Sauce gives allusion beef if prepared as ‘well done’

On Christmas Day, I’ll serve some of my in-law’s traditional dishes, but not others. Following tradition, beef was the centerpiece of my in-law’s meal.

Oxford’s Farmers Market has some awesome vendors of Earth-friendly humanely raised animal products. I am serving filet from Caraway Farm.

I love my in-laws, but they do prefer beef cooked well done. “Well done” beef is an oxymoron. Beef should be cooked no more than medium rare or pink.

If you face this situation, discretely roast the beef only until rare, but serve “well done.” Here’s how.

Prepare a rich full-flavored sauce for the beef. Mince garlic and onions, slice mushrooms and red peppers (all locally procured, of course), and cook gently in a pan with olive oil. Add some red wine to the pan and simmer until the beef is cooked.

Slice the beef that you have discretely roasted only to rare, place the pieces in the wine sauce, and simmer until serving. If you slice the beef on a cutting board with grooves, collect full-flavored beef essence to add to the pan.

The sauce made dark by red wine gives the beef slices a well-done appearance, as preferred by the family. But the beef is still tender, unlike its condition had it actually been cooked to well done.

The traditional Christmas dessert that I’ve inherited from my Romanian in-laws is called placinta, which is the Romanian word for “pie.” The word comes from the Latin placenta, which translates as cake rather than pie.

The recipe I inherited fed a large family, but given our smaller numbers, I reduced the ingredients to fit a 6-inch springform pan. Further deviating from family tradition, I substituted a crunchy shell for soft dough.

Melt 5 tablespoons sweet unsalted butter and let cool but not re-harden. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon almond extract, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extra, a pinch of fine sea salt, and 2/3 cup unbleached organic pastry flour, and form into a soft cookie-like dough.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 6-inch springform pan and press the dough evenly into the sides and bottom. Bake the shell for 12 minutes at 375.

Finely grind 2 tablespoons almonds, and when the shell is removed from the oven immediately sprinkle the ground almonds to cover the bottom. This adds flavor and also prevents the shell from getting soggy.

Meanwhile, mix with a blender 1/2 container (8 ounces) of cottage cheese, 1/2 container (6 ounces) of creme fraiche, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract. Sprinkle with nutmeg and/or cinnamon and bake for 15 minutes.

I am forgoing another traditional food, sarmale, which is a cabbage roll stuffed with meat and rice and cooked for hours in sauerkraut. The long-gone generation speaking only Romanian had a grand time one Christmas night competing to show me the correct way to fold the cabbage leaves, demonstrating with cocktail napkins.

Merry Christmas (craciun fericit in Romanian).

MOON Co-op Grocery is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. MOON Co-op, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. Check it out online at

About the Author