It's BEEF WEEKEND.
An impromptu holiday becomes a weekend-long plan in this week's Friday digest.
Hello! It’s Friday, and that means it’s once again time for me to bombard you with suggestions for ways you can spend your weekend, whether that’s recommending books or music, a fun new cocktail recipe, or of course, something to cook.
There are some weeks where the things that I cook and share with you in this email are tied to a specific event: turkey and sides for Thanksgiving, family recipes we serve at Christmas, wacky stunt foods for the Super Bowl, and so forth.
There are other times where it’s a little more happenstance.
This is one of those weeks.
Now, you might not know it from some of the previous recipes included herein, but I usually eat pretty healthy on a day-to-day basis. A lot of salads and grilled chicken —boring things. I rarely cook red meat at home, partly for health reasons and partly because it just doesn’t make sense for what we need.
But, y’know, sometimes Kroger’s got a big chuck roast on clearance, and you’ve just got to let loose. Of course, a whole roast is a lot for our small family — we’re just two adults with two children who, despite our best efforts, seem to subside entirely on cheese cubes and Ritz Chips.
We’re probably going to have to plan more than one meal around this.
We’re going to have to have a Beef Weekend.
[Peter Gabriel singing “Sledgehammer” voice] BEEF WEEKEND
[Ron Howard as the narrator in “Arrested Development” voice] Beef Weekend was also the name of a poorly-received ribald ensemble comedy film in 1983. We are legally obligated to make this distinction.
So, loosed up your belt, take your blood pressure medication, and cut loose: we’ve got a plan laid out for the whole weekend.
Do you have a pressure cooker? I do. I’m an impressionable sort, you see, and when electric pressure cookers suddenly became omnipresent several years ago, I hopped right on the trend.
Some people have taken their love of these perfectly fine devices to extremes, insisting that you can and should make everything and anything in them.
You can cook pasta in it!
I have never had trouble cooking pasta the normal way.
You can make yogurt in it!
I find that yogurt is readily available in stores, and my yogurt needs are usually in quantities smaller than six quarters.
There’s a porridge setting!
Nah. That’s how you end up with nosy little blondes breaking into your house and ruining your chair.
You can cook a huge hunk of meat in a fraction of the time!
Hey, now we’re talking.
This is something I agree with the acolytes on — if you have an electric pressure cooker, it’s a far better vehicle for cooking a cut of meat than a slow cooker. The meat comes out juicier, and in a fraction of the time.
FIRST THING WE DO? LET’S BEEF.
The first thing I’m doing is this Martha Stewart recipe for pressure cooker pot roast — it incorporates North African flavors by using chopped dates, pitted olives and oranges. It only takes a few minutes to get everything in the pot, and then 90 minutes of cooking. Start it up when you first get home from work. Take a deep breath. If you drink? Make a drink.
MAKE MINE BLOODY
We’ll want something that complements those flavors — taking in the citrusy notes in the recipe while still being able to stand up to the richness of the beef. Blood oranges are in season right now, and they make for a delicious and visually stunning cocktail ingredient.
I used this delicious and simple recipe for a Blood Orange Boulevardier, and it was an excellent warm-up act for the pot roast.
You know what else we need while we’re waiting? Music.
IN THE INTEREST OF FAIR AND BALANCED COVERAGE
In selecting items for today’s digest, I tried as best I could to stay on this theme, but there’s not a great deal of beef-themed music, at least not that I’m aware of (or would want to recommend to you if I was).
BUT, I have been listening to an album that’s perfect for a low-key Friday evening waiting for your dinner to finish cooking, and that’s Bobby Feeno’s Flamingo & Koval.
Who’s Bobby Feeno, you may ask? Why, that’s the hip-hop alter ego of former NFL running back Arian Foster. As it happens, Foster had a well-publicized vegan diet during his playing days, so now contrasting opinions have had equal air time today.
See? I kept on theme. Good for me.
