Archive for the 'beef & bison' Category

Braised Brisket

brisket 6

Brisket! ‘Tis the season.

I mean to make brisket more than I actually do. I keep hoping a smoker will magically appear in my back yard, so that I might spend a day in a lawn chair like a lady in waiting to an enormous brisket, mopping it hourly, in pursuit of the perfect smoke ring.

But braising will do too. Because brisket comes from the lower chest of the animal, it contains plenty of connective tissue, requiring a long, slow braise to break it all down. Because smokers have not yet become a common household item, braising is by far the most common way to cook brisket – and there are as many ways to do it as there are people making it.

Brisket Collage 1

Braising is simple – all you need is a heavy pot, a chunk of meat, low heat and some liquid. I love my enamel-coated cast iron braising pots – you can set them on the stovetop, brown your meat and veg, then add liquid and slide the whole thing into the oven, making use of those browned bits in the bottom of the pan, the heavy lid keeping just enough moisture in to reduce everything to an intensely thick, rich gravy. (With no need for flour to thicken.) You could do all this in the slow cooker, but I like the darker, deeper sauce you get from a pot in the oven.

Brisket Collage 2

I started mine with a dry rub of paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Common enough. Brown it until it has dark, crispy edges, then do the same with the onions, until they’re soft and turning golden. Then return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes and stock (or beer, or wine) and some sprigs of thyme and bay leaves, if you have them, and then let the oven do the rest.

Brisket Collage 3

I like to let brisket go for a good 4 hours – it’s even better the next day, so feel free to make it one day, cool, cover the pot and refrigerate the whole thing overnight, then slide it back into the oven to rewarm when you’re ready to serve it. I’ve heard of Jewish grandmas making it days in advance of their big dinners, or freezing it for weeks beforehand. (Because everything has broken down so well, braised dishes are perfect candidates for freezing.)

Brisket Collage 4

Apologies for the quick, early morning brisket shot on a white tile that makes it look as if it’s floating –

brisket 9

Braised Brisket

Some people add a splash of vinegar to the pot – red wine or balsamic – others use red wine as the liquid, or a combination of wine and stock. If you like, add a sprig or two of fresh thyme or oregano to the pot instead of rubbing it over the meat. Enamel-coated cast iron is ideal for brisket; if you don’t have one, brown your meat in a heavy skillet, then transfer it to a baking dish and cover with foil to braise. Or use the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours.

2-3 lb. brisket
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. thyme or oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola or olive oil, for cooking
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 14 oz (398 mL) can whole or diced tomatoes, with their juices
3 cups chicken or beef stock
2 bay leaves (optional)

Pat your brisket dry and sprinkle it with paprika, thyme, and plenty of salt and pepper; rub it all over the surface on both sides.

Set an ovenproof pot (one in which the brisket will fit fairly snugly is ideal) over medium-high heat and add a generous drizzle of oil. Brown the brisket on both sides, then transfer to a plate and add the onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until starting to soften and turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Return the brisket to the pan and add the tomatoes, stock and bay leaves. Cover and braise at 325F for 3-4 hours, lifting the lid to flip the meat once or twice – and leave the lid off for a bit if you want to reduce the liquid. If it’s cooking off too quickly and looking dry, add a splash more stock, or even some water.

To serve, slice against the grain and spread out on a platter, topped with sauce. If you like, prepare the brisket a day ahead to allow the flavours to develop – cool then refrigerate in the pot overnight, then reheat in the oven when you’re ready for it. Serve leftovers in soft buns, or make tacos or fajitas.

Serves 6-8.

Print Friendly

April 04 2015 | beef & bison | 5 Comments »

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef + Homemade Flour Tortillas

Barbacoa beef 1

Beef stew was, sadly at the time, a staple of our childhood. My mom would buy stewing beef and my dad, clearly unaware of the benefits of cooking such cuts low and slow, would brown the meat, add tomatoes and potatoes and green things and serve it up for dinner – and it was a long, meaty chew.

