Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One crappy piece of meat, three great meals

  Heading to the store for this weeks shopping after returning from California facing a severely empty fridge, barren except for some several month old egg yokes, moldy spaghetti sauce, and expired milk and yogurt, I found an interesting dilemma. It seems that fourth of July sales had left me with $4.99 rib-eyes, a package of which was acquired, and few other cheap options for non-steak meats. The regular selection of carne asada meats was limited to think cut eye of round at far more than I wanted to pay for taco meat and the cheap meat for sale was ball-tip or petite sirloin steaks, which considering their $3.99/lb price tag was hardly worth a glance.
  However, I was not without luck as I saw $2.26/lb bottom round roasts. Now I know that when you hear the term bottom round roast your mind conjures up images of tough gristly meat that takes hours to cook in the oven to be tolerable, not what you'd want on a hot summer day. But I was undeterred by the challenge of making something out of a seven dollar bottom round. In fact, I figured that I could make three very diverse meals for my family with this unremarkable meat that would reach far past its common potential.

Day 1 Cutting and Marinade
  Considering that this is a tough piece of meat that has virtually no marbling for flavor or softening, I knew that I had to do something to soften it up. Cooking it for the usual 3-4 hours in the oven would prove a killer on a 80 degree summer day, marinading was the only tolerable option. But first, I had to slice it. I knew that to make the next week not feel like the week after Thanksgiving where you're forced to find another use for the same ole turkey, I was going to need to start with variety. One thing about the bottom round is that there is a tough layer of fat along the bottom of the roast. This fat can be useful in shish kabob meat if it's tenderized through some good marination. I also know that this meat cut small and thin can provide good solid stirfry meat, cutting thin is important here. And finally I wanted some of my missing carne asada, possibly because I had some salsa from my hometown Mexican restaurant that came home with me as a birthday present, probably because I still had a jar of it from Christmas that I hadn't managed to use yet.

   So I started at the end making full slices which included the fat at the bottom. This would be my carne asada. I kept them somewhere between one quarter and one half inch thick. Occasionally I failed to cut well and ended up with a weird chunk that would surely fall through the cracks on my barbeque. I set this aside for use later. Once I had about 8 decent slices I cut about an inch to inch and a half above the fat through the rest of the roast. The bottom with the fat I cut into one inch squares being sure to include the piece of fat on each square. The rest I sliced first into quarter inch thick pieces, then cut as appropriate to make about three quarter inch strips. In the end I had one piece of meat, cut three very diverse ways like this:

Upper right carne asada, bottom right shish kebab, left stir fry

  With the meat appropriately cut up it was time to move on to the marinades. I started with three quart size ziplock bags and put each kind of meat in one. Then I pulled out a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and added some salt, pepper, and lime juice. However, I was severely short of liquid for the marinade so I grabbed a bottle of my old (from college) tequila and used that to loosen up the sauce.

Chipotle Carne Asada Marinade
1 lb carne asada meat
half of a 7 oz can  (3 oz) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
juice of 1 lime (go ahead and throw in the rest of the lime when you're done squeezing it.
1/4 cup cheap tequila 
Garlic salt and pepper to taste

  With the shish kebabs I really wasn't going for anything too original. Soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, garlic salt, pepper, and some red wine.

Teriyaki Shish Kebabs Marinade
1 lb bottom round cut into 1 oz cubes with the fat still on
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic (or more)
1/4 cup red wine
Garlic salt and pepper to taste

  For the stir fry meat I wanted to avoid doing the exact same thing I just did with the shish kebab meat so the first thing I decided to vacate was soy sauce and rice vinegar. So I started with an oil, sesame oil to be exact. This stuff is super flavorful and is used as a dipping sauce in Korean restaurants. But I wasn't going to stop there. I added some sesame seeds, another lime, salt and pepper, garlic, and for a final touch I put in some green onions (another stir fry marinade we did had this) and a half dozen mint leaves. It smells flavorful, no clue how it'll taste.

Sesame Mint Stirfry Marinade
1 lb bottom round thinly sliced into strips
2 TBSP Sesame Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Seeds
3 Cloves of garlic (or more)
Juice of 1 lime
1 diced green onion
6-10 mint leaves
Garlic salt and pepper to taste

  All of these wonderful marinades get to sit until I decide to cook them up and eat them starting tomorrow. I'll put through pictures of each meal and report on how the final cooking went.

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