You get what you pay for: Beef Tenderloin at Grocery Outlet

I wasn’t planning to buy beef tenderloin when I went to Grocery Outlet last week – but I saw it in the front case for just $6 a pound, and it seemed too much of a bargain to pass up. Really, I should have known better. As we say in Spanish, lo barato sale caro or what’s cheap, costs you more.

It’s grilling season for us (in other words, I’m happy to throw something on the grill this summer, but I’ve no desire to otherwise cook), so I coated the tenderloin with a herb mixture and then grilled it. I will admit that I overcooked it – it was much thinner in parts than your regular tenderloin – but that wasn’t really the problem. The quality of the beef was.

I can’t quite pinpoint what the problem was, maybe because it was a combination. The herb coating was great, but the rest of the beef lacked any beef flavor, if anything it had the offputting flavor of cheap meat (duh!). The texture was off as well, and it was just not enjoyable to eat.

My tenderloin was about 2 1/2 pounds so we ate maybe a third of it, and kept the rest as leftovers. It’s been several days, and none of us have reached out to eat the remaining. I may slice some and add it to nachos today, but the rest will go to the dog.

Lesson learned: don’t buy cheap beef.

Note: I don’t recall what brand it was, but it’s one often carried by Grocery Outlet – I’ll make a note of it next time I go.

Bottom Round is Not the Best Idea for Milanesas

I usually use thinly cut top round to make milanesas.  While the cut has an annoying fat vein in the middle, it’s very tender, the version sold by Safeway is very thin and it just works great for milanesas.

This week, however, Safeway had thinly cut bottom round at half the price as top round – so I figured that I would give it a chance and see how it worked.  The answer is that it will do in a pinch, but it’s definitely inferior to top round.

First, the “thin” bottom round steaks sold by Safeway were two to three times thicker than the top round ones.  Bottom round is a very tough cut of meat, so I beat the hell out of the meat to tenderize it.  It worked quite well, though I ended up with a blister on the side of my finger.  A larger problem was that as the cut was thicker, so were the pieces of fat/gristle in the middle of the steaks.  There weren’t too many and I try to cut them, but it made it harder to eat the milanesas in sandwiches (it’s not a big deal if you’re using fork and knife).    I also don’t think the flavor was as tasty as the top round, but the issue might also have been the olive oil I was using.

All in all, I’d use bottom round again under similar circumstances, but at full price, I definitely prefer top round.

Perfect Ribeye Roast

I’ve used this method for cooking ribeye roast (aka boneless Prime Rib) before, but as part of a bigger recipe. I figured I’d include it all by itself for easier reference. It can be served by itself or with a sauce.

These instructions are for a 6lb roast.  If yours is larger, add some additional cooking time.  This recipe takes a total of about 6 hours, but only about 5 minutes of actual active time.

  • Ribeye Roast
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • dried thyme

About six hours before your serving time, remove the roast from the fridge, uncover, dry surfaces with a smooth towel, and allow to sit uncovered at room temperature for about 3 hours.  This will dry the surface, giving it a good crust.

About 3 1/2 hours before serving time, preheat oven to 450F

Rub the roast with the pressed garlic.  Rub with kosher salt all over the surfaces. Sprinkle with black pepper and dried thyme. Put on a roasting pan and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes.  Turn down the temperature to 300F and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of about 130 F for a bright red medium-rare roast, about 90 minutes. Alternatively, once it reaches 125F, turn oven to 425F and cook for a few more minutes until it gets to 130F.

Remove from the oven. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.  Carve and serve.

Marga’s 2013 Xmas Eve Menu

Marga’s Best Recipes

Ropa Vieja Recipe

Ropa Vieja

It doesn’t look very appetizing now, does it? And its name, “old clothing” in Spanish, doesn’t make it sound like something you want to rush to eat.  And yet, this simple Cuban dish is as delicious as anything you’ll ever eat.  It takes some time to make, but it’s well worth it.

I first discovered Ropa Vieja in a copy of The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother I borrowed from the Berkeley public library. It was 1993, I was newly married and determined to cook for my husband.  That year I became a cook, a good cook if I may say so myself, and Ropa Vieja has been a favorite I’ve gone back to time after time.

I haven’t modified the original recipe much, but I have found that this dish is best served with sourdough bread.  Lots of it.


  • 3 – 4 lbs chuck roast
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves


Pat dry the roast.  Season with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat vegetable oil over high heat in a large cooking pot. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Remove roast.  Pour out and discard fat.  Return pot and beef to the stove.  Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to low and cook for 2 hours.  Turn off heat and let cool for at least an hour.

