Sunday, January 4, 2015

Afghan Meat Sauce

I make a batch of this meat sauce and the yogurt sauce (coming soon) at the beginning of the week and pretty much put it on top of anything. No household vegetable is safe from the meat/yogurt sauce combination!

Don't blink. It's a quick recipe, slightly modified from the one at


1 Medium Yellow Onion
1 lb Ground Meat (I like lamb or pork the best)
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp toasted and ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp finely chopped (or pressed) garlic

  1. Prep:
    1. Thaw the meat. Still frozen? Thaw it in the fridge and do the recipe in a day or two.
    2. Place the tomato sauce and water in a measuring cup and mix together.
    3. Place the salt, black pepper, ground coriander, and turmeric into a small bowl.
    4. Place the chopped garlic in a small bowl
    5. Chop the onion and leave it on the cutting board. (I love swim goggles for chopping onions).
    6. You should now have chopped onion, thawed meat, a spice bowl, and a measuring cup with the tomato-water.
  2. Add some oil to a skillet and brown the onions until golden.
  3. Add the meat and cook over medium-high heat. Break up any clumps and stir as you go until mostly cooked.
  4. Reduce heat to medium
  5. Add garlic and cook until the garlic is softened. Reduce the heat if necessary. You don't want to burn the garlic or the spices in the next step.
  6. Stir in the spices. Cook for 15-30 seconds (keep stirring).
  7. Slowly add the tomato sauce and water, stirring as you go.
  8. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer.
  9. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every once every five minutes or so.

Afghan Recipes Coming Soon

I moved to Cupertino in 1989 to start a new job at Apple (right after the Loma Prieta earthquake, thankfully). It was there that I discovered one of my favorite restaurants: Kabul in Sunnyvale, CA. I'd never had Afghan cuisine before and was immediately hooked.

Some of my favorite dishes from the restaurant are:
  • Kadu - a sweet pumpkin dish topped with meat sauce and yogurt
  • Pakawra-e-badenjan - a fried eggplant dish topped with meat sauce and yogurt. Nope, still can't pronounce it right.
  • Aush - an awesome noodle soup with lots of tangy yogurt
  • And, of course, Kababs, kababs, kababs!
 I've been tinkering with recipes over the years trying to replicate the dishes and finally think I've got something that's pretty close. Naturally, only after years of tinkering did I stumble upon and find recipes for all the dishes...

So, anyway, I'll be adding recipes for some of my favorite Afghan recipes over the next few weeks. Happy cooking to all you Kabul fans out there.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Steak with Pan Roasted Marrow

Marrow is a bit rich for me but I can definitely appreciate it on top of a steak that's been browned, finished in an oven, and topped with a Dijon wine reduction. Add your favorite side-dish, some freshly warmed bread, and you're golden.

This is an easy recipe that you can prepare for dinner. The dish is so rich that I usually like to make it with a very simple vegetable accompaniment and a parbaked baguette fresh out of the oven.

Mad props to Anthony Bourdain and his Les Halles Cookbook for the recipe. Support a hedonistic curmudgeon and go buy his book.

If you're into marrow, Thomas Keller has a great recipe for sauteed bone marrow in his pot-au-feu recipe of The French Laundry Cookbook. As with all the recipes in that book -- you really have to like spending an entire day on a dish. I might extract the marrow part for a future post though.


  • Glass bowl large enough to hold the beef bones. I personally don’t like using plastic or metal for soaking the marrow. Nope, don't have a good reason. I just don’t like plastic or metal touching my marrow (I have issues)
  • Heavy-bottomed saute pan
  • Small roasting pan
  • Remote temperature probe if you have it. I can’t imagine cooking without one anymore.


  • Meat
    • Four, 6 ounce pieces of your favorite cut of steak. I recommend a hanger steak if you marinade it beforehand and cook it medium rare. A New York steak is great without marinade, ribeye is too fatty for me with the marrow, and a tenderloin is usually overpriced and lacking flavor.
    • Marrow from 3-4 beef bones. A cross-cut section from a leg bone is great (order veal or beef bones ahead of time if you can so you don’t get bones that have been in the freezer for two weeks). Rant: If you're in an American grocery store and the 19-year old employee in the meat department looks simultaneously confused and nauseated at your request for beef marrow, just tell him that you want beef bones for making stock. Somehow, boiling the collagen out of bones is acceptable while scooping marrow out of bones is not. Americans still think meat comes from the Magic Styrofoam/Plastic-Wrap Meat Factory in the sky. But I digress...
  • For sauteing
    • 1 Tablespoon of oil
    • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • For the wine reduction
    • ¼ cup of white wine
    • ½ cup of strong, dark veal or beef stock. Or crappy, store-bought stuff
    • 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard
    • Another tablespoon of butter (butter, butter, butter!)
  • For the garnish
    • Some finely chopped parsley and/or thyme to sprinkle on the plate
  • Side dish
    • 1 side dish of your choice. If making potatoes, consider prepping or cooking the dish the night before so it’s a snap to heat up for dinner.


