Bringing the Boys to the Yard: Beerocks Edition

Last night I made beerocks, and it occurred to me this morning that I’ve never posted a recipe for them– so here it comes!

I am not the slightest bit German. I mean, on my Dad’s side, who knows? But my maternal grandmother was Greek for generations, and my maternal grandfather was French-Turkish. I’d be surprised if there was any German in there– plus, the Harron nose on a German? Please. Yet, one of the things my grandmother taught me how to make from scratch were beerocks. Don’t correct me on the spelling– that’s just how it’s spelled in Fresno, so accept it.

Well, last night there were 14. Now there are five. After lunch, there will only be three. After my husband gets home, there will be no survivors!
Well, last night there were 14. Now there are five. After lunch, there will only be three. After my husband gets home, there will be no survivors!

Now, my grandmother was not the apple pie-baking sort. She made kourambiedes for Christmas and on Easter we always tried to get a few eggs as red as we could using regular old Schilling dye. She cooked dinner things most of the time, and beerocks were one of her specialties. It’s an old-Fresno thing. It was such a treat to get them at Lauck’s Bakery or The Beerock Shop! The problem was, though, that we could never buy enough to satisfy our beerock lust. They’re just the perfect blend of sweet and spicy and salty and meaty and bready, so once you eat one, it’s only a matter of time before you break down and eat the rest of them, trying to chase that elusive and tasty dragon.

I think cabbages are truly one of the most beautiful vegetables there are.
I think cabbages are truly one of the most beautiful vegetables there are.

Making them with her was more satisfying, because we had to work for them. It was something we could do together, and it’s one of the first recipes I remember her letting me actively help with. Set aside a few hours to make them. You can’t rush them– it’s just not going to happen. So have a snack, crack open a bottle of wine, and progress in a leisurely fashion.

First, get the dough started. My grandmother used to insist on boxed hot roll mix, but a few years ago I had a hard time finding the right one ( a blue box– Pillsbury?) and once I did find it, the ingredients were full of chemicals and stabilizers! Screw that! So, I modified the dinner roll recipe from Bread Machine Magic. By the way, my bread machine has been broken for a while– yet I still use this cookbook weekly. It’s my favorite bread book. I know I should probably get one of those beautiful ones with lush photographs of artisanal breads, but this one is tried and true.

Dough

1 1/4 c. warm water

1 egg

2 T oil (olive oil, melted butter, vegetable oil– whatever)

1/4 c. sugar

2 tsp salt

4 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water for about five minutes. Stir gently, then dump the flour in a great big mound. Make a little well in the flour, then crack the egg into it, add the oil, salt and sugar. I mix it with my hands in the largest glass bowl I have– glass, not melamine, because the dough will rise in here, and you can’t stick melamine in the oven. At least, not if you don’t want some horrible kind of cancer, I’m guessing.

Mix and and squeeze it and slap it around for a while, until it is thoroughly mixed. I don’t knead it for the whole ten minutes, because they are just going to get rolled flat anyway.

When it’s got a nice bread-dough texture, put it back in the bowl put a dishcloth over it, and set it in the oven to let it rise. My house is rather drafty, so when I want dough to rise, I warm my oven on 250 for a a few minutes, then shut it off and stick the dough in. This is why I’m so anti-melamine for the dough. Why take chances? Anyway, so let it rise for an hour or so!

Filling

1 lb ground beef

1 cabbage, sliced thinly

1 onion, sliced thinly

olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

In my largest pan, I sauté the garlic and onion in a liberal (for me) amount of olive oil. I’m allergic to raw onion, so I make sure the onion is more than half done before adding the cabbage. Salt and pepper the vegetables generously, until they taste right.

When done, I dump it into a bowl, wipe the pan clean(ish) and saute the ground beef. Mash it into bitty little bits as it cooks, and once it’s browned, salt and pepper it to taste again, tasting it to make sure it’s just right. I usually add some garlic powder and celery seeds, too. Dump it into the bowl with the vegetables and stir thoroughly.

Here, I should mention that the meat you use directly affects the tastiness of the beerock. Most of the time, I am a huge fan of lean meat. I hate nothing more than fat and gristle. I don’t even like ribs, and cube steak gives me the willies. But if you use very lean meat and not enough olive oil to balance it out, your beerocks are going to be dry, dry, dry. Ground chuck works very well in this recipe. This time, I used 96% fat free from Trader Joe’s– but it always seems fattier than that. Just be aware. Fat’s your friend when it comes to beerocks. Once, my grandmother had kibbeh she’d bought from Hanoian’s, thinking it would be the best beef, since it was meant to be eaten raw. But it was so low fat, that the beerocks really were like rocks! We choked them down and drank a lot of water.

When my grandmother and I made them, we always had a very difficult time sealing up the little suckers like Granny Squares– but I read in a magazine about another method. The dim sum method! It works great, and they look pretty this way. Give it a try:

Take a golf ball sized lump of dough. Roll it flat, about 5 inches in diameter. Place it in a small bowl, then put about two heaping tablespoons of filling. Bring the edges of the dough together and just pinch them and twist them– being careful not to overfill and break the dough. Also, try to avoid letting the filling touch the edges– it makes the beerock harder to seal, because the oily dough won’t pinch together as well. If you are very neat, I suppose you could place them pinched side up on a parchment lined cookie sheet– but I tend to overfill, so I put them pinched side down, just in case they decide to unseal a bit and make a mess. And you don’t have to use parchment paper, but it sure makes your life easier if you do. They are prettier if you brush them with beaten egg yolk or milk, but by now, you will really just want to devour them.

Last, slide them into a 375 oven and let them bake  for about 20 minutes.

Then EAT THEM ALL. This recipe makes 14 when I do it– but to make more, just double or triple the recipe.

This morning, my husband was explaining in a tongue in cheek sort of way to our daughter what it meant to take a risk. He said that getting married is taking a risk. I had to ask, given my state of employment, how he thought his risk had panned out. His answer? “There’s a plate of beerocks in the fridge. How do you think?”

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