Beef Filet with Yuca Hash Browns

This is our version of “steak and potatoes.” We love to incorporate yuca root here and there as it’s a great source of starchier carbohydrates. You’ll be amazed at how this fibrous and incredibly tough root turns into a soft and buttery addition to any recipe.

SERVES 3 TO 4 / PREP TIME: 25 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 45 TO 50 MINUTES

1 medium yuca root, peeled, tough center removed, and cut into ½-inch cubes (see Notes)

1 pound beef filet, cut into 4 steaks (see Notes)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon bacon fat or oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

1. Bring a pot of water. Add the yuca and cook until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

2. While the yuca is cooking, dry the filets and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

3. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the bacon fat until it is just about to smoke, then add the filets. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side and remove to a cutting board to rest.

4. While the meat is resting, heat the skillet over medium-high heat, then add in the butter and yuca. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring at least once, to brown the yuca. When the yuca is done, sprinkle with the thyme and rosemary.

5. Serve each filet with a helping of yuca hash browns.

NOTES: We like to keep some preboiled yuca on hand in our refrigerator or freezer, which makes recipes like this much faster. If you are going to boil the root yourself, be sure to remove the tough middle part, known as the spindle. Some stores stock frozen, already peeled yuca, which makes life a little easier.

Beef or venison is best with this household favorite.

Meat Mixes

Meat mixes are so versatile and make for a great something to have on hand in the freezer. Once you’ve mastered the meat mixes of your choosing, you’ll have something that can be served on its own as meatballs, formed into meatloaves, even transformed into burgers. Make up your own meat mixes and see what you come up with!

Meat Mix #1: Italian

Chef Chris Hall is many things to our family—“Uncle Chris” to the kids, dear friend to both of us—not to mention one heck of a chef and businessman, with one of the biggest, most generous hearts. A few years back, I strong-armed Chris into coming along with me to Camp Sunshine (the pediatric oncology camp in Georgia) to teach a cooking class to the teenagers. This recipe is based on his grandma’s Italian-style meatballs he taught the kids—proving to anyone and everyone that you don’t need his restaurant’s $2 million kitchen to make really amazing-tasting food. It’s all about the skilled hands of the chef. We always make at least two pounds of this mixture as it goes fast in our house!

MAKES ABOUT 50 (1-OUNCE) MEATBALLS / PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES

2 pounds ground beef

½ pound bacon, finely chopped

1 onion, minced

¼ cup chopped Italian(flat-leaf) parsley

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 large eggs

This recipe is based on his grandma’s Italian-style meatballs he taught the kids—proving to anyone and everyone that you don’t need his restaurant’s $2 million kitchen to make really amazing-tasting food. It’s all about the skilled hands of the chef. We always make at least two pounds of this mixture as it goes fast in our house!

MAKES ABOUT 50 (1-OUNCE) MEATBALLS / PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES

2 pounds ground beef

½ pound bacon, finely chopped

1 onion, minced

¼ cup chopped Italian(flat-leaf) parsley

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients (we prefer to use our hands). Follow the cooking instructions for your desired preparation.

2. Serve with 5- Ingredient Tomato Sauce or tomato sauce of your choosing and over zucchini noodles, if you prefer.

Meat Mix #2: Asian

It’s been a long time since I’ve had Asian dumplings of the dim sum kind. Mostly because last time I had them I felt so terrible after. That said, I have fantastic memories of some dim sum outings while living in Los Angeles, and some melt-in-your-mouth shumai. This meat mix is great on its own as meatballs, and also makes for a wonderful filling for zucchini, or yellow or even some winter squash (like acorn or delicata); basically this is great in any other vegetable you wish to stuff. Serve the meatballs with Asian Dipping Sauce (below) or use as the dumplings for our Wonton-ish Soup.

MAKES 24 (1-INCH) MEATBALLS / PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 30 TO 40 MINUTES

1 pound ground pork

2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps finely chopped (about ½ cup)

1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 green onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or gluten-free soy sauce if you tolerate soy)

2 teaspoons fish sauce (omit if using gluten-free soy sauce)

1½ teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients (we prefer to use our hands). Follow the cooking instructions for your desired preparation.

Asian Dipping Sauce

Serve with Asian meatballs.

MAKES ABOUT ½ CUP SAUCE

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons coconut aminos

1 teaspoon fish sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sambal oelek, Sriracha, or other hot sauce (optional)

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients well.

Meat Mix #3: Southwestern

We are big fans of Southwestern flavors. Basically anything that offers some bit of a kick (poblanos, chipotles, etc.) mixed in with some protein makes our mouths happy.

MAKES 24 (1-INCH) MEATBALLS / PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES

1 pound ground beef (or ½ pound each of beef and venison)

2 tablespoons finely chopped poblano pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 large egg

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients (we prefer to use our hands). Follow the cooking instructions for your desired preparation.

VARIATION: Meatballs—especially ones as flavorful as these Southwestern ones—are a great opportunity to try to hide some liver. Just add in a few tablespoons of raw, finely chopped liver and know you’re getting some great nutrients!

NOTE: If you don’t have or cannot find chipotles in adobo sauce or you don’t have some homemade chipotle sauce, use 1 tablespoon tomato paste as a substitute.

Meat Mix #4: Veggie

This mix is a wonderful way to sneak more vegetables into your family’s diet. Feel free to double this recipe (see Note).

MAKES 24 (1-INCH) MEATBALLS / PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES / TOTAL TIME: 30 TO 40 MINUTES

1 pound ground beef (or ½ pound each of beef and venison)

¼ cup shredded carrots

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped green bell pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped mushroom

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsnip

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt (see Note)

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon chipotle powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon dry thyme

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients (we prefer to use our hands). Follow the cooking instructions for your desired preparation.

NOTE: Keep a jar of Penzeys Northwoods Fire in your pantry. You may substitute 1 tablespoon for the last seven ingredients in this recipe to save a few minutes of measuring.

For meatballs:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Form the meat mix into 1-ounce meatballs (about the size of a Ping-Pong ball) and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

For mini meatloaves:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Form the meat mix into equally sized loves. (Divide 1 pound meat into 3 or 4 rectangler loaves, or form 2 pounds meat into 6 to 8 loaves.) Place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160°F.

4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

NOTE: You can also make these into meatloaf “muffins.” Simply grease the wells of a muffin pan with the fat of your choosing, mound the meat mix into the wells (remembering that the meat will shrink some during cooking), and follow the baking instructions for the mini meatloaves.

For stuffed zucchini appetizer:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut 2 large zucchini (about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter) crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

3. Using a melon baller, scoop out the middle of the zucchini flesh, being careful not to break all the way through the bottom. Fill the well in the middle of the zucchini with a ball of the meat mix. Remember that the meat will shrink during cooking and give off a good amount of liquid.

4. Arrange on the baking sheet and bake until the meat is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.