Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #6
Before We Begin...
I need to share with you a poem I found on the internet a few weeks ago. We who provide recipes online always welcome comments, critiques, and helpful feedback. But then, there are those who go completely off the rails. They misuse, substitute, or totally omit ingredients. And THEN they complain that the recipe failed.
I didn't have potatoes,
so I substituted rice.
Didn't have paprika,
so I used another spice.
I didn't have tomato sauce,
so I used tomato paste.
A whole can not a half can -
I don't believe in waste.
My friend gave me the recipe -
she said you couldn't beat it.
There must be something wrong with you,
I couldn't even eat it.
Now that I have that off my chest, let's get started with the email inbox. First, a question from Bill Holland (aka billybuc) and BlondLogic.
How to Tenderize a Cheap Cut of Meat
What's the best way to tenderize a cheap steak? I remember my mother pounding those suckers with a rubber mallet. I'm not about to stoop that far down the culinary ladder. :)
The meat here (in Brazil) although flavorful seems to be cut at random angles. The last time we had pork chops, mine was tender and my husband's tough. I don't like using meat tenderizer too often but wonder if you've got a suggestion to tenderize tough meat. Here, the beef, pork and even chicken can be quite tough.
There are so many different things you can do depending on how you are cooking the beef and how much time you have. Let's take a look.
- Did your mother really use a rubber mallet? I have a which looks like a cross between a small hammer and a torture device. My mom relied on the edge of a plate. Place the cut of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with the meat mallet. You want to cover every inch but (1) don't smack is so hard that the meat tears and (2) keep in mind that you are merely trying to break down the connective tissue, not flatten the poor thing like a pancake. "meat tenderizer"
- If you have the time, the best way to tenderize a cheap cut of meat is to cook it low and slow. (Forget about the hammer.) High heat will make the protein fibers contract (think of tight rubber bands). On the other hand, low heat will allow the collagen to melt, and you'll have buttery soft meat. If you have a slow cooker (crockpot), set it on low, plop in the meat, dump in a can of cream of mushroom soup (no extra liquid), and let it do its thing for 6-8 hours. You can do the same thing in your oven set at 250 degrees. Put your meat and cream soup in an oven-safe vessel (I LOVE my cast iron dutch oven for this). Make sure the lid is tight and cook for about 4 hours. Chicken should be falling-off-the-bone tender in 2 hours.
- If you are grilling, the most important thing to keep in mind is how you slice that steak. Cut across the grain.
- Use a marinade. Acids (citrus juice, vinegar, pineapple, papaya, guava, coffee, tea, cola, or even yogurt) will break down the meat fibers. Two cautions: (1) always marinate in the refrigerator (never on the counter), and (2) don't marinate beef for more than 24 hours. For chicken the marinate time is 2 hours maximum.
- "WONDER HOW TO Food Hacks" has a different approach. Marinate by covering the entire surface of the steak with salt. Let sit for 1 for each inch of thickness. Use coarse grain (not table) salt. I haven't tried this, but their before-and-after photos look promising.
Best Steak Marinade in Existence
Can You Explain the Paleo Diet?
No. Next question. ...I'm kidding. My instinct is that it is a theory that we will be eating a more healthy diet if we "eat like a caveman." No, I don't mean go out and slay a mastodon; I think it's a move away from processed and/or refined foods, such as sugar, flour, cheeses, etc.
OK, so I just did a Google search and here's the definition I found:
a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food
So, I was correct. What does that really mean in terms of what you should and should not eat? Here's a table to help you out Eric.
What You CAN Eat
What You Must NOT Eat
Legumes (including peanuts)
Processed foods, candy, and junk foods
Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, or coconut oil
I see a problem.
There is a large (and growing) segment of our population which is excluded from the diet. This will NOT work for anyone who is vegetarian or vegan. Beans (including peanuts and thus peanut butter), soy protein, and dairy are not allowed in the Paleo diet. The emphasis on protein is meat and fish.
The list of "allowable" foods is impressive (if you consider bear, kangaroo, and rattlesnake as viable options). Good thing they didn't take away bacon, but potatoes, cheese, and alcohol are off of the list. (Goodbye tailgate party.)
Eric, I'm not sure I could go rigid Paleo, but I can see the benefit in lessening if not omitting processed foods, take-out food, sugar, white flour, white rice, and potatoes. Everything in moderation.
The Original Red Velvet Cake
My mother used to have an amazing Red Velvet Cake recipe but it was lost. My family has tried just about every Red Velvet Cake recipe out there and none of them are "it." The one that came close was a kind we regularly purchased from a home-based professional baker 20 years ago. Sadly, she refused to give us her recipe when we moved out of the area. Can you offer any help?
This is my sister's red velvet cake recipe, circa probably early 1960's:
Ingredients for Cake
- 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 bottles (1 ounce each) red food coloring
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Directions for Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift together flour and salt and set aside.
- Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time; set aside.
- Combine food coloring and cocoa powder. Mix until smooth. Add this to the shortening mixture; blend well.
- Combine buttermilk and vanilla. Add to shortening/cocoa mixture alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.
- Combine and blend well the vinegar and soda. Fold into batter.
- Spoon into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.
- Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes and then remove from pans and cool thoroughly on wire racks. Frost with Red Velvet Frosting.
Ingredients for Frosting
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup softened butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
Directions for Frosting
- Combine milk and flour in a small saucepan; cook over low heat until thick; cool thoroughly in the refrigerator.
- Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add cold flour mixture and beat well. Stir in vanilla.
When you first add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar it will look curdled. You will think to yourself "oh no, I've ruined it!" But be patient. It takes a LOT of beating but ultimately it will transform and be beautifully creamy. It will look like whipped cream.
And That's 10-10 For Now
Keep sending those questions. I love hearing from all of you. (Bonus points to anyone who understands the heading of this paragraph).
© 2017 Linda Lum