When the meat is cool, shred it into strips using your hands.  Place in a bowl and pour the broth remaining in the pot over it.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, clean lidded pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until they start to caramelize.  Add the bell pepper and cook until soft.  Add the meat, tomato sauce, wine and bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

Marga’s Cuban Recipes

Marga’s Best Recipes

Steak Diane Recipe

After 12 years (yes, 12 years), I have finally arrived at the “Fs” in my international cooking project.  And, of course, that means I must cook classic French food.  Finding classic French recipes is not as easy as it sounds – I have already explored several French regional cuisines and I don’t like repeating dishes.

I was happy when I came upon a recipe for steak Diane.  I don’t know why I immediately assumed it was a classic French recipe.  Maybe it was the name? The ingredients?  Though, as my 10-year-old daughter pointed out after a couple of bites, this dish is very close to the beef Stroganoff I’d cooked earlier in the week.  In any case, I made it, we enjoyed it, and it wasn’t until I started writing the recipe up that I took a look at its origins – only to find out that it’s an American invention.

Never mind, it was pretty easy to make and the kids enjoyed lighting the pan on fire.  Indeed, it lit on its own: the instructions said to tilt the pan away from you and light the alcohol with a match, but when I tilted it, I splashed some liquid on the burner (I have a gas stove) and suddenly the pan was ablaze.

The recipe I used came from the great Emeril Lagasse.  The key to making this dish is having each component ready and easily accessible from the stove top. I used tri-tip as it was 1/3 the price of tenderloin, but it was too tough for this cooking method (it was better on the Stroganoff, as it was thinly sliced for that recipe). I’d like to try it with tenderloin, though sirloin might be an alternative.  Instead of the “reduced veal stock” the recipe asked for, I used a combination of water/whine and stock concentrate. If you still want to have the flavor of veal, but don’t want to make the stock yourself, Cook’s Delight has a veal base. Finally, “someone” dropped my dish with the chopped parsley/green onions on the floor so I wasn’t able to serve them on the steak.  Still, it was delicious.

Steak Diane


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. beef base (such as Better than Bouillon)
  • 1 lb beef tenderloin medallions
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 8 – 10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup Cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped green onions or chives
  • 2 tsp. minced Italian parsley


Place the water, red wine and beef base in a small cooking pot. Cook over medium heat until the base dissolves completely, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in the saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on one side for 45 seconds. Turn and cook for 30 seconds. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional two minutes. Remove the steak to a warm platter and cover with foil. Continue cooking the mushrooms until soft, a couple of more minutes.

Add the cognac and lit the pan on fire. Keep on the stove until the flame burns out and then add the cream and the mustard. Mix well and cook for one minute. Add the beef stock and cook for another minute. Add the Worcestershire sauce and mix. Return the medallions and the accumulated juices to the pan and turn to coat.

Before serving, sprinkle with the green onions and parsley.

Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Cocoa and Star Anise – Recipe

This year – 2012 – short ribs were eatured as the main dish on my Christmas Eve dinner table.  I love short ribs and I couldn’t think of anything else to make for this dinner.  Of course, I had to try a new recipe because I wasn’t in love with any of the ones I made before, plus I always like trying new things.

I think this recipe was quite successful.  I’m not ready to say it was the best short rib recipe I’ve ever made, but it definitely was tasty and the sauce was delicious – both with the short ribs and the garlic mashed potatoes I served it with.  The sauce was definitely rich and well balanced.  The ribs, btw, were succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Regardless of what recipe I use in the future, I will cook them in this manner.

I made the short ribs the day before, not only because I don’t want to be crazy cooking on Christmas Eve, but because braised short-ribs are always better the next day.

I got this recipe from Chuck Hughes of the Cooking Channel (I had never heard of either, I found it through Google) and I modified it slightly.  I used a roasting pan for this dish, as I had nothing else that was large enough for the ribs and veggies.  I placed it on the stove over two burners.

It will serve 6 people.


  • 8 meaty short ribs
  • coarse salt
  • flour for dredging
  • canola oil
  • 4 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ cylinders
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Trim excess fat from the ribs.  Season well with coarse salt.  Dredge in flour.

Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with Canola oil and place on the stove over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the short ribs and brown on all sides.  Remove and set aside.

Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the pan.  Cook until they caramelize, stirring frequently.  Return meat to the pan and pour wine over the ribs.  If they are not completely covered, top with water.

Mix in cocoa power, brown sugar and peppercorns and bring to a boil.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, put in the oven, and cook for 3 hours.

Carefully remove ribs, and set aside.  Strain out the braising liquid into a large cooking pot.   Discard the veggies.

Place the pot on the stove and boil over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3rd.  Return the short ribs to the pot.  Cool and then refrigerate until the next day.

