Tag Archives: beef

Spicy Grilled Ground Meat Kebabs

I’m always looking for ways to change up the old grilled hamburger in the summer, like tonight for example when I made meatloaf burgers. They made a better version of a meatloaf sandwich, more tender than a regular hamburger and already full of lots of flavors, so that they didn’t need a lot of additions piled on. Last year I put giant meatballs on skewers, and that worked out pretty well, too. They were spicy, like these kebabs, but without quite so much heat. I made the kebabs a few days ago on one of the long holiday weekend days.

Tip for keeping any ground meat shape on a skewer: don’t make too wet or loose a mixture. You want the meat to hold its shape around the skewer so you can turn it on the grill.

We ate them two ways in flatbread wraps. I topped mine with roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, and a sour cream-cucumber sauce. My husband chose only the peppers and my homemade burger sauce (mayo, Sriracha, garlic, cumin, maple syrup, lime juice, salt).

Spicy Grilled Ground Meat Kebabs

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Plan ahead so the meat and spices have a chance to marinate up to a day.


  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • spices:
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
    • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 bay leaf, ground
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste or grated garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons ginger paste or grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour


  1. Mix the ground meat, spices, and aromatics until completely combined. You might even want to run the mixture through a meat grinder, especially if your ground meat has not been ground fine. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  2. Divide into four and shape each portion into a long sausage shape around a bamboo skewer.
  3. Grill over direct heat for a few minutes on each side. They cook quickly and you don’t want to overcook them. You could cook them over indirect heat with the grill lid closed for about 10 minutes, browning over direct heat or not. I like the taste of the charred kebabs better.

Hot Dog Sauce Redux

Two years ago, I posted a recipe probably given to me by my sister-in-law for hot dog sauce, supposedly similar to that at a Greenville, PA bar and grill. We’ve had the original many times, including recently, and thought this recipe was pretty close, at least in basic ingredients. But if you look at the post comments, you’ll see two recent comments from former Greenville residents that suggest one significant problem with my sauce, a problem I agree with—too much cloves. One generous informant, Mr. McDonald, even provided a recipe from one of his former Greenville neighbors “of the original Majestic restaurant.” Here’s the recipe I have been using, followed by the better one:

I decided to make the better recipe in a slow cooker, instead of hovering around a pot on the stove, and that turned out to be a good choice, although the beef didn’t break down like I thought it might, even after 8 hours, so I pulsed it in a blender for a few seconds for a much better texture. Both cooking methods are below.

Greenville Hot Dog Sauce

  • Servings: makes about 8-10 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 “handfuls chopped onion” (I used 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg (Mr. McDonald used 2 teaspoons; I used the tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons paprika (I only had smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 14 oz bottle ketchup
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I added 2 more at the end)
  • 1 cup flour (Mr. McDonald says “3/4 c. seems enough”; I used the full cup in the slow cooker)

On stove:

  1. Brown beef, drain, and set aside, reserving about 3 tablespoons fat in pot.
  2. Sweat onions in the reserved fat until translucent.
  3. Return beef to pot with spices and ketchup.
  4. Beat together water, salt, and flour until all the flour is combined. Add to sauce mixture. “Simmer 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beef will break down. The beef is supposed to be in small particles, like Cincinnati chili. If you simmer the sauce uncovered then the water evaporates down,” if needed.

In slow cooker:

  1. Brown beef in large skillet, drain, and place in slow cooker. Reserve about 3 tablespoons fat in skillet.
  2. Sweat onions in the reserved fat until translucent, then transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Add spices and ketchup to slow cooker.
  4. Beat together water, salt, and flour until all the flour is combined. Add to slow cooker, stirring until all is combined.
  5. Cook at HIGH for 4 hours. Stir, then set at LOW for another 3-4 hours. You shouldn’t have any sticking, unless you have an older cooker with the heating element on the bottom, in which case you might want to use an all-day LOW setting.
  6. If the texture of the ground beef is still chunky at the end of the cooking (like mine was) you can use an immersion blender or a regular blender or food processor to make it more finely textured, which is best for a hot dog sauce. Just don’t turn it into a paste!

