Monday, January 02, 2006

Braised Beef in Wine-Vegetable Bouillon w/ Broiled Brussels Sprouts

“Succulence. This is the true goal of braising; it is the aim toward which one strives, from the very beginning, and it is the direction in which all techniques and methods lead.”

I thought it only appropriate that the first meal of the New Year follow the namesake of the blog. Braising is a task all too simple. It is for those who are frugal with time or money when it comes to food and the preparation of. Braising makes an inexpensive cut of meat turn into a succulent $30 a pound filet that melts in the mouth. It also (in my case) turns an un-quaffable bottle of wine, into a mouth-watering gravy. Most anything can be braised: vegetables, fish, chicken, and meat. Sauce options are limitless as well: From a sweet prune and chestnut gravy to a savory vegetable and wine buillon-- or even a meat stew. This is what makes braising a pure joy.

Braising is at its utmost ease when little shopping is done towards the meal— just clean out the refrigerator and amaze your critics to one of the tastiest meals known. It is a dish that truly can be the odds-and-ends-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. Your final dish will taste amazing. Braising is best done when turning a fair piece of meat into a tender cut. An expensive piece of meat, I believe, should be cooked quick-- it will naturally melt in the mouth. For a recipe option, see Red Wine Infused Filet Mignon.

To braise a piece of food, simply add 1-2 Tbl of butter or oil to a fry pan. Allow pan to get hot. You may sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of your food, or a breadcrumb or otherwise coating, this is optional. Add the food, cooking on high heat 3-5 minutes each side, until lightly browned. This browning technique traps the juices (especially of meats) inside. Add a sauce: tomato, wine, or water and add fruits, vegetables, or nuts. The sauce need not cover the piece of meat, but as it evaporates you may need to add more. Bring the contents to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking on low heat for 2-3 hours. The longer you are able to leave the food alone, the more succulent it will become: Absorbing the juices and flavors of everything you have put into the pan. (Vegetables will cook for a shorter time, about 1 hour.)

To usher in the New Year, I braised a cheap cut of chuck ($2.50 a pound) in un-drinkable wine with assorted vegetables. The result truly was succulent. The meat fell right off the bone and all too quickly into the stomach. The meal was accompanied with broiled Brussels sprouts, covered simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. As M.F.K. Fisher notes in The Art of Eating, it is unnecessary to have each of your meals a complete protein-vegetable-starch affair. Enjoy a large salad for lunch and a meat and potato dinner. Or, oatmeal for breakfast, and a late lunch of meat and vegetables. Eating this way eases the nerves and clean up of any meal.

Serves 3. Prep time= 15 min. Cook time= 3 hours
2 lbs meat (I used a cheap cut of chuck)
2 Tbl butter
2 cloves garlic
10 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 Tbl Worchester sauce
1-½ cups dry red wine (a cheap wine works well)

1) Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Melt the butter and sprinkle salt and fresh pepper on the meat. Add garlic. (You may cut the meat into serving size pieces.) Place meat on pan and brown both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
2) Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and allow to slowly stew 2-3 hours. To test doneness of meat, poke with a wooden spoon. Meat should be soft and tender.

Serves 3. Cook + Prep time= 10 min
1 handful Brussels sprouts
2 Tbl olive oil
salt/ pepper to taste

1) When just about ready to sit for the meal, wash and cut Brussels sprouts in half. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in an oven-safe tin and broil 4 minutes. Remove from heat, flip sprouts, broil another 4 minutes. Brussels sprouts should be soft and buttery looking with a few blackened leaves.

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