Archive for the 'beef' Category

The Best Beef Stew

Beef Stew 1 The Best Beef Stew

When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.)

Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew.

Beef stew Collage The Best Beef Stew

But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down to the point where chewing is unnecessary. These days, I make beef stew in the big red Le Creuset braiser I bought for myself, browning the meat first on the stovetop to create all those deep browned crusty bits that add so much flavour. (One day I made boeuf bourguignon for fifty, and browned so much beef that our kitchen was like a steamy meat sauna.)

Beef Stew 6 The Best Beef Stew

Once I have that foundation of browned bits, I add the onion and celery to the pan to loosen them (and create even more), then some beef stock, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar (because: yum) and red wine and let the whole thing simmer for a good couple hours, until it looks something like this:

Beef Stew 4 The Best Beef Stew

Then the potatoes (small, with their skins) and carrots (ditto), and even parsnips, if you’re into alternative root vegetables, get into the pool. Toss a handful of frozen peas in too, if you like.

Beef Stew 3 The Best Beef Stew

They get the chance to cook in the dark, sticky gravy, leaving everything awesome and not at all watery; enough to stand up to these neverending cold-snowy-icy days.

Beef Stew 2 The Best Beef Stew

Or for nights when you want to invite your dad over for dinner.

The Best Beef Stew

3-4 lb beef chuck or stewing beef, cut into 2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
canola oil, for cooking
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 cups (1 L) beef stock
1/2 bottle red wine (about 2 cups)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 lb. small, thin-skinned potatoes, halved
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1/2 cup peas, thawed (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place a heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the meat in batches, without crowding the pan, browning it well on all sides. Remove from the pot and add the onion and celery, if using. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and starting to loosen the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the vinegar and cook for another minute.

Add the stock and red wine, cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stir to coat everything well and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. (If you’re adding peas, stir them in for the last 5 minutes.) Serve hot.

Serves 6-8.

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February 06 2014 | beef and one dish | 14 Comments »

Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

ACE Grilled Cheese 1 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

I feel like I’ve been slingshot (can that be used as a verb?) straight into mid January, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a grilled cheese sandwich.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to eat bread, it might as well be truly fantastic – and preferably used to bookend other divine ingredients, bound together by melty cheese. There are few things I love more than a grilled cheese sandwich, but too often everything gets ignored but the cheese.

Grilled cheese Collage Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Let’s start with the bread, shall we? This is a roasted garlic oval from ACE Bakery, with sweet, mellow roasted garlic right in the dough. It’s a good size – with enough structural integrity and a crisp crust. I used my friend Jessica’s trick – to mix grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter to spread on the outside of each slice, which creates an extra crunchy, cheesy exterior, maximizing those crispy edges.

Garlic bread 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Inside – aged cheddar is my favourite, and I had some old orange and extra old white in the fridge, so I used both. Grated, it easily covers any surface area, and melts more quickly. And a spoonful of caramelized onions – it could be a batch of onion jam, or just chop or blitz an onion or two in the food processor, then saute it on the stovetop in a little oil and a little butter for 10 minutes, or until it all turns nice and dark and golden and sticky. I usually can’t help a quick splash of balsamic vinegar in there too, and a pinch of sugar if you want to help things along.

Grilled cheese 1 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

And that would be enough to make me happy, right there. But I’ve been braising plenty of beef or bison short ribs lately for some reason or other, which reminded me of how delicious bits of leftover short ribs are in a grilled cheese, and so I braised a batch just for this occasion. (The occasion being making them on Global on Saturday morning.)

Grilled cheese 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

You don’t need a lot of the beef; pulled off the bone, it’s so rich and intense – more the essence of beef than thinly sliced roast from the deli – a few chunks elevates this sandwich to the truly sublime.

ACE Grilled Cheese 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Add woolly socks + a good book (or Downton Abbey on Netflix!) to get through a January weekend.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese with Braised Short Ribs and Caramelized Onions

Short Ribs:
canola oil, for cooking
4-6 bison or beef short ribs
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine or beer
1 cup beef or chicken stock (or more wine)

Caramelized Onions:
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)
2 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper

grated aged white cheddar
ACE Bakery Roasted Garlic Oval loaf
soft butter or olive oil, for cooking
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat a drizzle of oil in a small, heavy oven-proof pot set over medium-high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides; add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Pour the wine overtop, and add enough stock to come about halfway up the sides of the ribs. Cover and cook at 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and set aside. Meanwhile, set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the onions for 10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the balsamic vinegar (if you’re using it) and cook for a minute, until it evaporates; add the brown sugar, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until deep golden. Set aside to cool.

To assemble your grilled cheese sandwiches, slice the roasted garlic oval on a slight diagonal and layer with grated cheddar, caramelized onions, short rib and more cheddar. If you like, stir some grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter and spread on the outside of the sandwich; alternatively, brush with olive oil. Grill in a panini grill or in a hot skillet, turning as needed, until the cheese has melted and the sandwich is crusty and golden.

Makes as many as you’d like.

pixel Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions
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January 12 2014 | beef and cheese and sandwiches | 10 Comments »

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