

I had a question that’s been bugging me lately. If you don’t know the answer, maybe one of your readers does.

You know how ground beef is nice and bright red when you first buy it, then it turns sort of grey after a day in the refridgerator? Or, sometimes you buy it, and when you break it apart, it’s red on the outside, but all grey inside?

What does this mean? Is it a sign that the beef has been sitting around too long? Or does it mean nothing?

I’ve also noticed that if I buy the more expensive ground beef from (for example) Creekstone Farms, it is much brighter red than the supermarket stuff. It *looks* more appetizing, and fresher. But is it, or is that just a trick of some kind?

Best Regards,

bill odonnell

Hi Bill! Thanks for the birthday wishes! After a week or so of being forty, I’ve decided that a person is only as old as they want to be, what with time being an illusion and all.

And yes, the above is simply a rationalization. Ahh, rationalizations- they’re better than sex.

Onto your questions about the color of ground beef. It shouldn’t surprise you that the answer to your question lies somewhere in science, specifically in biochemistry.

Fresh meat color depends upon something called myoglobin. Myoglobin is a water-soluble protein that stores oxygen for aerobic metabolism in the muscle. It consists of a protein portion and a nonprotein porphyrin ring with a central iron atom. It’s this iron atom is that concerns us when we want to discuss meat color.

The defining factors of meat color depends upon the oxidation state of the iron and which compounds are attached to the iron portion of the molecule.

Immediately after cutting into beef, it is quite dark – almost a deep purplish-red. As oxygen from the air comes into contact with the exposed meat surfaces it is absorbed and binds to the iron and the iron starts to oxidize and change colors. The surface of the meat blooms as myoglobin is oxygenated. Myoglobin, in an oxygenated state is called oxymyoglobin, and oxymyglobin has a pigment which gives beef its bright cherry red color. The more myglobin in the meat, the brighter color of red. As a general rule of thumb (meaning that there will be exceptions) the extensive myglobin in meat indicates one or two things.

1) The muscle from which the cut of meat was drawn was an active muscle. Remember that myoglobin stores oxygen for aerobic metabolism in the muscle. An inactive muscle would have less myoglobin. So if you have two three year old cows, and one was stuck in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations with no room to run around, and the other had access to pasture and was allow to graze and move about, it would be the latter cow that had more myoglobin.

2) Older cows would have more myoglobin than younger cows. And since CAFO’s don’t have older cows, they would not produce bright red cuts of meat.

So yes, a brighter red would, for the most part, indicate a non-CAFO cow and would likely have been treated better and fed better, resulting in a higher quality cut of meat. Now this is a general rule of thumb, and there may be exceptions.

But how does the meat turn brown? That same oxidation process which changed the myoglobin to oxymyoglobin will eventually cause the Myoglobin and oxymyoglobin to lose an electron which turns the pigment to a brown color and yields metmyoglobin.

So essentially brown meat is indicative of meat that has been exposed to a fair amount of oxygen, enough so that the color dominates the overall composition. In fact, myoglobin, oxymyoglobin and metmyoglobin all exist in some ratio or another. The color of the meat simply indicates which one is currently dominating.

One may ask if the oxidation process can be reversed, or at least slowed down. The answer is yes, and in 2004 some meat producers asked the USDA to permit the gassing of meat with Carbon Monoxide, with the idea that the meat producers would be able to sell the older cuts of meat that once looked brown but no longer do due to the Carbon Monoxide. Consumers generally distrust brown meat, and it wouldn’t sell as well. Luckily for us, many meat producers are discontinuing this practice.

But the thing is, the brown meat wasn’t a sign of bad meat, it was a sign that it had enough time to become oxidized to the point where metmyoglobin dominated the beef. It was less “fresh” than the cuts of meat that had only been exposed to oxygen long enogh to let the oxymyoglobin dominate.

In other words, brown meat is not necessarily bad meat. It’s just not fresh meat. The enemy of meat is not color, but time. The darker the brown, the more time it has been been exposed to oxygen, and the closer it’s getting to it’s “use by” date. Meat the color of a latte is likely edible. Meat the color of chocolate? Yeah, I’d pass on that.

