Rather startlingly winter has arrived. Snow is forecast tomorrow and there were a few tiny flakes Saturday while we waited for the bus. Snow!
Time for long slow cooked beef, transforming cheap collagen rich cuts of meat into toothsome joy, and warming the kitchen as it cooks. In prescient fashion I had already planned a pot roast, using chuck steak - a very cheap cut from the shoulder that really can't be cooked dry or fast but responds well to liquid and low flame and love.
I found a recipe from Anna del Conte's Classic Food of Northern Italy that uses barding and vinegar for tenderness and onions and cream for an extraordinary depth of flavour. I started Saturday and cooked the meat in the oven for about 2 hours then turned off the heat and left the pan in to continue cooking in its own stored heat. Left it in the fridge next day so could lift off the fat before reheating for an unctuously rich repast.
Made mash and sprouts to go with, and best of all had sandwiches with the leftovers in the week.
Beef Braised with Onions, Vinegar & Cream
450g small white onions or pickling onions, peeled but leave the root on so they don't collapse
75g smoked pancetta
needles from 2 rosemary sprigs, about 20cm long
1.5kg piece of boneless beef, chuck ideally or brisket or silverside, rolled and tied
60g unsalted butter
1 tbspn olive oil
150ml red wine vinegar - best you have
300ml single cream
Chop the pancetta and rosemary needles very finely using a stick blender or processor. Season with salt and pepper.
Make deep incisions in the meat along the grain and push into it some of the pancetta rosemary paste (called a battuto), pushing it well in with a chopstick or some such. When you have done one end, turn the meat over adn lard from the other end, so that the whole length of the piece will be larded. Pat the meat with salt and pepper all aover and with any leftovere battuto.
Heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
Heat the butter and oil in a flameproof dish. When the butter foam begins to subsdie add the meat and brown on all sides. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, then pour over the vinegar and boil briskly for a further 3 - 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the cream. When it is nearly boiling add it to the casserole with some salt and pepper. Cover the casserole dish tightly, sealing the top with a layer of foil before putting the lid on. Cook in the oven for 1 hour then turn the heat down to 150C/300f/Gas2 amd continue to cook for another 2 hours. Turn the heat off but leave the pan in the oven overnight, undisturbed.
Next morning put the pan in the fridge to solidfy the fat making it easy to remove before reheating. Keep it to roast potatoes...
This was a splendid dinner Sunday night, the meat meltingly tender and the sauce rich and unctuous ladled over mash potatoes. The rest of the meat was brilliant sliced into sandwiches and the rest of the onion sauce will make a rich base for a meat pie.