Some of the more affordable cuts of meat are also the most flavorful. They can be very tender if properly cooked. Beef short ribs are such a cut, with a deep beefy flavor, and a wonderful unique texture. Grassfed short ribs are particularly flavorful. Short ribs are highly valued in Korea, where they are often thinly cut, marinated, and grilled.
The marinades always include some soy sauce, which is a problem for those avoiding soy. This short rib stew uses some traditional Korean flavorings, and my favorite substitute for soy sauce, Red Boat fish sauce. I actually prefer to use Red Boat fish sauce to any soy sauce, as it gives a better flavor to the dish. The apples may seem unusual, but they give a wonderful flavor to the dish. It makes its own gravy as it cooks, and is so easy. Yet it is one of the most delicious recipes for beef short ribs I have ever eaten.
2 pounds boneless grassfed short ribs
1 (2-inch) piece organic ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves organic garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce
2 tablespoons organic toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon raw organic honey
1 teaspoon freshly ground organic black pepper
1 large organic onion, chopped
2 organic apples, preferably Fuji, peeled and chopped into small cubes
- Trim the fat on the ribs to no more than one quarter inch thick. Cut the boneless ribs into one inch squares.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place all ingredients in a sturdy casserole, preferably cast iron or enameled cast iron. Mix very well. Cover the pot and place in the oven.
- Cook for 3 hours at 250 degrees. This wonderful dish will be ready in 3 hours. Yes, it really is that easy.
Sometimes the very best food is simple, and easy to prepare. Complex, difficult recipes with dozens of ingredients, and difficult methods may be impressive, but the results are often disappointing, and hardly anyone will actually make them. When you have great meat, simple is best.
This old truth was brought home to me this Valentine’s Day, when two magnificent Delmonico steaks from U.S. Wellness Meats gave us an incredible meal, so good that no fancy recipe could even come close, in my opinion.
Good, Real Meat comes with Its Own Great Taste
There is an old saying, going back all the way to the Middle Ages:
“God gives us great meat, the devil gives us cooks.”
This saying referred to the fact that truly great meat has a wonderful flavor, texture and tenderness of its own, which is often ruined or diminished when cooks do too much to it. A few simple ingredients and the right technique, combined in a way that brings out, rather than overwhelms the natural flavor of great grassfed meat, is ideal. And it can be very simple and quick to cook.
The meat is the most important part of cooking a great steak. There are many cuts of meat that used to be popular in the United States that are almost unknown today, which is a shame. You never see a pin bone sirloin steak anymore, but they used to be very popular. A bone in New York steak, sometimes called Delmonico, after the first fancy restaurant to become famous in the United States, is also very hard to find. Fortunately, U.S. Wellness Meats, which sells great grassfed meat online, carries a grassfed version of this cut, with the wonderful, flavor-giving bone. The meat is grassfed, just like meat was fed in the nineteenth century, when Delmonico steak was created. I chose this for our Valentine’s meal.
Why did I choose a bone in steak? The bone in this cut gives incredible flavor, as substances from the bone are released into the meat during the cooking. No spice, condiment, or oil can provide flavor like this.
The steaks looked so good when they arrived, even frozen, that I decided to prepare them using the simplest of three recipes for Delmonico steak contained in my first cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat, on page 85. (This recipe can be made with a bone in or boneless steak.) The recipe contains only four ingredients, besides the steak. I knew these ingredients and this method would bring out the natural flavor of the steaks, not overwhelm it.
I thawed the steaks, and let them marinate for a few hours in a single, traditional ingredient. I added the other simple ingredients, melted some butter in a pan, and cooked them.
Cooking time was exactly eight minutes. That was all.
We were rewarded with a steak so good, so flavorful, so tender, that I would not trade it for the most expensive Kobe beef on the planet, cooked at the world’s top steakhouse.
The bone and the fat in the nicely marbled meat created so much beefy flavor, it was so tender, and the simple traditional ingredients brought out the magnificent real taste of the grassfed meat, a taste all the spices and condiments in the world could never create, could never equal.
That simple, easily cooked steak, was one of the best I ever had.
Our culture looks at the nutritional value of each type of food separately. For example, we are told the amount of calories, and the nutrients contained in a potato. Or we are told to eat a certain group of foods daily, with little attention paid to what they are actually eaten with, or how they are prepared, as long as certain “bad” foods are avoided.
Yet our ancestors paid enormous attention to combining different foods, herbs, and spices, and to how they were prepared. Thousands of combinations and preparation methods were developed, and food was always eaten and prepared in harmony with these traditions.
Why did they go to so much trouble and effort, and follow these very distinct rules and traditions?
When they wrote about it, or passed down the tradition verbally, our ancestors were clear that these traditions were developed to enhance nutrition and health, with taste being a secondary though important consideration.
In my opinion, this is precious knowledge, often reflecting thousands of years of human experience and testing, and well worth preserving, and using.
How Food Combinations Work
When you eat several kinds of foods at one meal, your body does not process each food item separately, but processes the combination of what is eaten. We know that combining different substances often changes their effect, and can create a combined effect.
