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Aug 1, 2013 08:13 AM

I need ideas to add depth to a beef dish...

I may be hip deep right now in baking and taco bar prep for this weekend, but having made this for myself a few days ago, I could use some ideas!

There's a dish I make for myself frequently. I saute onions and mushrooms in butter till soft and golden, but not really caramelized. Oh, a bit of garlic in there, too, but just a little. I remove the veg and then add either thinly sliced chicken, pork or beef. When that's finished, I add back the mushrooms/onions, then heavy cream and a bit of Better than Bouillon, chicken if chicken or pork, beef if beef. Let it all reduce then serve over whatever I'm in the mood for.

Now, here's the problem. If I use pork or chicken, I also add thyme and maybe a bit of mustard. I don't like the thyme/mustard with beef but haven't come up with anything else. I mean, it's good as is but I'd like an extra level of flavor.

Maybe a bit of tomato paste? Horseradish? Chopped parsley? Most herbs don't really go with beef (for my palate.)


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  1. Don't hit me if I say anchovies? Melted into the sauce?

    4 Replies
    1. re: pinehurst

      No hits at all - I've been wanting to try that trick and good call, this might be the perfect opportunity!

      1. re: pinehurst

        I double recommend! It won't taste fishy at all and anchovies seem to make everything better.

          1. re: pinehurst

            Yup, I used it in a brisket just the other day and the sauce was better than the meat. Anchovies are one of the umami powerhouses.

            Just don't tell the ninnies there are anchovies, they'll never know to tell you how much they don't like anchovies.

          2. Try one anise star. It will add a bunch of depth.

            5 Replies
            1. re: primebeefisgood

              Interesting. Does it actually taste of anise or is that just the name? I don't think I've ever had it unless it was, like in this, hidden in the ingredients.

              1. re: Violatp

                You may have tasted a hint of it in Pho, and no, it really isn't that foreign a flavor. I think you'd like it if used sparingly.

                1. re: primebeefisgood

                  I second this recommendation, it ups the beefy flavour as does fish sauce, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, tomato paste...

                  1. re: primebeefisgood

                    I'll pick some up to have on hand next time I make this!

                    1. re: primebeefisgood

                      This is an interesting recommendation, but I'd underscore the "use sparingly" part. I love Pho and use star anise there. But you'd have to use VERY little to avoid having it remain a distinctive, discernible flavoring element. It's powerful stuff. Presumably, the degree of freshness is a factor, as well.

                      I'd liken it to black cardamon in its flavoring power.

                  1. re: Njchicaa

                    I don't like red wine, but I have used it in beef stew before so maybe having a bottle around for cooking use would work...

                    1. re: Violatp

                      I don't drink wine but I love cooking with it.

                      1. re: Njchicaa

                        I agree, I don't drink wine either but love to cook with it. It doesn't leave an alcohol flavor at all and adds richness and additional complexity to the dish.

                    2. re: Njchicaa

                      And try this -- I learned this from a Graham Kerr book. Saute the tomato paste until it starts to color and stick a bit. Then add the broth or wine. It adds amazing depth of flavor.

                      1. re: jmckee

                        Yup. When I was brainstorming on my own and thinking tomato paste, I was thinking to add it to the pan when I sauteed the beef. I don't crowd the pan, so there's plenty of room to cook the paste, so to speak.

                        1. re: jmckee

                          Yea, great tip! I always saute until slightly browned and no longer smells "tomato-ey"

                        2. re: Njchicaa

                          remember that there are flavor compounds that are only soluble in alcohol (there are also water-soluble and oil-soluble flavor compounds) a splash of red wine in the beef, or a splash of sherry or white wine in the chicken/pork will release those extra flavors. (do make sure you use "real" wine or wine and cooking sherry are vile imposters.)

                          Lots of sauce have wine in them -- it tastes completely different in a dish than it will ever taste in a glass.

                          I'd head for tomato paste and wine, too.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            meant to can add beer (for beef stew, a heavier ale, porter, or stout would stand up to the bigger flavors more capably) if you just can't resign yourself to wine.

                          2. you could try some sherri, or a splash of balsamic at the very end (off the burner).
                            agree with others about the anchovy. Also some Worcestershire or soy sauce would help. Maybe a bit of paprika?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cleopatra999

                              I never have sherry, but I could see balsamic - that's a good one, too! Paprika, cool, I always have that.

                              These are great ideas, everyone, thanks!!

                              1. re: Violatp

                                sherry is much more shelf-stable than wine. the latter will go off in just a couple of days unless you use it quickly.

                            2. I would switch around the steps of your preparation a bit. When you add meat on top of mushrooms, you are steaming the meat with the vegetables instead getting a good brown on it.

                              Instead, sear the meat in the hot pan first, and then set it aside. Make an effort to build up a brown crust or 'fond' in the pan when you are cooking the meat. This can be deglazed with the fluids released from cooking the mushrooms and onions and will add a lot of flavor to the final sauce. When you reintroduce the browned meat into the pan, add a few dashes of Maggi seasoning, fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce; basically any high-MSG condiment will add to the 'meatiness' of the dish. When the cream sauce comes together at the end, finish with a splash of a neutral-tasting acid like rice vinegar or lemon juice. This wakes up the tongue and brings out the flavors of rich sauces.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                I like your idea but let me clarify. While I do cook the onions/mushrooms first, I remove them from the pan before cooking the meat. And even though I whine to myself about the separate steps, if I have a certain amount, I do cook the meat in batches precisely so it does sear off nicely.

                                When I add the onions.mushrooms back, there is always a certain amount of liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl and that works really well to release the fond the meat has created.

                                I'm not sure why I do it this way, except that the onions/mushrooms take longer to cook than the meat? Or just habit for this particular dish.

                                Maggi seasoning is a good call. I love that stuff. Well, I just love MSG. Ha!

                                1. re: Violatp

                                  Sounds like you have the basics down pat. What cut of meat are you using?

                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                    Usually sirloin. Sometimes boneless short ribs if they look good.