So how do you tell if meat has gone bad? Well, if stored properly, the best indicator is the “sell by” date that should be on the label. If stored improperly, smell is a good indicator as well as any green tint that may be in the beef.

Hope this helps!


Beef Stew

beef stew

It seemed that now was the perfect time to pull this recipe out. First and foremost, Tara mentioned that she had been hankering* for beef stew.

In keeping with our current theme, it also has carrots. It has onions, which happens to be our next topic. Finally, I used the all great and powerful dutch oven. It’s as if now was the perfect moment to bring this recipe to the forefront.

As a suggestion, this recipe is the perfect place to use any left over beef bones that you may have been saving. The beef broth would bring some of that flavor to the table, but another bone added to the pot won’t hurt and certainly will add to the taste.

Additionally, one should consider what kind of potato to use. I chose redskins, because I like the less starchy potatoes, but I did so at the expense of thickening the broth. If you like a thicker broth, choose a potato with a higher starch content.

*It should be noted that “hankering” is my term, not hers. “Hanker” is a phrase that is as unlikely to come out of Tara’s mouth as “I mishandled the war in Iraq” is to come out of El Presidente’s.

  • 1/3 lb salt pork
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat (cut into 1″ cubes. See Note below)
  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme, fresh
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 lbs redskin potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. Bring to temperature and add the salt pork, allowing to fry. Meanwhile, flour the beef cubes, tapping off any excess flour, and place them into the pot. Brown the beef, which will take approximately 5 – 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the beer and the beef stock to the pot. Then add the sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, the bay leaves and thyme. Bring the broth up to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 60 minutes, stirring once every seven to ten minutes.

Meanwhile, after the broth has started simmering, place another large pot over medium heat. Melth the butter and add the potatoes, carrots and onions. Salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the onions start to get soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the veggies over to the broth, and continue simmering , this time uncovered, for at least another forty minutes.

NOTE: Stew beef can come from any cut that is primarily used for roasting or braising. Think shoulder or shank cuts, and you’ll do just fine.


Beef and Snow Pea Stir Fry


This is my third (but not yet last) “pea” recipe. This is one of those recipes that look difficult at first glance, but when you get into the core of the dish, it takes less than 10 minutes to put together.

The trick here is to set up an efficient mise en place. With a good set up, this dish is a breeze to make.

  • 1 lb flank steak, sliced into strips
  • 2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon dry Sherry
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sliced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon tabasco sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1/2 lb. snow peas, whole but trimmed of stems and strings
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

In a glass or plastic bowl, combine the steak, Tamari sauce, sherry, corn starch and sugar. Mix well, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the meat in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 3-4 hours.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the peanut oil, ginger, tobasco sauce and garlic. Allow to cook for 20 seconds. Add the meat and all remaining marination sauce into the wok and brown the steak. This should take approximately two minutes.

Add the water chestnuts and snow peas into the meat. Stir fry for 20 seconds before adding the chicken broth. Stir until the peas just start to get tender, but there’s still a fair amount of crispness to the pea pods. Add the sesame oil, and stir fry for another 10 – 15 seconds.

Serve immediately either by itself or over rice.

Serves 4

tags technorati : Recipes Stir Fry Beef and Snow Peas


Another Mad Cow Case found in Canada

Ooof. Canada is starting to look like it has a real problem here.

That’s the eighth case found in the Great White North.

Now let me ask rhetorical question here – What exactly is the probability that Canada has a higher rate of BSE over the United States?

Technorati Tags: BSE, Mad Cow


Kudos to the USDA

Kudos goes to those deserve it, even if I don’t happen to like the group deserving the kudos all that much.

In this case, it’s the USDA. In a rare case of common sense and health concern (even if it’s the health of cattle and not consumer), they withdrew a proposal that would have allowed the import of Canadian cattle over 30 months old. As Canada is having some difficulty with BSE of late, this decision made perfect sense.

Technorati Tags: Food Politics, Mad Cow


Yet another Canadian Mad Cow found

…bringing the number to seven altogether, and 2 in the past three weeks. This cow was found in Manitoba.

For those of you wondering why I care…The cattle on the border states often go across the border to the north, and vice versa. It’s one of the reasons why the 2003 Cow found here in the state of Washington was said to originate in the Great White North.

Technorati Tags: Food, Mad Cow, BSE