For example, let us look at the potato. Potatoes are classed as carbohydrates, and believed to cause hyperglycemic effects. But few people eat potatoes in isolation. In traditional Europe, potatoes were usually eaten with a large amount of animal fat. Some studies have indicated that eating potatoes with fat can counter the glycemic effect. No doubt eating potatoes with other foods also changes the effects of the potatoes, in ways that have not been scientifically studied.
Different cultures would eat many different things with potatoes as well as fat. For example, it became a widespread tradition in Europe and the U.S. to often combine meat and potatoes. In fact, the combination became so widespread and common that the phrase “meat and potatoes” meant the foods that were essential for a complete meal.
Later research has established that meat is essentially an acidic food, and that potatoes are essentially an alkaline food. We know that it is important for our health to maintain the right acid/alkaline balance in our bodies. I suspect the tradition of eating meat and potatoes (or meat with alkaline foods), stems from old knowledge of how to combine foods. Knowledge learned without the benefits of chemistry or studies, learned instead through long experience.
One of the oldest and most common Chinese food combinations is to use, ginger, garlic, and green onions together, in a multitude of dishes. We know that each of these foods has beneficial effects individually, but no one appears to have studied them in combination. Yet the Chinese tradition of combining them reflects a belief that they are far more effective in combination than alone, which may very well be true.
How to Learn and Use Traditional Food Combinations
Fortunately, many of these combinations have been preserved as recipes and traditions. We can get the benefits just by using these recipes, with real food ingredients. We do not even need to know what they do, to get the benefits.
There are so many of them that I will not even attempt to list them, but I do use them in cooking. Not only does this usually result in a delicious meal, but I believe the nutritional and beneficial effects of the food is enhanced by using these traditional combinations. I am working on a new cookbook that is based on using some of these traditional combinations in easy recipes, using only real food ingredients. Testing the recipes for this book has been absolutely delicious!
I was asked why I keep looking to the past for cooking inspiration. Modern technology and food science has developed faster and more efficient ways of raising and cooking food, innovations that are supposed to make everything better. Preserving food with chemicals prevents it from spoiling, and being wasted. Science has invented ways of extracting oil from plants that never were able to produce oil before, such as soy and corn. Scientific ways of raising cattle, with genetics, drugs, hormones, and feedlots, which cut the time it takes to bring a steer to market in half. And so many other new ways of doing things, that make the food traditions of the past obsolete.
I see it differently. Speed, efficiency, and innovation do not necessarily make food better. In fact, they often make it much worse, in my experience. These innovations are designed for profit, not for taste or nutrition.
And, to me, nutrition and taste are by far the most important aspects of food. Our ancestors also valued nutrition and taste above all. The food traditions of our ancestors have been passed down for hundreds and thousands of years, tested by every generation that used them. They became traditions because they enhanced nutrition and taste, and because they worked.
Traditional Foods vs. Modern Foods
Modern foods, grown and raised with a heavy dose of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, hormones, genetic modification, and feedlots, preserved through radiation and chemical preservatives, often flavored by chemicals, and designed for long shelf life and profit, are very different from the foods of our ancestors.
The traditional foods of humanity were developed over time, and eaten over many generations, so the ability to use and process these foods effectively was part of our ancestral heritage. These foods required rich soil, full of nutrients, to grow in; or rich pastures, also full of nutrients. Seafood was almost universally wild, with the nutrients of nature. Fertilizers and pest control methods were natural, using the products of nature, not a lab. These foods had a density and quality of nutrients that is rarely found today. And the wonderful natural taste of these foods, from nature, was much better than the taste of the factory foods used today.
Traditional foods were developed over many generations, raised in accordance with the laws of nature. They became traditional foods because they gave great nutrition to people, generation after generation.
Modern factory foods are a product of human technology, not nature. They have a very short history of use, and are developed for long shelf life and profit, not nutrition or taste.
I prefer to eat traditional foods, and am much healthier and happier when I do so.
Traditional Cooking vs. Modern Cooking
Modern cooking methods have been developed for speed, ease, and convenience. They have also been developed to enable people to cook factory foods, which are very different from traditional foods, and must often be cooked differently. Modern cooking equipment often uses methods that have never been used before in history, cookware from modern metals such as aluminum, non-stick cookware, and many other such innovations.
Traditional cooking methods consist of ways of preparing and combining foods that have been passed down from generation to generation, often going back thousands of years, often being slightly modified over time, yet essentially the same. They use the same cooking implements and techniques that humanity has used for thousands of years, many of which can easily be reproduced in an easier form by more modern methods. For example, an ordinary electric oven can bake and roast in much the same way as an ancient wood fire, especially when the temperatures are adjusted to mimic the temperature cycle of a fire burning down. Some techniques, such as frying meat in butter in a heavy cast iron pan, are essentially identical.
My books are devoted to recreating food traditions in a modern kitchen, especially the cooking of grassfed meat, and doing it the easy way.
I prefer traditional foods cooked in a traditional way, because it has been so much better for me in so many ways, and because it tastes so much better with an almost infinite number of time tested dishes to try and enjoy.