*About the amount of flour in the sauce. One cup of flour has 16 tablespoons, enough to thicken 8 cups of liquid to a medium sauce, like white sauce or cheese sauce. Combined here with 6 cups of water, you can see why the first cooking method on the stovetop suggests using less. In the slow cooker, however, there is little to no evaporation and the sauce is not too thick. That said, you have to decide how thick you want the final sauce. We like a kind of loose sauce with fine textured meat, and thought this one was just right

Venison Chili

First, if you are going to put tomatoes in your chili, just don’t tell me about it.

Using up the last two pounds of venison cubes from the deer I killed last fall, and adding about 1.75 lbs of ground beef, I made a huge pot of chili today. I always make a huge amount of chili, mostly because it just seems right. The big flavors of meat and chili peppers, garlic and cumin and beans just wouldn’t look right in a small pot, so, we’ll be eating it for a few days, but that’s okay with me.

I make it in two pots, beans in one, meat in the other, both cooking in the same chili base, and then combine them for the last half hour. It works well to assure that both components are cooked to the right doneness.

Venison Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Mostly, I use venison for part of the chili meat and beef for the rest. Sometimes I use ground venison, but then I use beef stew chunks for the rest. Yes, I pretty much always use both chunks and ground meat. You get meat in every bite and the chunks are a real treat.

You need to make three things in this recipe, the beans, the pot of meat, and the chili base. Start with the beans:

Dried Beans Quick Soak Method

This recipe can hold a full pound of beans, but I only used a half pound today to highlight the meat and because it’s less filling. The method is the same for any amount, just adjust the ingredients.

  1. Rinse and sort pinto beans (or your favorite bean)
  2. Place in pot with 3 cups water for a half pound of beans
  3. Cover and bring to a boil
  4. Turn off heat and let sit covered for one hour
  5. Return to boil and then simmer, covered, for a second hour
  6. Add half the chili base during the last half hour
  7. Add all to the meat pot and cook for another half hour

Chili Base

Someone asked me once how chili would get a red color without tomatoes (someone who had never encountered dried peppers).

Using the recipe below for reconstituting dried chiles, prepare the chiles you will use (I used 5) while the beans are cooking. If you are not familiar with them, you should experiment. We finally settled on the flavor of ancho chiles as our favorite pepper flavor. Even if you decide on a few Anaheim or New Mexico chiles (hotter), I recommend using a few anchos for their depth of flavor. For a slight amount of smoky heat, I added a little ground chipotle.

  1. In a large sauté pan, sauté two chopped onions in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt over medium heat for about five minutes
  2. Add 3-4 large minced cloves of garlic and cook for another two minutes
  3. Add 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried or ground oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes
  4. Add the strained, reconstituted dried chiles with all their liquid and heat through (I used 5 ancho chiles today)
  5. Add half the base to the beans during their last half hour of cooking. Add the other half to the browned meat, cover and simmer for 1 hour


As noted above, we like a combination of ground meat and chunks, but either one by itself would be okay.

  1. Brown about 4 lb of meat in large pot—I used about 1/4 cup olive oil, a lot of salt, maybe 2 teaspoons, and pepper to brown the lean venison and then stirred in the ground beef to brown
  2. Add half of the chili base
  3. Cover and simmer for 1 hour—the meat cooking in the chili base is key for developing flavor
  4. Add beans and simmer all for about a half hour
  5. Make a slurry of Masa corn flour and water; I used about a cup of flour for this pot. If you can’t find Masa, you can use a fine ground corn meal, which will taste good, but be a little gritty. It’s kind of like cooking polenta in your chili! Stir in the slurry and cook until thickened–it will thicken quickly. I continue to simmer it for 5-10 minutes.

Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  • Servings: based on recipe
  • Difficulty: easy
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We lived in Texas for three years after grad school and got used to Tex-Mex cuisine, so I had to learn how to use dried chiles, because, for one thing, THERE ARE NO TOMATOES IN CHILI.

  1. Rinse dried chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so it fits in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with boiling water; cover container with plastic wrap; the final amount will depend on how much water you use in soaking (I used about 3-4 cups today)
  4. Set aside for about 45 minutes
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with part of the liquid, adding more as needed to make a purée about the consistency of tomato juice (ironic, isn’t it?)
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp

You can’t keep this purée or freeze it, as it will separate and just not be the same.