I’m a recently converted braising believer. I say recent because by nature and circumstance I’m more of a spontaneous, wait-until-the-last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of cook. Planning and making lists can be drudging work for me, so when it comes to deciding what to have for dinner, I tend to rely on a well-stocked pantry, simple recipes and quick cooking methods like grilling, broiling or stir-frying.
Which is all well and good. But now that both of my kids are in school all day, I’m feeling like I have a tiny bit more time to think about our daily dinner plans – and nothing seems more luxurious to me then having the wherewithal to start cooking dinner 4 hours in advance.
I know, some of you are thinking – Hasn’t this girl ever heard of a Crock-Pot?
I do own one of those, but for some reason I haven’t yet developed enough of a relationship with it to consider having an affair. I reserve my affection for a heavy-duty Le Creuset Dutch oven.
Sliding that pot full of meat, vegetables and wine-rich broth into the oven for a few hours not only fills the house with amazing smells, but leaves me hands-free to do other things. I love the fact that dinner can be bubbling away in the oven, and all I’ll need to do later is either slice some bread or boil wide egg noodles and toss some baby greens with dressing for a salad.
This recipe resembles a French-style beef daube, which is just a fancy name for beef stew. Traditionally made in a very large earthenware dish called a daubiere, it’s slow food at its best – rich with tender beef, herbs and red wine. I throw in aromatic herbs like thyme and rosemary, and use a chopped fennel bulb in place of celery for a little Provencal twist.
Also, I prefer to cook the most of the vegetables separately from the stew; that way they retain their color, texture and flavor rather than turn into overcooked beige mush.
For more braising ideas, check out my recipe for:
I’m tagging a few friends to join in the fun:
Jenny at Picky Palate
Janelle at Talk of Tomatoes
Annie at The Cheesemonger’s Wife
makes 4 – 6 servings 2 – 3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 peeled whole garlic cloves
2 cups hearty red wine, such as Syrah, Merlot or Cotes-du-Rhone
1 –2 cups beef or chicken broth
2 bay leaves and 4 sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary, tied into a bundle with string
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup chopped leeks
1 fennel bulb, stems trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Season the beef generously all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the beef, in batches, and brown well on all sides. Remove beef to a platter.
Add onion to the pot and cook 5 minutes, stirring every now and then, until onion is softened. Return beef to the pot and sprinkle with flour. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and wine. Bring to a boil. Add enough broth to just cover the beef; toss in the herb bundle. Cover the pot with a sheet of parchment or foil, then top with the pot lid.
Place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. The cooking liquid will be slightly reduced and the meat should fall apart when prodded with a fork.
Meanwhile, place the carrots, leeks and fennel in a large skillet with 1/4 cup water. Place over high heat until the water boils, then cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender but still colorful, about 10 minutes.
Just before serving, stir the vegetables into the stew; season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve over wide egg noodles, mashed potatoes or with some crusty bread alongside.
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