If you were expecting to read about a seasonal fruit or vegetable, beef might surprise you. Isn't beef available year-round? Well, yes, of course it is—just head to your local grocery store— but actually, meat has seasons just like produce. You already know late summer tomatoes are the juiciest and the fall is when we're all eating pumpkins. Meat's seasonality is the reason we enjoy ham at Easter and turkey for Thanksgiving.
People used to slaughter pigs in the fall after they had fattened up on fallen acorns and apples—they would hang over the winter and be ready by Easter. Cows are happier during the beginning of winter when the frost has killed off flies and made the grass sweeter. During this time, cattle will increase their eating and fatten up. The flavor of seasonal cattle is different. It's not only beef and pork that are seasonal either. Egg production reaches its peak during the springtime, and at that time, yolks are brighter yellow.
In the past, pasture-raised animals were more common than hay or grain-fed ones, mostly for financial reasons. With today's factory farming system, this is no longer an issue, but if you want to enjoy grass-fed meat, you might like to eat seasonal beef and other proteins, just for the superior flavor. Here in Houston there is no shortage of wonderful beef to sink your teeth into. Whether you prefer it grilled to smoky perfection, served with classic sides, or made into a sandwich, it's always nice to learn more about our favorite protein.
In a Starring Role at: Sullivan's Steakhouse
Sullivan's in the Galleria is the place to head if you are a diehard carnivore and want to sink your teeth into some excellent beef. Options include filet mignon, dry-aged New York strip, porterhouse or ribeye, served with one of Sullivan's special signature butters if you like. Don't forget to try the wedge salad, gratin potatoes and chocolate red velvet cake. The wine list there is impressive too.
Recipe: Hearty Beef Stew with Mushrooms
Although winter in Houston doesn't tend to be particularly severe or long, it's still nice to indulge in comfort food and hearty beef recipes. This beef stew is easy to prepare and great served over egg noodles or pasta. Take your time browning the beef to get the best flavor and color from the meat. The total cooking time depends which cut of beef you use. Topside, blade or round takes an hour to 90 minutes of stewing time, while chuck or boneless shin will take two to two-and-a-half hours. This recipe makes four servings.
- 2 pounds topside, black, round, chuck or boneless shin beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 ounces button mushrooms
- 1 roughly chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 3 cups beef bouillon
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 peeled chopped large potatoes
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley, rosemary or thyme
- 1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the beef with salt and black pepper, then toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Heat a skillet over a moderate-high heat and brown the beef in several batches. Add the browned beef to a casserole dish. Now turn down the heat, add a splash of oil and sauté the mushrooms and onion for a couple of minutes. Now sprinkle in the flour and keep stirring until the vegetables are coated. Add the bouillon and tomato paste and stir well, then add the potatoes and herbs and bring the mixture to a boil.
Transfer everything into the casserole dish and mix, then cover and cook in the oven until the beef is very tender, stirring every half an hour and adding water if necessary to just cover the ingredients. If you prefer to simmer the stew on the stove, use a heavy-based pot and keep the heat low and the pot partly covered, adding extra water if needed during cooking. Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaves and serve the stew over your choice of egg noodles or pasta. This stew freezes and reheats very well.
Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's new and fresh at the market and where you can enjoy the tasty bounty of the season.