Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dinner party, part three: Getting my braise on!

Do people in Florida or San Diego ever braise anything? Is it ever cold enough to get your juices flowing for a slow cooked hunk of protein? Where you want to walk into a warm kitchen filled with the smells of savory ingredients slowly coalescing into a greater good? Hey, the South: do you? I know slow cooking is traditional in lots of Latin American countries, so I assume it works. I suppose it has to do with the fact that as soon as it's nice enough to cook outside here in Portland, say in July, we tend to abandon our ovens here and fire up the 'ques.

That thought just fired across my synapses because in the cold and wet that seems unending this winter, I not only feel the need to braise, it's almost like I HAVE to braise. I need that warmth and comfort that mysteriously gets transferred from my Le Creuset into my body. For the entrée portion of our dinner party last Sunday, I had meat on my mind. Slowly simmering, tender, robustly satisfying beef. Barolo Braised Beef, which I've made before, seemed the perfect solution. It's always amazing that you can take a chunk of tough, inexpensive chuck roast, and through a few simple steps, a few hours where it is left alone, and a little bit of kitchen love and turn it into something so good. This recipe is money. I've dome it three times now, and each time it turns out spectacularly well.

the tool of choice...9-1/2 quarts of high performance pleasure!

One note: as Bill Buford gave up in his excellent book Heat, where he spent time in the Babbo kitchen working the line, DON'T use Barolo for the red wine called for. You may have enough $40+ bottles of Piedmont greatness in your basement, but I don't, and neither does the Babbo kitchen. As Buford points out, they use cheap merlot in the Babbo version and it works just fine. I had an inexpensive southern Italian Nero d'Avola and it was fine.

Wine Pairing:
In this night of a mind-numbing number of bottles of wine, I started this course with a fabulous magnum of 2004 Ugo Lequio Barbera d'Alba that was absolutely perfect. Where we went from there starts to get a little bit hazy. The point is this sublime bottle only confirmed my opinion that Barbera from a good producer in a good vintage may be the best food wine in the world!
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Barolo Braised Beef
adapted from epicurious
from epicurious: "Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, then chill in sauce, covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat."

mise en place (or prep as most of us call it), the key to stress free cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) boneless beef chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 lb sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, or Côtes du Rhône (or as noted above, cheap-ass red!-bb)
2 cups water

Special equipment: a 4- to 5-qt heavy ovenproof pot with lid

1-Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

2-Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.
the flavoring agents bubbling away right before the addition
of our beefy guest of honor
3-Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4-Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.

notes: I was cooking for 7 and grabbed a 4-1/2 pound piece of chuck roast from my meat guy. Don't forget that as the meat braises merrily away it also shrinks in size. We had a couple of meager slices left. For a piece that size I also bumped up all of the other ingredients proportionally, except I didn't add any extra water. Also you will probably have some sauce left over. If yes, I added some canned San Marzanos to bump it up the next night and made a bad-ass pasta sauce!-bb
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.:
Crack olives...just add gin!


Anonymous said...

Hi, I dont eat Beef, so would Pork work as well? Tks for sharing, Mrs Singh from Malaysia(Asia)

bb said...

Mrs. Singh...A pork shoulder would braise up wonderfully. Give it the same time, or even a little longer. Check it as you go. Let me know how it works. Thanks for your comment!

Larissa said...

I live in Los Angeles, but still love a good braised slab of meat. Who doesn't?

bb said...

Alright Larissa...I KNOW you and all your other sun-belt eaters like the braise. I was feeling victimized by our crappy weather and envious of those who don't have to suffer through it when i wrote the piece. I don't feel near so badly now that is all the way up to a balmy 48.

Anonymous said...

This looks amazing. We have been wanting to do a roast-type thing. I think we will have to try it! Thanks

bb said...

MandL...then you must try this. It is pretty foolproof and tastes amazing! Thanks for your comment.