This has been a rather strange food week for me. It started off strong at the all-you-can-eat-NRA show but quickly dwindled when I came down with something resembling the flu (not actually the flu, but a cold/fever). So there went a day and a half worth of good eating.
Luckily, I’m starting to feel a bit better although my appetite and taste buds aren’t at their normal levels…. yet. Good thing as today was another exciting foodie shopping/tasting day in Chicago with visits to the Green City Market (my first time attending the outdoor market this year) and the grand opening of the giant new Whole Foods in my neighborhood. And that one was a serious feast with tons of local vendors sampling products, not to mention the cool new food court.
Between the two food shopping endeavors I came home with a nice amount of produce, then quickly collapsed on the couch as the effort of shopping wiped out all my energy. I had recharged a bit by dinner time, but not enough to make the morel risotto I’d originally considered. Instead I turned to my bag of farmer’s market spinach and the package of beef stew meat in the refrigerator (it was the cheapest meat available at WF).
As a side note, I don’t normally have beef just sitting around in the refrigerator. I bought it this afternoon at WF because I had a weird craving for beef and I believe if I’m craving a specific ingredient it’s because my body really needs it. Of course this can be a bit tricky because I’m always craving chocolate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Anyways, I thought back to a few months ago when I had some beef scraps leftover from another dish I had made that I had seared quickly in a hot pan and deglazed with balsamic vinegar. I decided to do that again but add some caramelized shallots for a bit more flavor and sauteed spinach, sort of like a hot beef salad I’m calling balsamic beef bites with caramelized shallots and sauteed spinach.
It was great, something that came together very quickly in just one pan and was relatively healthy. I think most tender cuts of beef would work (stay away from flank or strip steaks) and should be trimmed of excess fat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. I like cutting them small because they cook quickly and evenly, and you don’t need a knife to eat them.
The real key to this dish though is to use a high quality balsamic vinegar; mine was aged 18 years and is rich and a little sweet.
Also, I used regular spinach from the farmer’s market which needs to be trimmed of the rough stems and washed very well. Feel free to use baby spinach if you prefer.
Here’s the recipe:
Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots & Sauteed Spinach
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, sliced thin
12 ounces diced beef, fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 cups spinach, washed and trimmed
Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the shallots from the pan.
Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining olive oil. Increase the heat to high. Season the beef with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the pan has become very hot, add the beef. Stir after 20 to 30 seconds (the bottoms of the beef pieces should be lightly browned and release easily from the pan). Continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
Pour in the balsamic vinegar; it’s okay if it boils, just briefly remove the pan from the heat so the vinegar doesn’t burn.
Decrease the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a syrup-like consistency, about 1 minute. Remove the beef from the pan; cover with foil to hold warm.
Add the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring, until just wilted. Arrange the spinach on a serving plate and top with the beef, then garnish with the caramelized shallots.