This was the first week of my ButcherBox so there were MANY frozen treasures to choose from.
We had some broccoli that needed cooking, and there was about a cup of ground polenta malingering in the pantry that needed to go. So knowing all this, here’s how our week played out:
Sunday: I’ve been really drawn to Japanese and Korean home cooking lately so I got everything needed for a Korean-inspired braised beef (recipe below). While it simmered, I made meatballs with half of the ground pork sausage meat from my ButcherBox. They’re small — about ½-ounce apiece, so they’d do well simmered in chicken stock with some noodles and greens for a simple soup, or I could cook them in tomato sauce and serve over polenta or a big pile of greens.
Either way, this time they got frozen onto a sheet pan. Once hard, I transferred to a container, labeled and dated, then returned to the freezer. The other half of the pork got earmarked for taco meat on Tuesday.
Monday: We always do Meatless Monday around here so I roasted the wilty broccoli at 425° to get it nice and crisp at the edges, made some soft polenta, and topped each serving with a soft-boiled egg. A shower of Parmigiano and a sprinkle of dried pepper flakes for those who want it — I love this simple, quick, comforting meal.
Tuesday: Tacos never get old. I cooked the rest of the pork in a skillet with lots of garlic, cumin, and tomato paste. I added water and a minced chipotle pepper toward the end and let it simmer until the rest of the toppings were ready. Right before serving I balanced out all those rich umami flavors with a generous squirt of lime juice.
Wednesday was a solo night so I pulled my ButcherBox bacon from the freezer in the morning and we had breakfast for dinner — rye pancakes topped with plain yogurt, bowls of fruit for spooning over the top, and bacon cooked in the oven to minimize my stovetop mess.
Thursday we had friends over and I made a great deal of nori rolls with all sorts of fillings. I pulled the pork meatballs from the freezer and stuck them in the fridge while we cleaned up from dinner.
Friday: I forgot to thaw chicken stock for pork and noodle soup, so I switched gears. I set water on for blanched greens and pasta and made an ultra-quick tomato sauce with a chopped onion and a can of crushed tomatoes.
Once that simmered for 15 minutes, I slid the meatballs into the sauce and cooked them for at least 25 minutes — they could go for longer but people were hungry. I ate my meatballs and sauce over a bowl of wilted Swiss chard while the kids go for buttered pasta, of course — I put chard on their plates but neither takes the bait.
Ginger-Soy Braised Beef
Serves 4, with some leftovers
When I first served this dish, after one bite my older son asked if I would make it again, which is a good sign in my book. Inspired by a recent Bon Appetit recipe for Korean-style short ribs, this braise leans on gochujang, the funky fermented pepper paste that’s a staple in Korean cooking, for a little bit of funk to underscore the rich, savory-sweet flavor of the finished dish.
1 2-pound chuck roast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons gochujang paste, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into coins ⅛”-thick
2 cups pilsner beer
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 cups water
1. Trim excess fat from the roast and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and rub with 1 tablespoon gochujang paste.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven (with a lid). When it shimmers, add the roast and sear on all sides, turning occasionally, until the meat is mahogany brown – about 7 minutes total. Don’t let the pot get too hot – gochujang contains some sugar and the meat can scorch if the heat is too high. Set aside on a plate.
3. With the heat on medium, add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook until softened and slightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beer, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, water, and remaining tablespoon of gochujang and return the meat to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook on a steady but low simmer for about 3 hours, turning occasionally, until the roast can be easily pulled apart with a fork. Let cool in the pot for about an hour and then refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
4. Place meat on a cutting board and gently strain the liquid into a bowl. Discard the solids (this will include a bunch of fat solids). Shred or very thinly slice the meat and return meat and liquid to the pot. Simmer over low heat until warmed through.
5. Serve over rice with an assortment of toppings and side dishes like: radishes and cucumbers quick-pickled in rice wine vinegar; chopped scallions and cilantro; kimchi; stir-fried greens drizzled with sesame oil; roasted broccoli tossed with honey and sesame seeds.
Leigh Belanger is a cookbook author, teacher, and writer/editor. Her most recent cookbook, called My Kitchen Chalkboard, about streamlining dinner for busy families without sacrificing interesting food and cooking, was released in May 2018.