Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the miracle of mayo and the brilliance of braised beef

The other night I had some leftover wine in the apartment and it needed to be used quickly, so I decided to make some braised beef with it.
In a skillet over medium high heat with 2tsp olive oil, brown on all sides 1.5lb beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 in chunks in as many batches as necessary and put into a dutch oven/braising dish. Pour off most of the fat and lightly brown 1 onion cut into quarters, 4 cloves pierced into each onion quarter, 2 carrots cut into 2in pieces, 1tsp dried thyme, 2 sprigs parsley then put into dutch oven with the beef.
Raise the heat and pour in 1c white wine or 1 3/4 c red wine and simmer until reduced to 1/2 or 2/3, respectively. Be sure to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour into dutch oven. Add 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 head of garlic coarsely chopped, 1 strip orange zest, 2 c beef stock.
Cover the pot tightly and cook at a bare simmer or in a 325 oven for 2-3 hours until tender.

I accidentally bought cilantro instead of parsley, but had I some flat leaf parsley, I would have chopped it up with come garlic and sprinkled it on top. I've been eating my leftovers with fettuccini, but the first night I made it, I ate it with baguette, which is the better way to eat it because it soaks up all those fabulous juices.

Improvements: trim off as much of the connective tissue as possible. I don't cook meat that often and I was hoping it would just dissolve into the broth, which it does to a point, but it's still kind of flabby and soft to me and I prefer just the purely textured meat without the extra jigglyness.


My roommate and I had a cheese party the day before and we had a considerable amount of cheese leftover. She doesn't eat blue cheese and that was one of the big hunks we had left (Fourme d'Ambert--an excellent, not soapy blue cheese. I had never really ventured out into blue territory before, but with the occasion of the party, I thought it was necessary to have one atop the cheese board and this was an excellent choice.). So, I decided to make a sandwich with it, and I've been hearing a bunch of Frenchmen talk about the wonders of making your own mayo in the past week (my Molecular Cell Biology professor, and this French guy in Brooklyn who was on the Food Networks "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" making a BLT (Ted Allen's fave thing with bacon)) and I really wanted to try it, I don't usually use mayo, but what better occasion than a sandwich to make your own?

So, I woke up early-ish Monday morning and whisked 1 egg yolk with 1/2 tsp water, a pinch o' salt and 1c olive oil. What the F? It has the consistency of salad dressing! But I whisked it vigorously and was relatively slow about it...I think!...?!?! Well, Alice Waters's "The Art of Simple Food" told me not to fret and to use another egg yolk and SLOWLY whisk in the broken mayo. This time I was uber careful about it (so much so that it took me 15 minutes...but I didn't want to waste another egg yolk!) and it turned thick quickly and my arm got a light work out. Marvelous. It's a light yellow-green color--that's the olive oil talking; that's what mayo is: spreadable oil. Sound gross? Well, I think it's pretty brilliant, actually, because what do people spread on their bread at restaurants? Butter. Now, is mayo really that different? It's better for you than butter--less saturated fat, and you don't need it to come to room temp in order to get it to a spreadable consistency (somewhat shamefully, I have been spreading it on a piece of bread and eating it plain.. HEY! I dip my bread in straight olive oil all the time and that's my favorite way of eating bread. Mayo is less mess and I made this mayo with my own hands!). The oil is really showcased here, so use an extra virgin olive oil--one that you like the flavor of. I used Trader Joe's olive oil, but I like their stuff and am but a humble student, but I would say don't be afraid to use a nicer olive oil and venture out to some flavored oils too if you have the money.

The lesson: Don't buy that flavorless, lord knows what's in them jar mayo. If you have an egg, a good oil, and a whisk there are no excuses.


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