Sunday, October 5, 2014

A chill is in the air, time to heat up the oven

Someone has created a monster. Like me. A braising monster. Frankenbraise? Count Braiseula? I cannot stop myself. I now look at everything in the cupboard, grocery store, freezer, and try to figure out how to include it in a braising recipe. I'm not kidding! Of course, this means that I have to drive back to the city for some really special ingredients to make a really special dish. 

Some days the grocery store is like Disneyland!
I managed to get a great deal on some boneless beef ribs (marked boneless beef short ribs) from our local market, but like I said, the produce section is often sorely lacking variety, and I had some ideas already going in my brain. A road trip to the city is in order. So that's exactly what I did. Braising beef in wine is always the right thing to do so Merlot went in the basket (good deal on a bottle). I wanted something other than the plain old white mushroom too, so grabbed a couple varieties and kept wandering. Ohhhhhhh great deal on a ceramic skillet, which is something I have been wanting for a white, so I pick up one in a cool platinum color. Some baby bok choy, Peruvian purple potatoes, shishito peppers, a trip to the olive bar (of course....) artisan bread, some other things for other recipes this week and off I go.

Ready to go in the oven
Now mind you, all of these things are not for this recipe today. I have a few things to work on this week so I figured it's the best time to get just what I needed while I was at the BIG store. Mascarpone and orecchiette will make a magical pasta dish. Shishito peppers, beautiful olives and white Vermont cheddar with Hatch chilies will make great nibbles and with the cooler temps, and I have another lush soup to put together this week. Those Peruvian purple potatoes are going to make a simple fish dish a little more special.

Any day I get to use the Le Creuset is of course, a good day! If you don't have a Dutch oven, you seriously need to get one. You don't have to plunk down a ton of cash either. Lodge brand makes a great cast iron Dutch oven that's under fifty dollars and as cast iron, will last a lifetime if you season and care for it properly. While I wish I had an actual braiser pan, a Dutch oven subs nicely, and is perfect for lots of great dishes.

Getting ready to braise- the beef snuggled down in the herby
wine with bacon, smothered with leeks and mushrooms
Alright, so let's talk about our ingredients. I will be using-
  • boneless beef ribs (also called country style ribs) 6 to 8 pieces
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 lb assorted fresh mushrooms
  • 3 leeks
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Merlot 
  • 2 tbs chopped sun dried tomato or tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
  • 2 lay leaves
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
Wipe the mushrooms clean. Trim off the dried stem end and discard. Remove stems if desired (reserve for soup or sauce). Slice the mushrooms thickly. Set aside.
I used a mix of button, baby bella and cremini mushrooms
Peel the outer tough leaves of the leeks. We will need the white part with just a small bit if the green part, so cut that off and discard. Trim the roots of the leeks but leave them intact. Slice the leeks lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to make sure there is no sand (leeks can be pretty gritty). If your leeks are big giant leeks like I had  you can cut them into quarters lengthwise.

Leaving the root intact holds the leek together while cooking
In a small dish place about 1/2 cup or so of flour. Season the meat with salt and pepper on all sides.

Save yourself a dish to wash- use the meat wrapping to hold
the flour- then just throw away when you're finished.
Cut the bacon into pieces- a little larger than "lardons" but not quite an inch wide- about the width of your finger. 

Cook the bacon in the Dutch oven until crispy and brown- no soggy flabby bacon allowed! Remove to paper towel to drain.

It doesn't look like much but a little bacon goes a long way

In the same pot with the bacon fat we are going to brown the beef. Dredge the beef in the flour and brown in the hot pan. Sear the meat quickly without cooking through. Remove to a plate as you get them browned. Don't crowd them in the pot- they won't brown, they will just steam and become mushy and not brown and seared.

After meat is browned, add a tablespoon each of oil and butter if needed. Place the leeks in the pot cut side down and cook until slightly browned. Flip them over and cook another minute or two. Remove to plate with the meat. 

Turn the leeks with tongs for easy handling.
Again, add another tablespoon each of butter and oil to pot. Add half the mushrooms; cook and stir until mushrooms are browned and any liquid has evaporated. Remove to bowl and repeat with other half of mushrooms. Remove to bowl.

Add garlic and herbs to pot, cook and stir for just a minute. You don't want the garlic to brown. 

Look at all the delicious fond in the bottom of the pot. A
quick deglaze and it's part of the sauce.
Add the wine to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring to lift up the crusty browned bits. Boil for a couple minutes to reduce slightly. Return the beef and bacon to the pot, followed by the vegetables. 

Deglazing a pot is probably the most important step in making
a beautifully flavored dish. So much deliciousness clinging to
the bottom of the pot. Use it!
Cover and place in 300 degree oven. Slowly braise for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender. Check once or twice and add a splash of beef broth if needed. 

Remove meat and vegetables from pot and place in serving bowl. 

Once you carefully remove the leeks, beef and mushrooms you will have the most beautiful, flavorful jus on the planet. It doesn't look anything like the wine it was to begin with. The vegetables and meat have added their own juices to the wine and now you have a ready made sauce. Bring cooking liquid to boil and reduce by half. 

Look at all those little bits of garlic, herbs, bacon, sun dried
tomatoes and all the cooking juices.
Serve meat and vegetables with mashed potatoes with sauce and lots of crusty bread for dipping.

Very easy. Very delicious. Very French. Bon appetit!

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