Brazen Braising

Cheap meat, great taste. It’s what braising is all about. I like the whole idea of taking a cheap cut of beef and making it taste fantastic.

Now, by cheap cut I’m thinking of something that has “round” or “chuck” in the name on the label: chuck roast, top round, bottom round, etc….anything that comes as a large hunk of beef or in chunks and is relatively inexpensive (i.e. relative to higher-priced cuts like cuts that have “steak” in the name on the label). The more fat streaking through the meat, the better. So stay away from the cut-up meat they sell for “beef stir-fry.”

Braising is long, slow cooking in liquid. But if that’s all you did, you could lose a lot of flavor. In this recipe, you get melt-in-your-mouth beef with a very rich sauce for flavoring your starch of choice. The only draw back is this takes 3-4 hours, so make sure you have the time.

Simple Braised Beef (not quick beef)

  • Buy that cheap chunk of beef.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • Cut beef up into chunks if not already there…probably 1-2″ cubes. Sprinkle salt and pepper onto each chunk and let sit while you do the other preps. For more taste, also sprinkle some ground herb like thyme, marjoram, sage, or rosemary. Great stuff if you have it, but S&P is just fine.
  • Now’s good time to prep some veggies: onion and garlic plus some combination of celery, carrot, green pepper, tomatoes, or not.
  • Get a big pot or Dutch oven. The best type is heavy cast iron or aluminum…not the thin aluminum one you bought at the big chain grocery.
  • You want high heat for the first step in cooking the meat. Put 2-3 Tablespoons of olive or canola oil in the pan and let the pot get hot.
  • Carefully put the chunks in the pot to avoid splatters. Ouch! Don’t crowd them. They need to breathe while they’re getting all brown. (breathe?)
  • Use tongs to turn each piece and brown every surface of the chunk. This will be about 2-3 minutes per surface.
  • When all nice and brown, remove the chunks to some paper towels. Then lower the heat to medium and add your veggies. First the onion and garlic (must-haves), then others. If all you have is onion and garlic, that’s ok. Cook the veggies for 5-10 minutes…careful not to burn them…sprinkle with S&P.
  • Add liquid of choice. A very important step. Flavor-wise, I like to go with red wine. Remember, only use a wine you’d be happy drinking. But a great alternative is a good ale or stout. Guinness is golden.
    If you have some mustard you like, add that, too. About a couple of tablespoons.
  • Use your spoon or spatula to swirl the liquid around and scrape up the little bits on the bottom of the pots. Keep scraping until the bottom seems smooth.
  • Add back the beef, cover the pot, and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. You can do this on the stove top or in the oven at 350°. But BEWARE, the liquid will evaporate, so check every hour and add more liquid to bring the level back to about half the height of the biggest meat chunks. One way to minimize evaporation is to make an aluminum foil seal. Just take a sheet of foil and place over pot before covering. Press down on the lid to get the best seal.
Three hours later….
  • Remove pot from oven. Carefully remove lid and foil, if used. Remove the chunks to a plate. Tip the pot a little to make it easier to get at the extra fat. Use a big spoon to remove as much of the pure fat you can as is easy to do. This fat won’t add much and will diminish the final product by making it seem too “greasy.”
  • See what you think about the thickness and volume of the sauce. Is it too chunky? Too thin? Too thick? Won’t go far enough with the starch you have in mind? (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.)
    • If too thick, add some broth or water. Beef broth is best, chicken is OK. Remember that if you’re going to have potatoes or pasta, the starch will soak up some of the liquid.
    • If too thin, and there’s enough sauce, put the pot on the stove top and boil gently until reduced in volume more to your liking.
    • You can also thicken or finish with a little flour (1-2 tablespoons and cook for 2 minutes or so), or 1 tablespoon cornstarch and water mixture, or even 1-2 tablespoons butter.
  • Keep the sauce warm while you prepare your potatoes or pasta. Dad really likes flat noodles with this disk, but just about anything works.
  • You can serve the beef as chunks, or you can shred the chunks into…shreds (:)) and mix with the sauce and serve over the starch.
The flavor will knock you out. Enjoy.

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