The Search for the Perfect Beef Dessert

By treatyrockbeef - Last updated: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Hello Farmers Market Friends:

While looking for yearling grass-fed beef cattle for sale on the web a few days ago, I came across the impressive Lakota Ranch that grows handsome Red Devons on 700 acres of Virginia pasture.  Their 30-year commitment to the breed has resulted in a line of full-fleshing, hardy animals known for good mothering and robust calves that often tip the scales at 20% above the breed average at 6 months of age.

FARM FACT:  Devon calf average birth weight – 70 lbs. for females (heifers) and 75 lbs. for males (bull calfs).  A leisurely tour of their website eventually led me to the Recipes page.  Unimpressive entries like Taco Pie and Macaroni Meatloaf had me heading for the door when I came across the Mincemeat Bars.  Of course – a beef dessert !!  I fell for it hard and decided to make the dish for my Farmers Market tasting today.  Mincemeat – what is it ??  I always associated the term with Dickens and dirty street waifs and florid jowly lords of the manor but didn’t know much about it until Linda Stradley’s What’s Cooking America ?? offered the following :

Mincemeat developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England where mince pies are still considered an essential accompaniment to holiday dinners.  The meat is finely chopped and combined with fat (suet or marrow), fruit (prunes, dates, apples, currants, raisins, lemon peel, orange peel), sugar and alcohol.  Kept in airtight stoneware crockery, it can last up to ten years in good condition.  The pie is a remnant of a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, that has survived because of its association with Christmas.  Often older sheep were killed at the end of the year as spring lambing was months away.  Modern mince pies typically use beef or venison or even forego the meat altogether, substituting butter for suet, adding brandy to the fruit and letting it steep for 1-14 days.  Also known as Christmas pies, they were traditionally flavored with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, souvenirs of Arab lands that came back to merrie olde England with the returning Crusaders.  These classic winter spices were said to represent the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus.  Mince pie has long had a place of honor at the British Christmas table.

We are accustomed to eating mince pie as a dessert, but actually “mincemeat pie” began as  a main course dish in the days of Henry VIII with more meat than fruit (a mixture of meat, dried fruit & spices).  Today’s versions tend to feature the fruit more prominently.  Throughout history, it has been associated with festive food and was targeted by Oliver Cromwell, the puritanical Lord Protector who ascended to power following King Charles I’s execution and abolished Christmas in 1657, calling it “a pagan celebration of gluttony and drunkenness”.  Mincemeat pies were banned – he directed his soldiers to confiscate them, by force if necessary – as long as it didn’t distract them from their primary task of killing the Irish and the Scots.  People began baking them in unusual & eccentric shapes in order to conceal their true identity.  Puritan fervor crossed the Atlantic and these guilty forbidden pleasures were likewise outlawed in Boston and other New England towns from 1659 to 1681.  Eventually cooler heads prevailed – the mince pie came in from the cold and today enjoys a spot among the ranks of respectable holiday dishes.

While the recipe for Sweet Meat Bars sounded intriguing, I was concerned that it called for too much brown sugar (1 1/2 cups !?!) and would likely mask the incredible flavor of Treaty Rock Farm 100% grass-fed & dry aged beef.  I decided to play the savory card with less sugar and the addition of pears and port wine. Here’s what you need :

2 lbs. 100% grass-fed & dry aged ground beef chuck
1 pear, peeled, chopped and softened in butter with powdered cinnamon, ginger & allspice (or half a dozen shakes of apple pie spice)
1 can (16 ozs.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup port wine
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup orange juice
2 T. orange peel
1 t. salt

Crust
4 cups flour
2 T. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 1/3 cups milk
2/3 cup oil

Glaze – Saute on medium heat till thickened to syrup consistency
1-2 T Butter
1/4 cup or less Balsamic Vinegar
Juice of 2 oranges
Salt and Pepper

Brown ground beef in deep cast iron pot or Dutch oven.  Remove most of the fat with a ladle.  Toast chopped walnuts in hot pan until they become fragrant and start to color but don’t let them blacken.  Add butter, chopped pears, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.  Saute till pears are soft.  Add pear / nut mixture to beef along with cranberry sauce, brown sugar, port wine, raisins, marmalade, orange juice, orange peel and 1 t. salt.  Cook over medium heat until mixture boils; reduce to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.  Cool.  Combine flour, baking powder & 2 t. salt; add milk and oil, all at once, stirring until flour is moistened.  Place dough on floured board & knead about 10 times, divide in half.  Roll half the dough out to 1/8″-1/4″ thickness to generously fit 17×10 inch jelly roll pan (bottom and sides).  Roll the dough up onto a floured wine bottle and place in pan, pressing to fit bottom & up sides of pan.  Spoon cooled filling mixture over dough.  Roll second half of dough into 17×10 rectangle and similarly place on top of filling.  Press top & bottom crust edges together to seal. Make 4 slashes in top crust. Bake in hot oven 425 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool & drizzle with glaze.

I did not have big pan but had enough crust and filling for two 9″ x 9″ pans.  People seemed to like it and I liked asking passing kids if they wanted to try a beef cookie.

Respecting the Protein,
PMB

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