How Coffee Became My Favorite Seasoning

I recently became interested in properly seasoning my steak.  Prior to adopting a Paleolithic diet, I only occasionally ate steak; I really didn’t like to cook and when I did, it was something simple like a sirloin steak pan-fried.  For seasoning, I would spray some ginger, Rosemary, black pepper, and salt.  More often, though, I would do without them and use A1 Steak Sauce, soy sauce or coconut aminos.

Rosemary and ginger on feedlot beef.

After switching to grass-fed beef, however, I realized that you don’t want to obscure the taste of beef with an overpowering steak sauce.  Grass-fed beef combines a slightly gamey flavor that is complex and aromatic, when properly cooked medium rare.  To savor it, you want some basic herbs and spices, not strong steak or soy sauce that crowds out the beef flavor.

Black pepper and salt, obviously.  Rosemary and ginger, too.  But I became intrigued upon reading that a coffee rub made from ground coffee beans is great on steak.  Jake’s Grillin is probably the best known brand.  Most large stores sell coffee rubs made with ground coffee, red pepper, paprika, and sugar.  However, they’re really “spice rubs” and often contain questionable ingredients like MSG, cornstarch, and anticaking or coloring agents.  So I decided to make my own coffee rub, using all natural ingredients.

Again, feedlot ground beef is ok with A1 Steak Sauce.

I fully thaw the steak first and spray some black pepper and Kosher salt, which is stickier than regular salt.  I also sprinkle some dehydrated, minced garlic, which brings out the pungent garlic flavor better than chopped garlic when oven-broiled.

Depending on how thick your steak is, you can put ground coffee on both sides.  For thin brisket slices, I use only one side.  For sirloins or T-bones, use both sides.  My starter coffee rub was ground coffee beans.  Soon, I graduated to instant coffee and instant espresso, which stick to the surface better and work just as well.  Recently, I’ve settled on instant decaf, which is less bitter but just as flavorful.

After broiling at 150F for about 8-10 minutes, you’ll notice dark streaks which look like burnt marks.  When done, the steak resembles a corned beef or pastrami round at the cold cut counter covered in black peppercorns and spices.

Back ribs are great with coffee.

Wow, the coffee rub brings out the strong beef flavor that is thick, toasty and rich.  With decaf, the taste is a bit more subtle but the smoky beef flavor is just as striking.

Hickory-smoked brisket slices from U.S. Wellness Meats.

Later, I experimented with various cuts and also with pork.  The rub goes well with pork loins and chops.  Since I slow-cook my pork, the instant coffee granules get seared even tighter and form a toasty crust, giving pork the faux burnt flavor.

Broiling your steak in an electric oven seems to be the best way of using the coffee rub.  I didn’t realize the depth of flavor which coffee brings out when used this way.  A whiff of bitterness and toasty flavor, balanced by the saltiness and delicacy of other spices.  The adjective robust was probably coined to describe the strong yet complex beef flavor which emerges.

So I stopped cooking my steak any other way.  And threw away my last bottle of A1 Steak Sauce.   Au revoir, A1.

Au revoir, A1.


Plantains and “Hyperpalatability”

A colleague of mine mentioned plaintains being an important food source in the Caribbean.  So I decided to try eating them for a while.  Unfortunately, that would mean ingesting some sugar:  about 28 grams of sugar per 200g of serving.  These are copious amounts of sugar for me.  In 2011, my sugar intake was 15-20g per day, all from vegetables and occasional berries.  No added sugar whatsoever.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty lean now and I never tasted plantains before.   So chalk one up for biohacking.

I first tried those plantains that hadn’t ripened yet.  These greenish plantains are sold separate from the yellow ones.

Green or not-yet-ripe plantains

I tried boiling them first.  They tasted like starchy potatoes or taro and I sensed no sweetness at all.   Then I baked them in my electric oven at 350F on each side, using coconut oil for lubrication.  Again, no sweetness and I actually had to sprinkle salt to make them appetizing.  Not impressed:  what’s the point, I wondered?  Why not eat yuca and avoid the sugar, which I couldn’t detect anyway.  Why pay for fructose when you can’t taste it and the stuff isn’t half as palatable as yuca or batata or yams?

Then I bought some yellow plantains.  I left them on my window sill to make them go ripe.  These were soon gaining dark streaks and seemed to be spoiling quickly, so I decided to bake them.

This time, I used Kerrygold butter, which is the only form of dairy I consume at the moment.  I was very surprised to find that they’re available at ShopRite.

Recently, I’ve been putting a tablespoon of Kerrygold butter in my coffee and the result has been nothing short of spectacular:  healthier than the ultra-pasteurized heavy cream and guar-gum filled coconut milk.  Stronger, too.  Now I know why the Sherpas of Nepal drink tea made from yak butter.

Kerrygold butter melting in my coffee.

