Thursday, March 14, 2013

Make: Creole Beef with Rice

Food has always been an integral part of cubes's and my relationship. With the arrival of Gates, we've been more likely to order in than make the effort to cook. Last week marked the end of that trend.
What's for Dinner? Creole Beef with Rice or Lightening Stew
Tallying up delivery expenses and considering the number of times orders have been short or flat out wrong changed my thinking. (Participating in a HavenotWant Challenge and reading And Then We Saved also has me hyper-focused on eliminating unnecessary expenses.) I kicked off our renewed focus on home cooking with a mini-pantry challenge, whipping up a three-bean soup, chicken with capers and pine nut pasta, and an enchilada bake. When I went grocery shopping on Monday, I had a budget and a general idea of what we'd be eating for the week.
One of the proteins I picked up was ground sirloin. I typically make one of three things with it: tacos, a Bolognese sauce with spaghetti or angel hair pasts, or a "chili." This week I wanted to try something different, so I dove into my cookbooks for inspiration. It came down to two recipes: Creole Beef with Rice and Lightening Stew.
Right now recipes need to satisfy three criteria: budget friendly, super easy to make, and flavorful. Here's how Swift & Company's Creole Beef with Rice did:
  • Effort: Super easy. Was able to whip it up right after Gates went to bed and still eat at a reasonable time. All said, it was faster than if we had ordered in.
  • Cost: $7.00 for 4 servings, or $1.75 a person. At this price, I think I would "splurge" on meat from Bi-Rite Market or Whole Foods. Grass-fed beef tends to be more flavorful and won't break the bank.
  • Taste: Underwhelming. The ratio of spices called for is out of balance to the tomatoes and flour. I bumped up the Worcestershire sauce to a Tablespoon and added a teaspoon of Garlic Salt but that still wasn't enough. The recipe calls for browning the beef in lard; I didn't do that. I thought about it (I have bacon fat in the fridge for this very purpose), but decided against it. The dish definitely would have benefited from the flavor. I should also have substituted wine for all or half of the water.
Because the meal was not exciting to the taste buds, both cubes and I were left unsatisfied. We were full, but we were left wanting something more. Watching the season finale of The Taste did not help. Had I been on The Taste, and sent up a bite from this dish, I would have been asked to leave the kitchen.
Creole Beef with Rice for Two
While I was cooking, I knew the flavor profile was off. I adjusted it somewhat because I wasn't sure exactly what the dish was missing. In my mind, I kept coming back to Jumbalaya and Gumbo, but couldn't separate the flavors imparted from the seafood from the individual spices. So, during commercial breaks, I looked into what people were including in "modern" Creole seasoning blends.
Here are the common ratios of spices for Creole seasoning:
  • 5 Paprika
  • 1 to 2 Garlic Powder
  • 1 to 2 Onion Powder
  • 2 Basil
  • 1 to 2 Oregano
  • 1 Thyme
  • 1 Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Black Pepper
  • 1 White Pepper
I discovered I was on the right track with the garlic. I also should have gone with my instincts, and added oregano and thyme when I was cooking.
Because this recipe scored a 2 out of 3, I'll definitely be making it again with the creole spice blend.
Where do you go for dinner inspiration?
Bon Appetit!
References: Michelle McRaney of Mr. B's Bistro's Creole Seasoning; Nola Cuisine's Creole Seasoning Recipe; and Chuck Taggart's Creole Seasoning.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.