Nowadays, I appreciate the flavour potential of inexpensive cuts of beef – and I love a good dark, sticky braise. A recipe that calls for a few hours’ cooking time sounds daunting, but dishes like beef stew and carbonnade can be slid into the oven after school and be done by dinnertime.

browning beef

Of course, starting with the proper cut of beef is important, which is why so many people panic in the meat aisle, why Mike dreads me sending him to the store with vague cuts of beef on his list, and why having a good butcher is a very good thing. But when there isn’t someone behind the counter at the ready to answer any question you might have about what cut of meat is best for what, there’s an app for that. Of course there is! Everyone should have their own personal butcher in their back pocket. I was asked to take The Roundup for a spin, and so I sent Mike to the store with it to do some hands-on testing on a real-life stressed-out guy with minimal meat knowledge. He came home without that concerned scowl on his face, with a bonus pot roast and a request to cook it later.

beef app 1

The fact that apps are so compact and interactive makes them handy real-time resources. For those not so much in the know, The Roundup was created by Canadian Beef; it’s a well-designed, definitive guide to cuts of beef and how to cook them, with videos for those of us (all of us?) who find cooking very visual, interactive meat charts, recipes, nutritional info, and even the tenderness rule of thumb: the farther a cut is from the hoof, horn or hip, the more tender the meat.

But tenderness isn’t always the goal: the more inexpensive cuts tend to have more flavour once stewed, braised or otherwise slow-cooked, which allows the tough connective tissues break down to the point where the meat can generally be pulled apart with a fork or fingers.
Case in point: this super simple barbacoa beef – it’s far from authentic barbecue, but also the sort of throw-into-the-pot-and-walk-away dinner that I kind of love. Browning the meat quickly in a hot pan first adds a layer of flavour – then all you need to do is turn on the slow cooker. (It will work just as well in the oven – at about 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours.)

slow cooker

It’s also perfect for making large batches of – it takes exactly the same amount of time and effort to make twice or three times as much, which is ideal if you’re having a party or want leftovers to keep in the fridge or freeze for another day. And if you really want to doll them up, try filling crunchy corn taco shells and topping with salsa verde, chopped avocado, minced white onion and lots of cilantro.

Barbacoa Tacos 1

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Bites

You’ll need less liquid in the slow cooker than in a covered pot in the oven – the juice of two oranges (which was what I had) worked for me in the slow cooker. Adapted from The Roundup – the app guide to buying and cooking Canadian beef.

canola oil, for cooking
1 lb. simmering steak, such as blade, cross rib, or stewing beef
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2-3/4 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp. ketchup
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 Tbsp. grated ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
pinch dried red chilis
1 tsp. cornstarch (optional – I didn’t need it)

Set a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when it’s hot, add the beef, sprinkling it with salt and pepper in the pan. Turn to brown on all sides – you just want to get some colour – then transfer to a braising dish or slow cooker.

Pour the orange juice into the pan and stir to scrape up any browned bits – pour over the meat. Add the ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili, stir to combine, cover and braise in the oven at 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours, or cook on low in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours.

If it’s too saucy and you’d like to thicken it up, stir the cornstarch into 1 Tbsp. cold water, add to the meat mixture and bring to a simmer until it thickens. Otherwise serve it as-is, with flour or corn tortillas, chopped purple or green onion, and fresh cilantro for serving.

Serves 4-6.

If you go to serve your barbacoa and don’t have a package of tortillas in the freezer like you thought you did, it’s actually simpler than it sounds to make a quick batch of your own. (No need for special cornflour or a tortilla press.) These quick, plain flour tortillas are made from a super simple dough, rolled and cooked in a hot pan. That’s it. Being able to serve them warm is a total bonus.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup canola oil

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the water and canola oil and stir until you have a soft dough. Cover and let it rest for half an hour.

Pinch off pieces of dough the size of a small egg and roll out on the countertop (don’t flour it – you need it to stick slightly to get it to roll out nice and thin) to 5 inches or so, then cook in a hot pan until deep golden in spots. Serve immediately.

Makes about a dozen flour tortillas.

* This post was sponsored by the fine beefy folks at Canadian Beef – but I was happy to take the app for a spin, and I’m always up for cooking some good local beef.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Print Friendly

February 25 2015 | beef & bison | 2 Comments »

« Prev - Next »