Using a baking pan, I put the sliced plantains and placed small chunks of Kerrygold butter at strategic locations:  375F on one side for 20 minutes and then flip and rotate for 25-30 minutes.  Except I overdid it and some of the twice-baked plaintains became charred.

I tried again the next day and succeeded in turning them bright golden.  Well, sort of.  Maybe a little undone this time but the problem seems to be the uneven heating inside my oven.

These plantains tasted completely different.  They were incredibly sweet and I could tell that the sugar had caramelized.  Now I know why they are prized in the Caribbean:  they taste like bananas but are less overtly sweet than the really ripe banana.  What you taste is the sugar that oozed out during the 50-minute baking process.   Those who’ve tasted fried parsnips know how different the parsnips taste when fried (vs. raw or boiled).   Try mixing sugar with butter in a frying pan and taste the sugar as it turns brown when heated at 320F or above.

Perhaps the sweetness should be balanced by some sour taste.  So I mix some frozen cranberries, which go well with anything overwhelmingly sweet.

Wow, what results is a whole-food dessert that makes portion control next to impossible!  For the next two weeks, I could not stop baking and eating them like hotcakes.  I would bake 4 large plantains and finish them in one sitting.  I don’t know any other food source whose portions I cannot control like this.  Never did I think that a “whole food” could be as “hyperpalatable” as manufactured products like sodas and candies.

Regrettably, I had to eliminate them from my diet.  Although there is no added sugar, there is simply too much “endogenous” sugar upon caramelization.  And I don’t have a good track record of pushing away from the table when it comes to sugar.  I’m glad I got around to tasting them, however.  There is no “hype” when it comes to plantains; they’re simply too tasty and too palatable.  Hyperpalatable.

In Praise of Yuca (aka Cassava, Tapioca)

I’m often asked, “Why eat yuca?  It’s all empty calories.”  Well, yuca serves its purpose well.

Yuca often goes by names such as cassava, tapioca, manioc and mogo, depending on what country you’re from.  It is a staple root vegetable in Central and South America, also in the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.  I’ll refer to it as “yuca” throughout, however, since the package I buy identify it so (though subtitled “cassava”).

5 lbs. of frozen yuca slices

Peeling yuca can be a time-consuming affair.  A simple potato peeler won’t do.  You’ll need a sharp butcher knife to have a go at its tough, waxy exterior.  Before discovering that Goya sells frozen yuca, I spent countless hours peeling and swearing that I would never buy yuca again.

Let the professionals at Goya do the peeling

Even with a Ginsu knife, it’s just too time consuming.  What you need is a hunting knife with a good handle, since the rough skin requires twisting the blade at different angles; it is very easy to pop the blade off of your flimsy Ginsu knife.  That’s why Goya’s packaged frozen yuca is a godsend.  Out of a bag, the frozen yuca slices look bleached white:

Frozen yuca slices about to be boiled for an hour.

I’ve experimented with different ways of cooking yuca.  Microwaving it zaps the moisture right out and the yuca resembles a flatbread or pizza crust.  If you like the dry, hard flatbread taste and texture, then use your microwave oven.  But my favorite method is to boil for a long time, usually about an hour.

Yuca slices showing fine ridges and texture after the boiling.

Boiling yuca preserves the moisture, making it somewhat creamy and more appetizing.  After tasting a properly-boiled yuca slice, I can’t believe how anyone can go back to eating potatoes; it’s a richer and tastier version of white potatoes.

As time passes, the yuca slices slowly dehydrate and the fibrous texture begins to separate (see above).  They’re still perfectly edible and I enjoy tasting them at different stages of dehydration.  When completely dry, they become quite hard.  At this point, you can microwave them to soften them up.  I keep the yuca slices at room temperature for about a week, helping myself to them occasionally for munching between meals and to complement my main dishes.

I eat my yuca with just a simple condiment:  Kosher salt.  The small and grainy salt particles are ideal for yuca (unlike Himalayan or crystal salt which dissolve in liquid).  I suppose olive oil and coconut oil might go well with yuca also, especially when served as a side dish to steak or pork.  Here’s one such combination:  pieces of chorizo and beef steak with yuca, boiled red cabbage and steamed broccoli.

How about for breakfast, along with bacon and eggs?  Any meat entrée traditionally eaten with a starchy complement could use a yuca side dish.

Keeping a steady supply of this Spanish root vegetable means going through a 5-lb. bag every ten days or so.  Once it becomes your staple starch, it’s very hard to eat anything else.  In my next post, I’ll explain why yuca isn’t really nutritionally deficient.  Yuca, indeed, compares favorably with other starchy tubers like yams, sweet potatoes, and potatoes when it comes to nutrition.

Chorizoes with Steamed Vegetables

Since I’m on a fairly strict Paleolithic diet, I avoid gluten grains, dairy, nightshade vegetables, legumes, soy, and nuts.  But processed meats have been my one weakness.  In particular, I haven’t been able to rid myself of chorizoes — especially Premio’s chorizoes available at ShopRite, a supermarket chain in the Northeast.  These chorizoes have corn syrup, maltodextrin, red pepper, and paprika.  In other words, artificial ingredients (horreurs) and nightshade spices.

