I came to braising late in life. I had a subscription to Yankee Magazine for one year. It's something you wouldn't subscribe to unless you're a New Englander or a New Englander wannabe, but I'm here to tell you, I got many, many good recipes out of that mag. One month they featured braising, with lots of recipes. The simplified cassoulet recipe that I got from them has become a company dish at our house. It's incredible.
Since then, I've begun to experiment with braising as a lifestyle. What a great way to get dinner started, put it in the oven, and forget about it till it emerges tender, succulent and flavorful. So, last night I decided to pull a one-pound London broil out of the freezer and present my beef-loving Huz with a pseudo pot roast, using just the supplies in my fridge.
I had some beef flank cut for London Broil in the freezer that I had picked up in bulk for $2.99 a pound. It's not a well-marbled cut, so braising is just about the best way to fix it so it is not dry and tough. I happened to have onions and carrots, but no potatoes, but you certainly could add them if you wanted to more closely approximate pot roast. I decided to add some Marsala wine and summer savory; for amounts I added the wine one tablespoon at a time, tasting after it cooked for a minute. The summer savory was a total guess. I haven't cooked with it before, but it smelled good and seemed as if it would complement the other flavors well. I love it!
You could use a red wine and bay leaf and/or oregano. I must say, though, that the Marsala and summer savory made for an unexpectedly heavenly sauce. I'll let the Huz chow on the beef. Just give me some rice and a big spoonful of that sauce! Yum!
Braised London Broil1# London broil
2 handsful chopped celery
2 handsful chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves
3 T marsala
2 tsp summer savory
1 can beef broth -- fat free, reduced salt
2 handsful carrots
2 large onions, quartered
¼ c soft bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Chop the celery and onions, and quarter the two large onions. Sprinkle lots of kosher salt (see picture below) and fresh ground pepper on one side of the meat.
Select a large, nonstick fry pan that can go in the oven. Get it smoking hot over high heat. As soon as it begins to smoke, put the meat in, salted side down. While that side is searing, sprinkle more salt and pepper on the other side. Cook the first side for 2-3 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn and do the same for the other side. The less you disturb the meat while searing, the better seared it will be.
You can see from this picture how heavily I salted the meat. The seared salt shows up as yellow.
Remove the meat to a plate. Quickly put the olive oil in the hot pan and immediately add the celery and chopped onion. Turn the heat down a bit, and saute till the onion begins to turn translucent. It will also be a bit browned. This is good!
[Note to self: next time try searing the quartered onions briefly and removing them to a plate, also, before beginning the sauteing. They tasted fine this way ... what would searing them add? Worth trying.]
When the onions are done, heap the onions and celery in the center of the pan, and put the garlic through a press onto the top of it. This technique allows you to put each garlic clove through a press right into the hot pan without having to worry about the first one burning before you get the last one pressed.
Continue sauteing until the garlic is gently done, not browned but also not raw. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and saute for a minute or two.
Add the beef stock, the summer savory, and 2 T of the Marsala. Stir and inhale deeply; it's starting to smell divine! Bring the stock to a rapid boil and reduce liquid by about a third, perhaps a bit less.
Return the meat to the pan. Surround it with the carrots and quartered onions. Cover the pan and put in the oven. Set your timer for 2½ hours. Pour yourself a small glass of the Marsala and sit down with your feet up. Feel free to eat some bon-bons while the oven finishes dinner for you.
When the timer goes off, stir in the final 1T of Marsala. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the sauce (no need to put them on the meat but also no harm. You want them to soak up the sauce and thicken it a bit). Put the skillet back in the oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes or so. It can stay in the oven longer without harm; you might care to turn the oven down to 250 or so and put the lid back on to prevent evaporation of what I'm now beginning to think of as not just the sauce, but The Sauce.
Serve with rice or bread to sop up The Sauce. It has a sweetness from the carrots and the Marsala, and great body and color. You will be able to cut the meat with a spoon. I could say more, but it's bedtime. Night-night.
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