LET’S CHECK IN ON THAT ROAST.
Oh yeah. Hearty, delicious, and juicy in under two hours total time. The dates, olive and oranges impart a subtle complexity to it without flavoring it so strongly that you can’t use the leftovers for other things. (More on that in a moment.)
Boy, [yawns] that’s going to put me right to sleep on a Friday ni—
Wow, I feel asleep right on the couch, didn’t I? Alright, we had a low-key Friday night. Let’s make Saturday productive, why don’t we? Nothing helps me feel like I’ve got a productive day going like making a dough. You’re making something from practically nothing. It’s like magic.
Here’s what you’re going to want to do:
Mix 6-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 Tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and 1 tsp active dry yeast in a bowl. Slowly add 3-1/2 cups of warm water, stirring vigorously until smooth. Cover it. Put it in the fridge. Don’t look at it until tomorrow. I’ll tell you later what we’re doing with it.
What? We’re not doing this until tomorrow? What am I supposed to do today?
[BUN B in “Big Pimpin’” Voice] GO READ A BOOK, YOU—
Beef can refer to other things than the meat, of course. It can refer to struggle. Conflict. Gripes. You know who’s got a proper beef? Appalachia.
Written as a full-throated response to JD Vance’s widely-popular but questionably-motivated 2017 book Hillbilly Elegy, Elizabeth Catte’s excellent 2018 book What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia works to refute the notions that people in the region are wholly to blame for their problems, or that it’s a crisis of ‘culture’. She lays out in clear, well-researched, unsparing terms what has been done to the region over generations of American history, and why it’s not as simple as some people would suggest.
WOW, THAT WAS INTENSE.
That’ll happen sometimes. Oh, you finished the book already? (It’s a brisk 150 pages, you can knock it out in an afternoon.) Fine, I’ll give you a lighter spin on this notion of beef now, since you did all your homework.
Since 2018, Seth Rosenthal and others at SBNation have been producing a great series of video documentary shorts called “Beef History”, each focusing on a notable feud in the world of sports. They’re all wonderfully entertaining, but I think my favorite is one featuring former Cleveland Indians teammates Omar Vizquel and Jose Mesa, a feud in which I am massively biased.
Jose Mesa is a colossal jerk and an all-around bad person, and he blew Cleveland’s best chance to win the World Series. Omar Vizquel is one of the most fun players of all time, and he was absolutely right to criticize Mesa.
Eff Jose Mesa.
Hey, what’s for dinner?
Ah, geez, we’ve been watching videos about fights all afternoon. Good thing we have a bunch of leftover beef in the fridge. You know what? We used our fancy electric device to make dinner last night. Let’s veer in the other direction tonight.
LET’S GET AMISH
If you’ve never had the pleasure of being served dinner by the Amish before, you really should. The food is simple, delicious, and extremely hearty. Let’s make something we’d find in Amish country: let’s make some beef and noodles.
All you need:
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 lb egg noodles
Leftover beef, which you now have. (Shred it up a little.)
Cook the noodles and reserve some of the pasta water. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and whisk in the flour to get a nice blond roux. Whisk in the chicken stock, then add the cooked noodles, adding pasta water as necessary to thicken everything up. Toss in the beef.
It’s not complicated or fancy in any way, but it’s a darn fine meal.
HMM I WOULD ALSO ENJOY A DRINK WITH THIS
Okay, now you’re just getting greedy. But I like you, so fine. We’ll make something simple and hearty to stand up against this dinner.
Adapted from Meehan’s Bartender Manual, this is the Black Flip:
2 oz dark chocolate stout beer
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 whole egg
1/2 ounce demerara syrup (this is where I differ, I just used regular simple syrup, let the cocktail police come get me)
Shake it all together, strain into a chilled glass. It’s a beefy cocktail if there ever were one, rich and thick.
Hey, remember that dough we made yesterday? It’s time for that to pay off.
