Sunday, December 6, 2015

Grass-Fed Cube Steak Paprikash

Not all braising cuts require hours and hours of slow and low simmering.  For a braised dish that needs to stew for less than an hour, look no further than the cube steak.
North Woods Ranch Cube Steak
These "steaks" are actually cut from the top and bottom round of the cow.  Normally cuts from the back and hips of the animal are very tough, but the "cubing" action severs the tough fibers and sinew of the meat.  To make these steaks, the butcher passes thin cutlets through a roller equipped with dozens of narrow blades that punch through the meat and give it a surface filled with cubes.  Along with tenderizing, this process also increases the surface area of the meat, helping the cube steaks to cook quicker than a dense, whole muscle roast.
Cube steak is generally braised in a small amount of liquid, which soaks into all the nooks and crannies of the meat.  For this dish, I chose to do a Hungarian style paprikash.  As the name implies paprika is a big component of this dish, so make sure your paprika is fresh and not some ancient jar from six years ago.
Some people like to dust these steaks in flour to help with browning and thickening the sauce, but I skip the flour.  Along with paprika, Hungarian recipes often use sour cream, so I thicken the sauce with two tablespoons of sour cream.
Brown the steaks in hot butter on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Once the steaks are browned, set them aside and add sliced onions and quartered mushrooms to the hot pan (adding additional butter if needed).  The moisture from the vegetables will help deglaze the beef drippings, so be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan well.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until the onions are browned and the mushrooms have given up their moisture.
Add the meat back to the skillet along with some minced garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of sweet paprika.  Toss to coat everything in the paprika, then add two cups of beef stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45-60 minutes.  Note that other cube steak recipes will say 20-30 minutes, but with grass-fed beef you need to give it a bit more time to coax out the tenderness and rich flavor of the meat.
Right before serving, add two tablespoons of sour cream to the pot and whisk to combine.  Serve over roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles.

Recipe at a Glance:
2 lbs North Woods Ranch Cube Steak
3 tbsp butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
12 oz container white button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup sweet paprika (you can also add 1 tsp of hot paprika to perk up the dish)
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp sour cream (or more for a thicker sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat up a deep skillet and add two cubes of butter.  When the butter is sizzling, add the steaks and season with salt and pepper.  Brown on both sides, about 2 minutes a side.  Remove the browned steaks and set aside.  Add the last cube of butter and all the onions and mushrooms.

Cook down the mushrooms and onions for about 10 minutes.  Add the beef back to the skillet, along with the paprika, garlic, and thyme.  Toss the ingredients together to coat with paprika, then add the beef broth, again scraping up the bottom of the pan.

Cover the pan, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 45-60 minutes, until the beef is tender.

When the beef is tender, whisk in the sour cream.  Serve and enjoy!