  • Prep
    • Put some music on. Cooking should be fun.
    • Grab the right saute pan. You want a heavy-bottomed pan for searing the meat. You also want a pan that’s not too small or your sauce will take forever to reduce.
    • Put some plates in a warm place. There’s nothing worse than a cold plate instantly cooling off your hard work.
    • Pull the meat and bones out of the refrigerator. Leave the meat in the wrapper and let it warm up while you’re prepping the marrow. Cold meat just doesn’t brown well. If leaving the meat out for 30 minutes bothers you, you probably don’t want to know what happens at the Magic Styrofoam Meat Factory in the Sky. Consider tofu instead for dinner.
    • If you’re really adventurous, take the meat out of the wrapper, wash it, dry it thoroughly, and generously season the meat with salt and pepper. You can cover it lightly with foil if it makes you feel better. Not adventurous? Season the meat before you sear it, below.
    • Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Do this next or you’ll be stuck waiting for your oven to warm up after you’ve seared your meat.
    • Soak the bones in a glass bowl  with water and some ice. Leave the bones in the water for 20 minutes and we’ll get back to them.
  • Beverage!
    • During your wait, wash your hands thoroughly and then go make yourself a nice adult beverage. You’ve earned it. Alternatively, this is a good time to prep your vegetables or start a side-dish.
  • Prepare the marrow
    • Now that you’re mildly buzzed, let’s get at that marrow before the high-temperature pyrotechnics. Get rid of that nasty marrow water, and add fresh water with ice to the bones. Try pushing the marrow out of the bone. If the marrow won’t come out, your bones are too cold and you’ll have to wait. If you’re impatient, dump the ice water and add room temperature water (not warm or hot!) until you can push the marrow out. Dump that water and immediately replace it with water and ice. Hold the marrow in the water and ice until you’re ready to use it. Absolutely, positively do not taunt your marrow with a warm environment.
  • Sear the meat
    • Add a tablespoon of oil to your saute pan and heat over high heat (if cast-iron or enameled cast-iron, heat over medium heat and wait longer so your pan heats up evenly). Once the oil is hot, add the butter and wait for the foam to subside. Add one or two steaks at a time, but don’t overcrowd the pan with the meat or you’ll cool the pan off and end up steaming the meat instead of browning it. Cook the steaks for around 2 minutes on each side, flip the steak over, repeat, and then move the steak to a plate before continuing. Resist the temptation to peak at the meat every 10 seconds. Leave it alone and check it at the one minute mark. Note: watch the temperature of the pan when moving steaks in and out. Wait too long and you’ll smoke your butter and oil which will lead to a very fun clean-up job later (try to angle for the I’ll-cook-you-clean deal until you get the hang of this). Add the cold meat too quickly and the pan won’t be ready to brown. Just kind of eye-ball it and you’ll get used to the rhythm. Listen to the pan and smell it so you know when it’s ready. The pan should sizzle without smelling burnt (ugh!). If you have a professional stove, we’re talking seconds between removing and adding. Otherwise, you’re looking at a waiting, listening, and smelling. Also, a good time for a few more sips of an adult beverage.
    • Set the pan aside but do not wash it. We’ll be making a sauce with it in a few minutes, once the meat and marrow are in the oven.
    • Drain your bone marrow and add it to the roasting pan along with the steaks. Place the pan in the oven for around 8-10 minutes for medium rare, depending on the thickness of your steak. If you’re picky about how your steak is cooked, stick a remote temperature probe in the thickest part of meat cook until 145 degrees before removing and letting it rest. Why ruin 24 ounces of good meat with a rough time estimate?
  • Mostly make your sauce
    • Put your saute pan with all the good browned bits back on a high heat and stir in the wine. Make sure the pan is a little hot before you add the wine but don’t let anything in the pan burn. Scrape up all the good brown bits with your spoon while the wine reduces. Reduce the wine by half and stir in your super-awesome-home-made-stock. Ain’t got that? Stir in some over-salty, flavor-less, watered-down, crappy stock from a can or box. Consider adding more wine to cover up the taste of that putrid stock.
    • Reduce by half
  • Remove the Meat and Finish the Marrow
    • Pull the meat out of the oven when it’s done and let it rest on a plate in a warm place.
    • Put the marrow back into the oven let it cook for another 6-10 minutes until it’s cooked thoroughly through (no pink whatsoever).
    • Don’t forget about your marrow while you’re obsessing over your sauce, below. Set a timer.
    • Add any juices from the resting meat to your sauce
  • Finish the sauce
    • Once your sauce has reduced, whisk in a tablespoon of butter to the sauce and then remove from the heat. Whisk in the mustard, taste your sauce and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
  • Plate
    • Once the marrow is done, add the rested steaks to a warm plate along with the marrow. Spoon the sauce over the steak (don’t go bananas with the sauce or you’ll have a soupy marrow mess on your hands) and sprinkle some coarse-grain salt over the marrow. I like to crumble some finely chopped parsley and thyme over mine.
    • Enjoy! And, consider having that tofu or a salad tomorrow to balance out this meal.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maple Dijon Glaze

There's something fantastic about a glazed ham around the holiday. Plus a glaze is super easy.

Here's a glaze that I really like with a smoked ham. It's not bad on a fresh ham either but the smokiness of ham mixed with the maple, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard is awesome.


1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of whole-grain Dijon mustard


Add all the ingredients to a sauce-pan. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Remove from heat once the glaze starts bubbling and apply the glaze to your cooked ham with a pastry brush. Let the glaze set for a few minutes before carving.

I usually add the glaze after the ham has rested for a few minutes (pulling the foil-tented ham out of the oven when the probe reaches 145 degrees and letting the ham rest until it reaches 160). The glaze sets as the ham rests. Don't apply the glaze right away or the steam from the ham will just run the glaze right down the sides.

Once your ham has cooled a bit on the outside, use your meat probe to poke a bunch of vertical holes into your ham if you like. It makes the slices look a little funky but the glaze penetrates farther down into the meat.