However, I don’t seem to react badly to these.  Perhaps the small dose is hormetic.  So I’ve been making these Spanish sausages a treat once a week.  They’re incredibly tasty when cooked just right in an electric oven.

I usually cook at 350F for 10 minutes.  Then I split them open, spread them out and cook for 15 minutes more at 350F.  Flip them over and cook another 15 minutes.  I like my pork well-done (and they should be well-done, a la PHD).  So I don’t mind the overcooked texture and slight burntmarks from broiling in my electric oven for 40 minutes.  Spray some thyme, ginger and garlic powder and eat with your steamed vegetables.   Goes well with steamed broccoli and French green beans.

Or, try with boiled red cabbage and collard greens.  Always served with herbs as seasoning and a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar.

Wash it all down with a cup of Dragon Well green tea.

These Spanish sausages will stay for now.

My First Grass-Fed T-Bone Steak

This T-bone steak I ordered from Slanker’s has been sitting in my freezer for a while.  I bought it as part of a bulk shipment 3 months ago.  By weight, most of the shipment was beef marrow bones and knuckles.  These I consumed rather quickly, within a month, since I make my bone broth soup every week (to make a week’s worth of bone broth, I go through 3 lbs. of marrow bones).   I also went through other cuts quickly, since they were smaller, boneless steaks.  The T-bone I left to savor for later.

Slanker’s recommends no more than “medium rare” for the bone-in “Supersteak.”  Supposedly, the bone conducts heat, so it shouldn’t take as long as the boneless.  Well, I prefer my steak “well done”.  So I set my electric oven to 275F on one side for 15 minutes, then flipped over and broiled for another 15-20 minutes at 250F, having sprayed herbs and spices.   This is the doneness I prefer, although I’m beginning to like “medium rare” for the boneless portions.  For exmaple, these Australian free-range cuts I buy from ShopRite, I cook to medium rare without exception.

Here it is, “well done” with garlic powder, ginger and Rosemary.  I know, looks charred but this is my first T-bone.  “Medium rare” shall become an acquired taste soon enough.

Pretty good.  At $14 bux per pound, the T-bone seems much too expensive.  It’s probably more expensive than the ribeye or porterhouse (or even tenderloin filets), since the bone is included.  15 minutes later.

And then pure, decadent bliss:  coffee with unsweetened cocoa and coconut milk.  Some cinnamon and Truvia (erythritol) added.  Honestly, can’t tell which I like more:  the coffee or the T-bone.

Breakfast of Champions

I’ve been thinking, “Maybe it’s not so bad to bring eggs back to my diet.”  I’ve been consuming them on and off for a while, wary of the egg whites’ allergenic effects:   my eyes and throat would dry out occasionally.  I was convinced that was due to the egg whites releasing histamine.  Well, while I was vacationing, I could not help but eat eggs.  And during that time, my eyes and throat were fine.  So back to square one.  Here come the eggs and my breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of Champions.

I’m taking to heart Terry Wahls‘ suggestion to eat 9 servings of vegetables daily.  Steamed green beans, along with kale and collard greens, are my staple green vegetables.  I also eat lots of raw onions, boiled cabbage, and lately, oven-roasted plantains.  Here’re 5 servings of vegetables, highlighted by peeled cucumber slices, sprinkled with cinnamon, thyme, ginger and apple cider vinegar.  That’s a lot:  before this, I never consumed a plate full of veggies for breakfast.

Cucumber slices dipped in vinegar with plantains and green beans.

Which is not to say the entrée is entirely vegetables.  Here’re 2 thick slices of restaurant-style bacon, 4 Canadian bacon (had 2 before snapping the picture), and 2 eggs fried in bacon grease with thyme and cinnamon as seasoning.

6 slices of bacon in all.

So what’s the damage?  Using caloriecounter, I had my spreadsheet spit this out:

Under 500 calories.  Net carbs = 24 grams, counting 10g of fiber.  The sugar is a bit high because of the plantains and PUFA is a tad high at 6%.  As for sodium, what would you expect eating 6 slices of bacon (not so much concerned with sodium nor nitrates).  That’s 25% carbs, 30% protein and 45% fat:  macronutrient ratios I can live with — the protein will go down when total daily calories are calculated, as would PUFA.  I don’t usually check my daily intake but I was curious ever since introducing 9 cups of vegetables and plantains (as well as eggs) to my diet.

Conclusion:  Those 9+ cups of vegetables add negligibly to total calories; it will barely move the needle.  The difference is in increased fiber intake, depending on whether your veggies have fiber.  With plantains, you need to watch out for sugar which will caramelize while being roasted.  This breakfast of champions did a lot less damage than I thought:  I usually don’t eat until late into the afternoon after eating like this.   So the net effect is less calories consumed.