Sunday, December 28, 2008

The ol' book by it's cover lesson, again

As you may have guessed, I collect a great many things, among them cookbooks. I have a criteria for choosing these books: I prefer them to be illustrated, I like to be reassured by reviews in various food publications and/or blogs, and I like them to be specific: Ingredients in a list. Accurate amounts. Painfully clear method.

I know the other type, written by chefs for chefs. They will expect you to be able to make marchand de vin sauce to add to a recipe, for example. They use phrases such as, "add some stock." Leaving me annoyed an muttering aloud, "Could you be a tad more specific?" or spending hours hunting the most reliable and delicious recipe for marchand de vin because I did not go to school for mother sauces, okay? Liberal arts, and I am not ashamed of it. For a cook who learned my kitchen skills from Mom, Grandma, and endless reference tools, these generalizations are daunting, never mind my great attachment to formulas which makes things infallible and safe.

Consequently, I have looked over Larousse Gastronomique a half dozen times and decided we would agree to disagree: A book meant for another sort of cook. A cook destined to own more Patricia Wells than Larousse. Then my Mom gave me the boxed set for Christmas and I nervously opened the text in front her, certain what I would find but turning out to be thoroughly incorrect: The updated edition has general amounts for the most part, as well as some defined method and cooking times. I was thrilled that all of these long-trusted recipes were finally within reach. I am pleased to share one with you now: Fabulous. Just a whisper of smoky saltiness. Not like any deep winter wine-drenched roast I have ever known. I wish I had tried sooner.

Find the recipe and photo tutorial below. But be forewarned: This is beef, braised in dark red wine, this is not sexy to look at but it is on the palate.

Daube of Beef a la Bearnaise
Serves 6
Adapted from Larousse Gastronomique

2 pounds boneless chuck beef roast
1/2 pound uncured bacon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 carrots, sliced on bias in 1" cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle good red wine
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound pancetta (or Bayonne or serrano ham)
2-3 cups beef stock

For optional buerre manie to thicken the sauce:
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons flour

Cut the beef into 2 inch cubes. Do not trim the fat, include it in the cubes. Season the beef cubes liberally on all sides with kosher salt, pepper, and thyme. Roll each seasoned cube in a piece of bacon just large enough to wrap around once. Place the rolled beef cubes in casserole dish large and deep enough to fit all the rolls in one layer and and allow at least 1 inch marinade above the level of the rolls.

On top of the beef rolls spread the carrots, onions, and minced garlic evenly, Lay the 3 bay leaves scattered on top. Pour the bottle of wine over the meat, then the brandy. Give the liquid portion on top a gentle stir just to combine the brandy and wine, leaving the vegetables and and beef untouched below. Allow to marinate at room temperature 2 hours.

Line the bottom of your braising dutch oven or slow cooker with the pancetta or ham.
Set it near the stove. Remove the rolls from the liquid on to paper towels and pat dry. Dredge the rolls in flour and in a large saute pan over medium-high heat add olive oil and butter and heat until butter is melted and bubbling. Sear each roll to brown on all sides. You will have at least two batches. Transfer the browned rolls to the braising vessel lined with ham until all the rolls are in.

Strain the marinade to separate liquid from vegetables. Place vegetables in the pan from which the rolls have just removed and saute the vegetables until lightly browned. Transfer them to the braising vessel to lay on top of the beef and bacon rolls.

To the marinade, add 2 cups stock, stir to combine, and pour over the vegetables and beef. If it does not cover all the contents, add more stock until it just covers all.

If using a dutch oven, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer for one half hour. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for at 5 hours or until the beef separates easily to the tines of a fork. Remove from heat, skim off any fat on top using a baster or a separator (this step is imperative). If you choose to thicken the sauce make a buerre manie of 2 tablespoons softened butter evenly combined with 2 tablespoons flour, combine with a fork. Strain or ladle most of the sauce into a saucepan and set over medium heat. Before it boils, add the butter/flour mixture to the sauce pan and stir to dissolve. Allow the sauce to come just to a boil for one minute, then remove from the heat. Stir for one more mixture then add back to the beef in the braiser. Stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve. Lovely with buttered egg noodles or potato and parsnip puree.

Photo tutorial:

You will need a two pound boneless chuck steak and about 1/2 pound streaky bacon. I prefer to use pre-sliced, if you are of a mind to cut your own slab accordingly, by all means...

Cut the chuck into 2" cubes and season liberally with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and fresh or dried thyme leaves.

Wrap each seasoned beef cube in a slice of bacon just long enough to go around once. I did not find I needed to secure with toothpicks though you may to decide to do so. Place the rolls in a single layer in a dish for marinating which will also allow enough room for additional marinade.

Cover the meat evenly with the onions, carrots, garlic, and bay.

Pour the red wine and brandy on top, stir the liquid portion gently just to combine the two. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the rolls from the marinade to paper towels and pat dry. Dredge each roll in flour.

Brown on all sided in a large saute pan in butter and olive oil set over medium high heat. Transfer the rolls to the dutch oven or slow cooker lined in ham, you will have at least two layers. Set aside. Place the saute pan back on the heat.

Meanwhile, strain the marinade liquid from the vegetables.

Place vegetables in saute pan and saute over medium high heat until lightly browned at the edges. Add the vegetables to the dutch oven on top of the meat.

Add the beef stock to the marinade and stir to combine. Pour over the vegetables and meat in the dutch oven or slow cooker. If it does not cover all the contents, add more stock until the liquid just covers all.

If using a dutch oven, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer for one half hour. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for at 5 hours or until the beef separates easily to the tines of a fork.

Ladle or strain most of the liquid from the beef and vegetables and allow fat to settle on top of the gravy, remove the fat in a a separator as above or with a baster. If you prefer a thin sauce, add the gravy back to the meat. If you wish to thicken the sauce, place the gravy into a saucepan set over medium heat and warm gently. Now follow the steps for buerre manie:

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons softened butter and 2 tablespoons flour.
Add this to the gravy in the saucepan and stir to dissolve completely. Allow it to come to a boil and boil for only one minute, remove from the heat. It will look like this now:

Stir off the heat for one more minute then add back to the meat and vegetables. Stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve.

Now, your work is through.

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