An Introduction Perfect Pairings, Part I Beef
An Introduction Perfect Pairings, Part I
We have talked a little bit before about the idea of pairing different spices, and sharing different ideas as it is related to food, serving food, and preparing food. But we have not, as of yet, talked much at all about pairing! Honestly, what good is a juicy burger, succulent steak, stuffed pork chop, or perfectly marinated chicken without a collection of sides and drinks?
Yes, we are posting a day late today – it is August, in a tourist city, and this is very busy for all of us. That being said, we are going to get a little bit better about keeping to our normal schedule.
We do hope that you are enjoying your weekend – only a few barbecue weekends are left in 2019, so take advantage!
So, we are going to talk about food pairings for a couple of weeks. Now, it is important to note that the order we are presenting things in is not what you would consider the proper order in fine dining, but it is what you would expect in the typical American household; salad first, followed by soup and appetizers, your main course, and dessert.
Again, we know this is *technically* the wrong approach (salad is serve last in fine dining), but this is just to get your mind going,
To get you excited…
And to show you how much more is available to you when you are serving your perfectly prepared meat.
Let’s move on – this week we start with the granddaddy of meat; beef!
Beef is heavy, its fatty, and it has a very sharp flavor that you do not want to tame by serving other items that are more flavorful in any way. This does not mean that everything else that is served should be bland, but the meat needs to remain the star, and this is best accomplished by offering subtle flavors with the remainder of your dishes.
Often when beef or steak is concerned, the idea of less is more is especially helpful with salad. While we are sure that most of us have been places where you get offered a Caesar salad or a Cobb salad, the fact is that when beef is going to be coming to your table nothing beats a simple garden salad.
While most people scoff at iceberg lettuce as being little more than crunchy water, in this case it can be your friend. Serve a simple salad comprised of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and maybe some croutons, and offer a selection of light dressings. While you might find this a bit boring, it will suit well as a precursor to a heavier meal.
While one of the things that we have been stressing with serving beef is to not overdo strong flavors, this is going to be a bit of an exception. French Onion Soup, with its color, bite, onion flavor, gruyere cheese, and other local seasonings that may be offered, this dish always goes well when you know that beef is going to be served with dinner. In addition, while most people will elect to serve salad first (if they are not doing fine dining), if you are going to serve a French Onion Soup, serve the soup first so that the salad acts as a palate cleanser.
Other options for a milder flavor would be a vegetable minestrone (if you are going for Italian), or a light seafood chowder will go as a complement due to the contrasting flavors.
This is a loaded question… when you are considering bread as an aside with beef, you have to consider how the beef is served and what sauces are going to go with it. If you have a burger, your bun will be the bread, obviously.
If you are serving a beef bourgeon then you will want something light and airy to help and soak up the sauces.
And this list does go on and on!
Generally, with beef, if you are having something that is sauce heavy you will want a light bread, like Italian, classic white, a crusty French baguette, or something similar. If you are having something light in sauce, you might want to try a heavier wheat bread, or a dense sourdough bread.
This is simple… when you are having beef, as long as you did not have a seafood chowder as your soup, serving seafood always makes a good appetizer! This can be shrimp cocktail, or steamed mussels… or if someone is willing to wait on their appetizer, running a “surf and turf” by serving a lobster tail or crab legs with your steak. Especially… if it is a sirloin or a prime rib!
If you decide that you do want to serve the seafood chowder, then you will want to shy away from serving seafood with the rest of the meal, then question if you had the French Onion Soup. If not, then a side of fried cheese bites or a cheese platter goes well. If these options are not available as a result of the soup you selected, then lightly fried onion petals are a wonderful selection.
Beef is so complicated that you could really do almost anything here… just be sure to not overdo any one flavor, as this will unbalance your meal and leave people dissatisfied with their main course.
With your main course being beef, you will normally want something with a little tang to cut through the heaviness that is present within the meat.
Do I need to say it? Do I?
When I say steak… you say…
There are other options, but a potato is a given choice to go with beef. Whether you decide to bake the potato and serve it with sour cream and bacon, serve it mashed and loaded with roast garlic, or decide that you are doing a dish that is a little more unique, so you want to serve fried dill potatoes… serve potatoes!
Having a burger? French fries are essential!
This one is essentially non-negotiable. The only way you can get around this is if you are using something that is slathered in some type of an ethnic sauce; you could use pasta with Italian food, or you could use rice or lo mein (or the proper national equivalent) with an Asian dish.
But, really… think about beef stew… its loaded with potatoes.
Just do the potatoes (unless you are serving ethnic food). You are your guests will be thankful!
While there are a lot of vegetables that will go well with steak, we opt to go with something that has a radically different texture than steak or beef and pairs well with it and potatoes (see what we did there?).
Your best bet is normally going to be broccoli. Whether the broccoli is steamed, roasted, or served au gratin, it just goes well with beef and potatoes. If you are doing a classic beef or steak, broccoli will go well. If you are doing something a little different, do not be afraid to go with something a little different!
Other great examples would be cauliflower, light summer vegetables, or green beans.
Steak and potatoes are very heavy, and you have probably already eaten a lot of other good foods, so you will want to have a dessert that is lighter than in most other cases. I can’t even tell you how many times I had a huge chocolate cake, or a cheesecake after a large beef meal… and I regretted it horribly.
Lighter desserts that will go with your penchant for sweetness after a heavy meal will be strawberry shortcake (use chiffon cake instead of biscuits in this instance), key lime pie, or raspberry tarts. The theme is natural sweetness through fruit.
These fruit-based desserts will make a wonderful complement without ruining the end of the meal with the feeling of excessive overfullness.
Wine can go amazingly well with beef and steak. I know a great number of people that do not like wine, but they will not hesitate to pair the right kind with the right kind of red meat.
Modern science has demonstrated in lab tests that white wine and red wine can both be served with red meat…
We say no… we are not fans of white wine with beef dishes.
We say red wine, or maybe a rosé wine in some cases will pair well with red meat.
If you are having a higher fat cut, such as prime rib or rib eye, go for a drier wine such as cabernet, merlot, or a sauvignon.
If your meat is lighter in fat, then you might want to consider something that is a little sweeter. These options would be best considered as pinot noir, sangiovese, or a lovely Malbec would make a good pairing. Experiment and find out what you like, but make sure to go with something that works with the flavor of the meat.
And, if you must try a white… you can try a zinfandel with your steak… based on scientific studies in labs.
(We still don’t recommend the zinfandel…)
Beer is often heavy, which can make it difficult to serve with a heavier meal of steak and potatoes. However, if you are having a burger, then a beer of pretty much any kind is a natural choice. Just, make sure it’s the best beer for you and your tastes if you go in that direction.
If you are having a fattier cur of meat, you will want to have a pale ale, or a pilsner; something light to offer a complement to the fattier meat.
If you elect to go with a lighter cut of meat, you should consider a strong stout, or a lager.
That is that!
We covered a lot of stuff in here with beef pairings. For a couple weeks, we will post one of these a week for you. Again, this is not a list of recipes, it does not consider fine dining, and it is not a complete list of possibilities – this is just to get you thinking about the endless possibilities you have to please others’ palates!
Thanks for joining, and tune in next time! If you really like what is being presented here, let us know! We can write books and provide more information about pairings, fine dining, and other aspects of your food and meat preparation.
Stay in touch, and we look forward to a continued conversation!