I recently got married and one of the fringe benefits was finally having an excuse to upgrade my cookware so I could make more luscious and beautiful food for me and my hubby. Le Creuset pots in the original flame color were my more drool worthy and coveted items. I love braised beef and I was looking forward to getting the 3.5 qt. Le Creuset Braiser. I’ve had it for over a month and it has come in handy for frittata, vegetarian stew, polenta and sautees. PHEW! I would have gotten it sooner had I known it would get so much action.
FINALLY I had the time and inclination to go throught the multi-step, two day process of braising some beef. Ambitious people can do this all in one day on a weekend, but working schlogs like me need the two days. Another reason I was hesitating on the braised beef, is I wasn’t sure about the recipe. I knew the braiser would be key but I had tried other recipes in the past that made the meat turn out a little too vinegary for my taste – I wanted that succulent/crispy texture and a citrusy sweetness.
So, what is a girl to do but go straight to the master chef, the late great Julia Child. I knew she would come through! Let me warn you that I am a riffer in the kitchen. I don’t really ever follow a recipe exactly – except for a few exceptions. This recipe also called for a few things I forgot to pick up at the store, so I substituted fennel root for celery and used cream of mushroom soup instead of beef broth. I also did chuck steaks instead of a roast. In addition I added some dried orange rind to the marinade and in the final braising stages some orange zest. For my purposes, these enhancements work and I will put my recipe below in addition to telling you where you can find Julia’s!
Marinating and braising takes a lot of vessels, especially since I have a little under 4 lbs. of beef!
Braised Beef Riff (original recipe Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Serves 10 to 12 People
~ 4 lbs Chuck Steaks
1 cup each chopped: carrots, onions, fennel root and fronds
4 garlic cloves, halved longwise
2 tbls. dried orange rind
1 tbls. thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbls. dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp. allspice
Zest of one orange
1 1/2 tbls. Kosher sea salt
5 cups young red wine (I used Three Wishes Cabernet Sauvignon because it is $1.99 at Whole Foods! Next time I will go with their Merlot for more body and sweet flavor – can you tell I love cooking with wine!?)
1/3 cup brandy
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small box Pacific condensed cream of mushroom soup
butter and canola oil for searing
Marinating Process: The night before I mixed together the vegetables, herbs and spices keeping the salt and pepper aside to rub over the meat. I probably should have used the braising pot for marinating, but if you need more flexibility with your fridge space feel free to do what I did and use two covered Pyrex or other non pourous bowls and split the meat and marinating mixture between them. Layer the veggies and spices on the bottom of the bowl, with meat on top then more veggies and spices. Then pour over the wine, brandy and olive oil (again, I split this mixture in half to use for each marinating vessel). Julia says turn every hour, but um, that was not possible for me so I turned a few hours later before I went to bed, then I turned again in the morning time.
The Cooking Process: When I came home from work I took the marinated meat out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutese. Preheat the over to 350 degrees. I then drain the marinade off into a new bowl (you need to use it later) using a stainless steel strainer. I scraped off the veggies and added to the marinade. I made sure the meat was good and drained then patted it down with paper towels. Meanwhile I got a nice smokey All-Clad pan going with some canola oil and butter. I add the first piece of patted dry meat, seared on each side until brown (about 90 seconds per side) and put into my lovely Le Creuset braiser, then repeated until all the meat was browned. Then I poured the marinade over the meat in the braiser.
At this point the meat and marinade needs to be rapid boiled and reduced down about half way. This took a bit more time then I thought, at least 15 minutes. Right before I covered and put the meat in the oven I added a zest of one orange. I set the timer for 2 1/2 hours because I used steaks instead of a roast I knew it would be on the shorter side of cooktime.
And, I was nervous, butttt VOILA! Turned out fork tender and gorgeous with crispy brown parts and succulent pieces.