Monday, October 08, 2007

First Braise of the Season

We're having quite a long and drawn out late summer here in NYC, with warm days and perfect evenings, like just-barely-warm bathwater. And global warming be darned, I'm enjoying it. But it was chilly for a few days last week, maybe Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and all I need is a 5 degree drop in temperature for my braising instincts to kick in.

So we cut up a large slab of Slope Farms (no website, but the grass-fed, antibiotic free, pasture grazed, open minded and definitely not racist, sexist, ageist, or any of the "ists") beef chuck into neat 6 ounce portions, and went to work. Braising has got to be the easiest form of cooking that I can think of. You can use interesting ingredients if you want, or get fancy in various ways, but the simplicity of meat braised in a simple combination of wine and stock is basically all you need. And for the first braise of the season, I like to keep things simple:

Brooklynguy's First Braise of the Season

Wash and trim 2 pounds of good quality beef chuck steak (tough shoulder cut, perfect for braising), cut into portions you want to serve. Season the pieces with salt and pepper, set aside. Finely chop 2 medium/large onions. Heat some canola or safflower oil over medium/high heat, using a pot that can go into the oven, like a Le Creuset braising pot or something. When the oil is hot, add the beef pieces and let them brown without disturbing them for about 2 minutes, turn them and brown for another 2 minutes. Remove the beef pieces and set aside. Lower the heat to medium, pour out excess oil, if there is any, and fry onions in the pot, stirring pretty often, until they are almost golden brown.

Pour in 2 cups of red wine - I like to use a Loire red here, like a $10 Saumur-Champigny or something. Beaujolais is also yummy. Also add 2 cups of stock. My favorite is home made vegetable stock, but use whatever you want. You will be shocked how much better this comes out if you use home made stock. Add the beef back to the pot and any juices from the plate, 2 cloves of crushed but not chopped garlic, and a bay leaf or 2. Bring to a boil and let boil for a minute, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring to scrape the onions off the bottom of the pot.

Cover the pot with a wet piece of parchment paper and then a lid, an place in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Take out of oven, remove paper and lid, add peeled and chopped carrots, peeled and halved turnips or chopped potatoes, and one Serrano chili that you have poked holes in with a fork, maybe 3 times. You can leave out the chili, but trust me, Serranos are not that hot and we're talking about one for the whole pot, and just quit your whining and add the chili. Leave it out next time if it sucks. With the cover off, put the pot back in the over for another hour.

You can substitute different veggies, add good canned Italian tomatoes and their juice instead of wine, add an herb sachet for the uncovered cooking time, or doctor this up as you like - it's just a basic braising recipe.

Take the pot of the oven, stir, taste, season with salt and black pepper, and let the whole thing rest for a few minutes. I like this dish better the next day, but it's hard to wait. So have a crusty baguette ready, take out the chili, and put a portion of beef into a shallow soup bowl, and ladle in some braising liquid with some of the vegetables. Serve this with a nice hunk of baguette and a green salad with vinegary dressing.

And for the me this dish clearly deserves a Burgundy, but go with whatever you like. We honored our first braise of the season with a really nice bottle from a good vintage, made by an up-and-coming producer, from a 1er Cru vineyard in the wonderful commune of Gevrey-Chambertin. By the way, if you haven't yet checked out Bill Nanson's very fine piece on Gevrey-Chambertin in the Summer issue of Burgundy Report, you should. I learned a lot. He describes the geology of the village and then tells of each Grand and 1er Cru vineyard.

Anyway...we opened a 2002 Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Petits Cazetiers, $45(two years ago at Chambers Street Wines). As you might read in Burgundy Report, Petits Cazetiers is a small vineyard just east of Cazetiers, and is very rarely bottled on its own. The grapes are usually mixed in with Cazetiers and labeled 1er Cru Les Cazetiers. Cazetiers borders the great 1er Cru Clos St Jacques, but gets a bit less exposure and is therefore not usually as ripe and exuberant.

This wine was dark and perfectly clear purple, with reserved smells of crushed fruit, flowers, and, some forest. The most striking thing about this wine is its texture - smooth as silk, a great mouth feel. The aromas become more lively after 45 minutes open, but this is not a boisterous flamboyant wine. It's more dark and thoughtful, demands that you give it your full attention and patience. While it lacks great depth, it is absolutely delicious and satisfying, with fine tannins and nice grapey mouth aromas after swallowing. And it was great with our first braise - would have been even better if it was snowing outside and we lived in a house with a wood burning stove.

Now I can relax and let the weather get colder before doing this again, but I had to get that first one out of my system.


Sonadora said...

Mmmmm, thanks for the recipe, it sounds delish!

RougeAndBlanc said...

Yes, thanks for the recipe. In our household, chuck steak is always braised in Chinese style - turnip + 5 spices. (And I always have problem with proper wine matching on that recipe).
Now I can finally go "out of the box" with your recipe and even try to persuade my wife to finish a glass of wine!
BTW - Do you think a Cab Franc (like Olga Raffault Les Picasses) can stand up to this dish?

Brooklynguy said...

hi sonadora! long time no see. it's a simple but really good recipe, and if you make enough you have food all week. try it and see.

hey andrew - i love that kind of braise too. i do that with chicken, and i don't know what wine to drink with it either. i think the 02 raffault chinon les picasses is a great pairing, especially if you decant it an hour before serving.

Sonadora said...

I will have to give it a try. Perhaps a project for this weekend.

I've been MIA from comments, still reading though, I can't access the comment feature at work anymore and with Matt's new job we mostly don't get home until 7:30, leaving me not so much time to do anything!

Anonymous said...

I can't decide which appeals more... your recipe or the wine you served with it. In any case, I plan to try it (the recipe) soon.

Hooray for cooler weather... I am so ready for long-cooking dishes. Now I can get back to perfecting mushroom risotto, too!

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Sonadora - let me know how it goes. And i hear you - must conserve the home time at night for family, not blogging.

Hi Ann,
Welcome, if this is your first time here. Always glad to see another Brooklyn blogger. Based on looking around your site, I'm not going to believe that you haven't braised lots of things lots of times, using far more interesting methods than I wrote about. But glad that this pairing got your juices flowing. I want mushroom risotto now, and it's not even 9:30 in the morning.