During a recent visit to Lucky 3 Farm in Louisburg, I picked up a couple of smaller steaks that were new beef cuts for me. The land has been in the family for at least 4 generations and comes complete with a family graveyard. The beef herd is small at just over 20 and it’s completely 100% pasture raised so the flavor is quite different from what you get with grain-fed cattle. A lot of attention is paid to each pasture, encouraging the most beneficial greens for the herd to thrive and trees for ample shade. The family raises their herd in a stress-free environment in the quiet rolling meadows of Franklin County without the use of hormones and antibiotics.
The cuts of beef I brought home should appeal to the consumer on a couple of levels. First, they take the traditional roast cuts that are flavorful, but large and require a long time cooking, and replace them with smaller “steak” size cuts from the same section that require less than half the cook time and a lot less storage space in your freezer. These smaller cuts are designed to easily feed two people, or one if you like leftovers or you’re just a huge carnivore. They are much less expensive than the tenderloin cuts, so they’ll fit into your budget more readily, being just over the cost of hamburger. And lastly, being grass-fed, they pack more nutrients and are leaner than what you’ll find at your grocery store.
They still require a little preparation to reap the full benefit of the flavor locked inside; but nothing a starting cook can’t manage. I did a little research and found several sites that gave good explanations of the cuts as well as cooking methods and recipes. Following those suggestions, I decided to use a shortcut for one of my favorite Julia Child recipes (brisket).
My research indicated that the Beef Bottom Round Steak would be best if seared on both sides and slow cooked with moisture to tenderize the steak. Well it’s small at just about a pound of meat so I was concerned about overcooking it on the initial sear. An enameled cast iron dutch oven allows you to get the pot hot, but reduce and simmer your beef once you’re finished searing. Normally I would allow a large roast to come close to room temperature so the interior portion of the meat wasn’t so cold that it cooked unevenly. With a 1″ thick steak cut I decided to take the steak straight from the refrigerator to the pan so I wouldn’t start the interior cooking while I was searing.Using just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and seasoning the meat with a little salt and pepper, I got a great crust on the little steak in just a couple of minutes and the interior temperature remained slightly chilled.
Once the searing was complete (and you can add a little olive oil when you turn the beef over if the pot looks dry), I pulled the meat out for a minute and threw in about a cup of sliced sweet onions to sear. Then I put the meat back in and added 2 cups of roasted tomatoes that were left from a previous recipe. This is really close to the Julia Child method I’ve used for years when cooking a brisket.
I set the smallest burner on low and covered the pot. I checked and stirred the mixture about every 30 minutes to make sure it wasn’t burning. Normally I would cook this in the oven, but using the very smallest of my dutch ovens, it seemed like a waste. It’s also good to know you could take this camping (or demo at a farmers’ market!) and cook it on a small grill.
After the first hour, I started checking the meat with a fork for tenderness. It was already cooked all the way through, but like a roast, I assumed it would get better with time. Around the 2 hour mark it was clearly tender so I turned off the burner and left the pot covered while I finished cooking the rest of the meal. That took about thirty minutes and the meat was clearly able to shred at the point where it was served. If you decided to use a bbq recipe instead, you would have an awesome sandwich base!
The nice thing about fresh pasture raised beef is that it’s lean and full of flavor. This cut was no exception and it makes a great dinner for two without much effort. If you don’t have roasted tomatoes at home in your freezer, you can use a 15 oz can of roasted tomatoes and add in thyme, rosemary, oregano, and garlic to achieve something similar. I would chop the tomatoes if you they aren’t already and if you have any carrots or celery on hand, maybe a 1/4 cup of each would add some additional flavor.
Beef Bottom Round Steak
- 1 lb Beef Bottom Round Steak
- 2 cups roasted tomato sauce (or 15 ounce can roasted tomatoes)
- 1 cup sliced sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon Italian spice blend
- 1/4 cup chopped carrots, 1 4/ cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Season the beef on both sides, minimally with salt & pepper.
- Using a dutch oven ( small about 6″ diameter x 4″ high), heat some olive oil on med/high heat.
- Sear the beef on both sides on med/high heat without burning.
- Remove the beef and add the onions ( & garlic) and cook for a minute or two.
- Add the beef back into the pot and cover with tomatoes and any additional vegetables or herbs.
- Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, checking to make sure it’s not burning.
- After 2 hours, check the meat with a fork to make sure it’s as tender as you like. You can continue to cook for another 30 minutes or just cover and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before serving.
- Puree the vegetables to make a smooth sauce. No thickening agent is required.