When ready to reheat (30 to 60 minutes before serving), place the pot on the stove over medium heat and cook uncover until the liquid starts boiling.  Stir to make sure the short ribs are moist all over.  Cover and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Five minutes before serving, remove the ribs and place on the serving platter.  Cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.  Taste the liquid, adjust seasoning and reduce further if needed to make it more intense.  Add butter and serve with the ribs or on the side.

Marga’s 2012 Christmas Eve Dinner

Ropa Vieja recipe

Ropa Vieja, a very simple dish of beef in a tomato wine sauce, is one of my all time favorite dishes.  Indeed, it’s a favorite of several members of my family, my sister asks me to make it every time she visits.  I don’t quite understand how so few ingredients – the only seasoning on this dish is salt and bay leaves – can have such an amazing result, but it does.  Fortunately for me, ropa vieja was one of the first dishes I discovered when I first started cooking, so I’ve been able to enjoy it for almost two decades.  I used to serve it over white rice, but I actually prefer it with sourdough bread, though French bread is good too.  The one problem this dish has is that it’s really hard to avoid eating the meat as you shred it.

Ropa Vieja


  • 3lb to 4lb chuck roast
  • salt
  • oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves


Sprinkle salt on all sides of the roast.  Heat a very thin layer of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the roast and brown on all sides.  Add one cup of water, turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours or until cooked through.  Turn off the heat and let cool down in the broth, covered.

Once the beef is cool enough to handle, shred the whole roast by hand, discarding hard pieces of fat.  Mix the broth from the pot with the beef and set aside.

Wipe clean the pot you used and add another thin layer of oil.  Heat over medium heat and then add the onions.  Cook until soft, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the bell pepper and cook for five more minutes.  Mix in the beef, tomato sauce, red wine and bay leaves.  Season with salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Marga’s Favorite Recipes

Marga’s Cuban Recipes

Flat Iron steak

Flat iron steak is a newish cut in America that has become popular at posh restaurants.  There are only 4 flat iron steaks per cow, so it’s not a cut that you can often find at supermarkets (though Safeway sell them pre-packaged).  They were on sale for $4 lb at Lucky’s this week so I bought some for dinner.  Mika loved them.  Though they had a thick piece of connecting tissue in the middle, the steaks themselves are very tender.  They are not terribly flavorful, however, though a good sauce can take care of that.  At $4 lb, they are a great alternative to filet mignon.

I grilled them on the BBQ grill outside and they are quick and easy to prepare: pre-heat the grill on medium-high, salt & pepper the steaks, brush with olive oil, grill on each side for 4 minutes for medium rare, let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I’ll definitely buy this cut again when it’s available at this price.

Hart Orange Beef – Review

Orange Beef is the latest product from Hart Food Products, a small mom & pop frozen food company that seems to mostly distribute through Grocery Outlet.  I had tried their Orange Chicken before and I had been less that impressed, but it was another kidless night when I didn’t want to cook and, if nothing else, the Hart Orange Beef ($4 for the 2+lb package) seemed like a good value.  So I decided to give it a try.

Like the chicken, this product consists of small pieces of beef heavily battered.  You sauté them on some oil for about 12 minutes, stirring often, heat up the orange sauce in a different sauce pan, and then mix it in with the beef.  It’s not too complicated, but it does use up two cooking pots (not good for those of us without dishwashers).

The results are mediocre. The beef has way too much breading and it was too oily (I’d recommend using a non-stick pan and only minimal oil when cooking them), the sauce wasn’t painfully sweet but I grew sick of it quickly. In all I think I’ll steer clear of Hart products.

Steak w/ cognac sauce

I made this recipe a few days ago to go with some leftover top sirloin I had. While I’m usually the type of person who does not like sauces with my red meat – I’d never dream of using anything besides salt with a NY steak or a ribeye – I don’t find top sirloin to be that tasty by itself. This sauce was quick to make and delicious. As usual, I got the recipe at

My main adaptation was using “Better than Bouillon” bases and reducing the amount of water. You can use broth cubes/granules in the same proportions. This sauce is enough for two steaks plus whatever starch you are serving with them.

    -2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    -2 shallots, chopped
    -1 tsp. brown sugar
    -3/4 cup water
    -1 tsp. Chicken broth base
    -1/2 tsp. Beef broth base
    -1/2 cup Cognac or Brandy
    -1/4 cup whipping cream
    -2 steaks
    -salt & pepper

Sauté shallots until tender on 1 Tbsp of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the broths, the broth bases and the cognac. Mix well and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Mix in the whipping cream and set aside.

Sprinkle steaks with salt. Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter on a heavy skillet or frying pan. Add the steaks and cook over medium-heat, about 4 minutes per side. Remove. Add the sauce to the skillet and warm up, scrapping any browned bits. Season with salt and pepper.

Marga’s Best Recipes