Adapted from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, this braised beef is one of my favorite chilly-weather recipes. The seasons are changing in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s wonderful to have the savory aromas of a braise filling the house all afternoon, then sit down to a warming, nourishing meal. Adler provides a method for slow-cooking any cut of stew meat in liquid, with several delicious variations. This version has become a standby in our house, with tomato paste and spices giving the beef its rich flavor.
If there’s any beef leftover, refrigerate it in its liquid. The fat that hardens on the surface can be saved for cooking vegetables. Reheat the meat in it liquid and serve over steamed or boiled vegetables, or shred the meat for tacos. You can also use the braising liquid for risotto, and serve with shredded meat on top.
This is the perfect dish to cook ahead. You can cook the day before serving, or finish the braise early in the afternoon and reheat for dinner. Or it’s fantastic straight out of the oven, too.
The beauty of this recipe is it’s very flexible. Measurements don’t need to be exact. Buy whatever amount of beef you want (and fits in your Dutch oven or stew pot) and add enough liquid to cover. Adjust or change the spices to your liking. Use carrot and onion or any combination of those and scraps of fennel or celery. A cup or two of wine or beer helps tenderize and add flavor. A trick I learned from a chef friend is to keep dry vermouth on hand as a substitute. I used about half a cup for the braise in the photograph, and it turned out beautifully. This cut of meat was sirloin tip steaks, but any stewing cut will work.
For browning the beef, I use ghee for health reasons. It has a higher smoke point that olive oil, and I love the creamy flavor.
For the beef:
About 3 pounds of stew beef
Ghee or olive oil
A couple of carrots, washed and cut into large pieces
Half a small onion, roughly chopped or sliced into a couple of segments
Handful of parsley
4 to 6 cups beef broth
Wine, beer, or dry vermouth
For the sides:
Small to medium potatoes of your choice, cut into one-inch cubes
A bunch of carrots, peeled
Optional: a handful of herbs, like parsley, chives, tarragon, celery leaves
Salt and pepper
1. If you can, salt the beef heavily a day ahead. Otherwise, salt it at least three hours before cooking.
2. Two hours before cooking, bring the meat to room temperature.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a Dutch oven or stew pot, heat a couple spoons of ghee or a glug of olive oil over medium heat. Add the meat and brown it on at least two sides. (Adler says, “Let it get quite brown, not mushy tan.”) Remove the meat to a plate.
4. Add the carrots, onion, parsley, a sprinkle of cayenne, and a generous shake of cumin. Stir against the browned bits in the bottom of the pot. Add a little water to deglaze the pot and incorporate the delicious browned bits into the start of the sauce.
5. When the vegetables start to soften, add the meat, broth, a couple spoons of tomato paste, and a cup or two of wine / beer or half cup of dry vermouth. The liquid should be enough to just cover the meat. Bring to almost a boil, cover with a lid, and transfer to the oven.
6. Cook for three to four hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender. (Test it by pushing on it with a wooden spoon; when it easily falls apart, it’s done.) You’ll want to check the pot partway through, and if the liquid is at a heavy boil, reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees.
7. Remove the meat from the liquid. Strain the liquid into a pot or large bowl, and discard the vegetables and parsley. Return the beef and liquid to the pot to keep warm on the stove, if you’re serving soon, or refrigerate and reheat later.
8. For the potatoes, place the cubes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook until they’re very tender, then drain and let them steam in a colander. Toss with olive oil and, if you like, a handful of chopped herbs.
9. For the carrots, steam them for six minutes or so, until just tender. Add butter, salt and pepper.
10. Serve the beef and it liquid over the soft potatoes and steamed carrots, or with any other steamed or boiled vegetable of your choice. The rich braising liquid will infuse everything on the plate with its wonderful, savory and spiced flavor.