I’d been dying to make this Bon Appetit recipe ever since it came through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago — Pretzel Focaccia.
I won’t belabor the whole recipe, it’s all in that link, but it’s a lot simpler than you think — spread the dough out on a buttered and oiled sheet pan, and brush it with a baking soda/water solution that will alkalize the exterior and help get that deep, browned crust.
I didn’t want to use regular sea salt or even fancy Maldon salt flakes — this is a pretzel we’re talking about — so I improvised. I found a cheap “sea salt grinder” for $2.69 at Target and broke it open to get the un-ground crystals out.
Ooooo-eee this was good. Even my incredibly-picky 4-year old passed through the kitchen to ask “Daddy, what smells so good?”
You know, I bet this’d make a fine sandwich.
But first, a request:
I’D LIKE SOME FEEDBACK.
I’ve been running this newsletter for about eight months now, and I’ve been very pleased with the response — several thousand of you have been kind enough to give me access to dump my thoughts in your inboxes a few times a week. I have big hopes of keeping this going long-term and growing it further, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on things. If you’re so inclined, I’ve created a Google Form with a handful of questions I’d appreciate responses on.
OKAY, NOW THAT THAT’S OVER, LET’S MAKE A RIDICULOUS SANDWICH
We’ve got leftover beef.
We’ve got pretzel focaccia.
What could push this sandwich to new heights of glory?
I make it a point to trust any food product that satisfies both of these criteria:
Has “rat” in quotes on the label
Was purchased at a liquor store
I was not disappointed. I also added some sauteed shallots a little horseradish on to make a sandwich I’m calling The Bavarian’s Blunder, because I was extremely full and somewhat uncomfortable after.
I have no regrets. (I have lots of regrets.)
LET’S FINISH THINGS OFF THE RIGHT WAY.
You know who’s been keeping an close eye on you this whole weekend, hoping you share some of that beef? Dogs. Let’s give them their time in the spotlight, and make a little beef, as a treat.
I’ve got a deep queue of submissions, so if you’ve sent me your dog and it’s not in here, trust that it will be soon.
First up, Tracy G. writes in:
Meet Morgan, our rescue Aussie. We wanted a smart working dog and we figured she’d be a good running companion. Reader, she is not. She’s the laziest Aussie on record and is only about 4 years old. She was really skinny when we got her; she has happily snacked herself to overweight. She loves to hunt and has killed several moles, a chipmunk and almost a baby duck … one of these photos is from a day we let her jump in the creek and chase ducks. She got her CGC a few months ago and we hope to eventually certify her as a therapy dog. She comes to the office with me a few days a week (she says hello; currently laying in the doorway to my office).
HELLO MORGAN WHAT A GOOD DOG.
LOOK AT THIS GOOD DOG, WINNER OF PRIZES AND HONORS.
Next up, @MikePMcgehee shares:
For your consideration or just your enjoyment. Harley
I have considered AND enjoyed Harley. I liked this dog so much I put a ring on it. (Or, someone did.)
Reader @jokastrength has an educated pup to share:
Jasper knows reading is essential.
Jasper, if I ever follow through on my years of threats to write a book, I will send you an advance copy. (I know the worst criticism he’ll levy is that it’s “ruff”.)
[booing] okay okay more dogs
Reader @tshope122 shares:
Dog submission alert! this is Cleo - she loves sprinting up stairs but is always a little confused on why shes so much higher up than you when she reaches the top step.
Listen, Cleo, I feel you. I’m an architect and I don’t think I fully understand stairs.
Finally this week, Friend Of The Letter Nathan / @sideoutpar shares:
This is Gus. He's 9 weeks old. He's a handful and a half right now.
Thanks to everyone for their submissions, you can always send me more by DMing me (@actioncookbook) or responding to this email.
And thanks to you for reading and supporting The Action Cookbook Newsletter. I hope you have a great weekend, beefy or otherwise.
— Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)