Spiced Beef & Lentils
Packed with plant AND animal based proteins, this Spiced Beef & Lentils is straight grass-fed goodness.Serves: 2-4
Prep: 15 mins; overnight marinate.
Cook: 40 min
T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon
1 lb BRD beef steak; New York Strip, Top Sirloin, Blade Steak, Skirt, Flank, etc; cut into 1/2” thick pieces
1 T coriander seeds
1 T fennel seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 T paprika
1/2 T sumac
2 t Aleppo pepper; crushed red pepper flakes will work also, but lessen to 1 t.
Salt/Pepper2 T cooking oil
1 onion; small dice
1 cup green lentils
2 bay leaves
1 cup white wine
3-5 cups BRD chicken broth; or homemade. Avoid the boxed stuff at the store. If you have to buy from the store, get Better Than Bouillon paste.
3 tomatoes; Roma, Early Girl or other firm seasonal variety.
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves; pulled and torn from the stems, not chopped.Pairing knife
Widest Cast Iron Skillet you have
Spice grinder or mortar/pestle.
3 qt sauce pot
1 small bowl
1 med bowl
1 large bowl
Air-tight bag or container. A vacuum sealer is ideal here, but very optional.
Marinate Meat - 24 hrs before
- Thaw meat in fridge 90% of the way. It should still be firm and very cold to the touch, but not too hard to cut through. This allows you to make really clean, even cuts and is important for achieving consistency across all pieces when cooking.
- Peel and crush garlic then place into the vessel you will be marinating in. Add the olive oil, paprika, sumac, Aleppo pepper and thyme.
- Heat skillet over med-low heat and add in the fennel and coriander seeds along with the cinnamon stick into the dry pan and toast while stirring until you hear some pops and can smell the spices. They will start to take on color but they shouldn’t brown or burn. If they do burn, start over. Proper toasting should take 5 or so minutes if added to a preheated skillet.
- Remove the cinnamon stick to the marinading vessel and add the seeds to the spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Add to marinading vessel and mix well. If you don’t have a spice grinder but have a bladed coffee grinder, you have a spice grinder. I definitely recommend buying a cheap coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices. To clean, grind bread, oatmeal or rice.
- Remove the meat from the fridge and cut into 1/2” thick strips that are no longer than 2”. Think shorter fajita strips. Pay careful attention to the grain direction of the meat. Find which direction the lines are running and cut perpendicularly to those lines. This shortens the muscle fibers and will give you soft, supple bites. With cuts like flank and skirt, the grain direction is easy to see, with new york strip or top sirloin, it can be more difficult. A trick is to cut the steak into square-like sections that are the length you are going for, in this case, 2” and look at the cross-section. If you see long lines running side to side, you will need to cut perpendicularly to that cut side. If you do not see defined lines, cut parallel to that cut side. Keep in mind that the muscle fibers will not be perfectly straight lines so you will be looking for the general direction that they are running.
- Place cut meat into the marinade and coat it well, massaging it gently to ensure complete coverage. Cover tightly and store in the fridge for 24 hrs (3 hours minimum).
Cook Lentils - the next day
- Remove the meat from the fridge and allow to come to room temp while the lentils cook.
- Dice onions, aim for about 2x the size of the uncooked lentils. Chop the tomatoes and set aside. Measure out lentils and set aside with bay leaves. Measure out white wine and set aside.
- In the 3 qt saucepan (medium sized), heat cooking oil over medium heat until it shimmers then add in diced onions. Wait a minute or two before stirring to allow the onions to begin to brown. Stir and allow to cook for another 3-4 mins.
- Add bay leaf and lentils and stir well. Reduce heat and pour in white wine and let simmer until most of the wine is absorbed/evaporated. About 10 mins when stirring frequently. Check wine level by pushing the lentil mixture to the top of the sauce pot while tilting the pot towards you and check for about a spoonful of wine left at the bottom. Less is okay, more is not as okay.
- Add in 2 cups of broth or just enough to cover the lentils. They should all be submerged but you should still be able to see them. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 mins, stirring every 5 mins. If the liquid has reduced below the lentils, add more warm broth until they are barely covered again. Taste one for texture and stop when they are firm but not hard, soft but not mushy, about 15-20 mins total.
Simmering Science: Like most legumes and seeds, raw lentils are hard and generally unpalatable due to the starches inside being dense and compacted. By simmering (cooking gently in liquid at 140℉ - 180℉), the water in the cooking liquid is absorbed through the cell membrane and begins to separate the compacted starches, resulting in swelling and softening, while displacing some starches into the liquid remaining outside the cell walls. The difference between a mushy, watery mess and a soft bite with a silky sauce is the type of cooking liquid used and in what volume.
To achieve a soft legume with a rich sauce, adding enough liquid to barely cover and maintaining that level is it is vital to soften the starches inside while not having so much liquid left that the starches that are leeched out are over-diluted. Using broth rather than water as a cooking liquid in the same manner will result in a richer sauce with a smoother mouthfeel because as the water is absorbed into the legume, the liquid left outside is thick with collagen and gelatin and when mixed with the leeched starches you get the silky sauce consistency you are after.
- When lentils are done, remove from heat and add tomatoes in a pile in the center of pot, do not stir. Cover and set aside while you cook the meat.
- While the lentils are cooking, preheat your largest cast iron skillet or other large wide pan over medium heat. Add a large pinch of salt to the marinated meat and stir well.
- Add 1 T of high temp cooking oil and allow to just begin to smoke. Place in beef strips in one layer across the pan, leaving a little bit of room between each piece. The spice mixture will cause the sear to go from dark brown to black quickly so do not walk away. Cook for 1-2 mins on each side and remove to a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the beef until done. Let rest in bowl for 3-5 mins.
- Tear off a small handful of cilantro and stir into the mix.
Finish and Serve
- Add a large pinch of salt to taste and stir the tomatoes into the lentils, heating through over low heat if needed. In a wide, shallow bowl, place 2-3 generous spoonfuls of lentils then top with beef mixture. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve.