Quarantine Cooking Part 3: Ground Beef
Ground beef is meat from trimmings of larger cuts of beef which is ground into small particles. It is labeled by the name of the location from which is was taken. The percentages of lean and fat can be variable. Typically, the percentage is included on the package label. Personal choice dictates which kind of ground meat one selects at the grocery or butcher shop. Some people like the very lean selections. At our house we prefer 80/20 (80% lean and 20% fat). We feel that the fat gives it more flavor and helps to prevent it from sticking to the pan as much. The price of ground beef can vary according to the part of the cow with ground sirloin being the most expensive. We prefer ground chuck. Chuck is a tough cut for beef and that's why grinding it up before selling it is a good solution.
While still avoiding public places and continuing to have groceries delivered during the pandemic, I came upon a great sale for ground chuck 80/20! I purchased about 10 pounds, portioned it out, flash froze it and having been cooking many favorite recipes using it. If you have ever had to wait for meat to thaw before preparing it for a meal, you will appreciate my method.
With a freezer full of ground beef there are so many options for cooking. It's such a versatile food. The first option is the plain ol' Fried Hamburger. My mother who influenced many of my cooking practices, taught me to "fry" hamburgers. For this method, I simply coat the patties with flour and desired seasonings and cook them in a skillet that has had a small amount of fat added. Even with the 80/20 mix a little bit of added oil helps achieve a fried texture. It may sound odd, but try it! You will like it!
8 oz. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
½ cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry ground mustard
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
-Brown beef and drain fat.
-Return the beef to the saucepan and add onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables are tender.
-Add all other ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes.
-Serve on toasted buns or a baked potato. May be garnished with grated cheddar, chopped pickled jalapeños, sour cream to your personal taste. Serves 2.
Most of my recipes are sized to serve 2 people, except for this one: Million Dollar Spaghetti. My daughter introduced me to this recipe having shared it with us. It makes a huge amount. I searched the internet for the recipe and found about 50 versions. So this recipe is really a mash-up of lots of people's ideas. It's time consuming since there are several steps and I use marina from a jar, but I am sure it would be excellent with
a homemade sauce. When I cook this, I make 2 pans and freeze one or share it. I tried to find why it's called Million Dollar and according to my research: it's a very rich dish! Surely there is word play intended.
1 pound spaghetti noodles, broken in half
2 cups chopped yellow or white onions
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (or more to your taste)
1/2 pound Italian sausage (removed from casing)
1 pound ground beef
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
6 cups marinara (2 24 oz. jars) divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
6 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces (1stick)
Mozzarella cheese for topping
-Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, drain and stir in half of the marinara sauce. Set aside.
-Sauté the onions, garlic, sausage and ground beef until vegetables are tender and meat is no longer pink. Stir constantly while cooking. Drain excess fat...or spoon it off. Not necessary to remove all the fat. Add the rest of the marinara sauce and Italian seasoning to the meat mixture.
-Combine the cheeses and sour cream and set aside. (Check the taste as you may want to add salt. I don't since the marinara is seasoned and the sausage has salt in it as well.)
Assemble the casserole:
-Place half of the butter pieces in the bottom of a 9 inch x 13 inch casserole or two 8 inch square pans. (I use disposable aluminum pans, because most of the time, I do not serve this on the same day that I prepare it. It's a great make ahead dish.)
-Spread half of the spaghetti mixture over the butter.
-Spoon the cheese mixture over the noodles.
-Top with remaining spaghetti mixture and butter pieces.
-Next, pour the meat over the spaghetti.
-Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (can be frozen or refrigerated at this point)
* Summary of layers: butter, spaghetti, cheese, spaghetti, butter, meat sauce, mozzarella.*
Cover with foil to bake. To prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese topping, spray it with a vegetable oil spray.
To serve, bake at 350 degrees until heated through (about 45 minutes) and then remove foil. Continue to heat until mixture is bubbly and mozzarella is golden. Serves about 12 people.
Make a salad and toast some garlic bread and you have a meal!!!
Hope you enjoyed this edition of Quarantine Cooking. Watch for the 4th edition coming soon.