I think of my sophomore year of college as The Year of The Chicken Stir-Fry. This marked a slight improvement from freshman year, in which I bought and consumed a truly horrific amount of rotating rotisserie chickens and stagnant lemon-pepper chicken breasts from the nearby épicerie [French for “grocery store”].
By junior year I managed to graduate from bottom-of-the-barrel housing, and took full advantage of the forgotten and not quite fully equipped kitchenette down the hall from my single. Five nights out of seven in that closet of a kitchen, you could find me coaxing a tired and temperamental oven into letting me bake my chicken [instead of buying it pre-made or pan-frying it].
By senior year, even with two additional ways to work with chicken breasts the size of Texas [poaching and slow-cooking/shredding] under my belt, I never wanted to see another package of chicken again.
Although I’m not pinching pennies quite the way I once was, and despite the fact that fish, turkey, steak, ground beef, bison, pork, and lamb now regularly grace my kitchen table, chicken has remained just as much of a staple as milk and eggs. It’s an everyday food – one that is readily available, relatively cheap, and really easy to work with. Lately my boyfriend and I have taken to letting the George Foreman grill do most of the legwork while we settle on the spices and sides. But as satisfying as these simple meals can be, we’re both equally eager to put another protein in the spotlight after a couple of days.
Last week, after a quick inventory of the fridge, we hauled out the Dutch oven and lit up the grill to make spicy beef and bell peppers for lunch. I tracked down the spices for the seasoning [mustard seed, red chili flakes, thyme, pepper, salt] while he manned the cutting board.
Our combined efforts produced a kaleidoscope of colors, and he left me to my game of choose-the-best-filter in order to keep an eye on the meat. I’ve gotten used to the way he proudly pronounces red meat as “done!” in little more than un clin d’œil [French for “a blink of an eye”].
We decided to sear the meat outside on the grill [mostly simply because we could, now that the deck is no longer buried in snow!] before combining it with the simmering vegetables inside…but largely because I’m a wimpy American and can’t help but cringe at the sight of a crimson cross-section of beef.
My boyfriend ended up with the lion’s share [no surprise there] of this dish, but he had some stiff competition this time. I happen to love the heat from red chili flakes and the richness from beef broth and red wine, especially over a bland grain like brown rice.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did wind up pining for just a little bit more piquancy from the the garlic and mustard. In the future, I’d also bypass the manager’s special beef chuck shoulder London broil and spring for a less chewy cut of meat. Should’ve listened to Mom!
Anyway, this is admittedly more of an elaborate lunch than a chicken sandwich or salad, but doesn’t everybody need a break from flipping through 365 Ways to Cook Chicken?
Recipe [Serves 4 to 5]
1 lb beef chuck, fat removed
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, grated
3 bell peppers, cut into 1-2 inch strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup beef broth / water
¼ cup red wine
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp + red chili flakes [to taste]
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground black pepper
¾ tsp salt or more
Fire up the grill on high heat.
Cut away the fat from the beef chuck, set aside.
While the grill heats, prepare the onions, carrots, peppers, and garlic.
Add coconut oil to a Dutch oven inside and sauté the onions and carrots on medium heat.
Not long after, add the carrots and garlic and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Outside, grill the meat, flipping it only once, until it’s nicely seared on both sides. It should still be petrifyingly raw on the inside.
Remove the meat from the grill and cut it against the grain into thin strips.
Deglaze the Dutch oven with the beef broth and red wine.
Add spices to the pot, and once the vegetables are nearly cooked the way you like them, add the grilled strips of meat.
Let everything simmer until the vegetables have reached desired consistency and the meat has reached desired doneness.
Taste and adjust the seasoning (salt).
Serve over brown rice.
Adapted from Let the Baking Begin