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Beef and Veal Recipes
I would guess that we eat more beef in this house than any other meat, with chicken and pork running close behind, and I'm not sure in what order. After that comes fish, and then an occasional lamb dish, and I can't even remember the last time I fixed veal. There aren't any veal recipes here now, but I'll probably add some in the future. In the meantime, if you want some Veal Parmesan, or Veal Marsala, do what I do -- use chicken.
Some veal folks may be upset about that, but chicken does make a fairly good dish when cooked like veal. A few years ago a couple of well-known San Diego restaurants got busted for serving their veal dishes made with chicken. Veal is young beef, more tender, less fat, more expensive, and blander in flavor than beef. And the mild flavor is why you can get by with chicken in some highly flavored dishes.
On the right is a photo of an elegant dish made with a very inexpensive cut of beef--hamburger. This Salisbury Steak recipe makes the humble burger patty into something special.
Cuts of beef you'll see are mainly roasts, steaks (which would be chops if they were pork or lamb), and ribs. The names of the cuts can be confusing, and are not necessarily the same in all parts of the country, let alone the world.
Quality of beef is regulated by the government, and is graded by the amount of fat it contains. Beef that has a higher fat content is more tender and flavorful, and gets the rating of "Prime". Prime beef is seldom found in supermarkets because restaurants and specialty butcher shops buy most of it. It is also more expensive than the other grades. (The outstanding exception: hamburger. More fat and flavor is cheaper!)
These are the official FDA meat quality grades:
The grades you find in the markets are usually "Choice" or "Select". That's about the lowest grade you'll find in the market. Some markets have their own names for their beef, like "Cattlemen's Pride" or something. These are not the official grades, and if you can't find the grade on the package, just ask.
To buy beef, you also need to know what it is you plan to do with it. Certain cuts are more or less tender, and need to be cooked differently. There's a reason steaks are more expensive than other cuts. For a given grade, they are more tender, and can be cooked quickly to be rare or medium rare and still be pleasant to eat. Other tougher cuts need to be cooked longer, so that the collagen fibers can be broken down with prolonged heat to tenderize them. In addition there chemical ways to tenderize meat using enzymes, like papaya extract, that disassemble the molecules, and mechanical ways such as pounding and perforating.
Quick methods, like grilling, frying, and broiling are suitable for steaks and ribs.
Flank steak needs treatment by any or all of the tenderizing methods to be suitable for quick cooking methods, but skirt steak, which is similar but from a different part of the animal, is very tasty and tender and can be treated like other steaks.
Barbequing, which is different from grilling, is suitable for brisket, because the cooking is slow enough to tenderize the meat.
Longer methods, like braising, stewing, and roasting are for roasts, stews, and for less tender cuts of meat.
Please visit the Methods section for more details.
Here are some recipes for you to try. Don't forget; as you become more familiar with cooking and at ease in the kitchen, don't be afraid to modify things.
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