Culinary Disasters

Our rut continues, but even in the midst of our doldrums, we have lost a collective 27 pounds–14 for Fred, 13 for me. The reason may lie in some spectacular culinary failures in the last couple of weeks, which go a long way toward keeping portion sizes under control.

The worst resulted in the sad destruction of a pound or so of arm steak from Ranney Ranch, owned by a colleague from Duke. Ranney Ranch raises “grass-finished” beef, and having grown up on a beef cattle farm, I was looking forward to trying it. But from there, things went downhill.

As far as cooking arm steak is concerned, I had the same amount of experience as someone who’d never accidentally stepped in a “manure pile” by accident. (It happens, you could say.) I suspect that this cut ended up as “ground beef” (which my grandfather adored) when we sent out our own calves to the slaughterhouse. So I was left to scour the internet for cooking ideas, just like anyone else.

My research led me to conclude that a long marinade or braising was the cooking method of choice, since arm steak tends to be tough. As usual, I had no patience with the idea of marinading overnight, so braising it was. Knowing that Ranney Ranch is in New Mexico, I also thought that Mexican spices would be appropriate.

If I’d left it at that, things might have been okay. But after adding chipotle, and salt and pepper, and vinegar (to reduce the gamey taste of the meat, I theorized), and then deciding to throw in tomato, and chili powder, and cumin, and coriander, and brown sugar, and God only knows what else, and then searing it on both sides, and then cooking not quite long enough because it was approaching 9:30 p.m., we were left with some tough meat floating in a sea of what amounted to mediocre barbecue sauce.

I have since learned that grass-finished beef is best cooked simply so that the flavor will stand out. Unfortunately I’m out of arm steak.

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