Food Eyeswoon Kitchen:

To Crave the Braise….

EyeSwoon Kitchen - Inspired by epicurious.com

I have spent years trying to get my husband into braised meats. We’ve tried Osso Buco, short ribs, beef stews—you name it—in the hopes that my gentle coaxing and culinary skills would finally win him over, all to no avail. He just doesn’t go for it and nothing baffles me more.  I simply cannot understand his resistance to these tender and flavorful cuts of meat that, thanks to hours of simmering (with a prerequisite browning) are infused with layers upon layers of flavor. How could he not give in to these insanely moist and succulent cuts that melt away in your mouth?!?

Braising has got to be any home cook’s best-kept secret. No other cooking technique asks so little of you while delivering restaurant worthy results. I’m also convinced that it’ll cure even the most extreme cases of the winter blues. Luckily for my husband, I am nothing if not persistent. I mean what’s a wife if she doesn’t push here and nudge there, right? I have to admit that my quest to turn Victor over to the braised side was not entirely selfless. My son and I swoon big time over these kinds of meals and we just had to get him on board. I kept trying; planning and concocting and cooking, hoping that with each recipe, this one would be the one to win him over.

Each and every time I’d declare that I was making, say, a beef stew he’d say, “Really? Again???” The thing is, he always eats it and always says it’s good but he never craves it—he never asks me to cook it or orders it when we’re out to dinner. And this, my dear readers, is what I’m after, I want him to crave the braise like Jivan and I do. I’m not looking for the obligatory “It’s good babe really.” I’m looking for that look on his face that says he’s partaking in the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of all things braised.

This desire to elicit this sort of reaction in people is perhaps the reason why I love to cook so much.  I want people to be blown away by a meal I create—it’s the purest imaginable joy for me to deliver an insanely delicious meal and have someone savor every last bite of it. One could argue that there is a bit of ego involved in this motivation but honestly, for me it’s quite the contrary. I’m a caretaker at heart and am my happiest when wooing someone with a plate of food.

Which brings me to the last leg of my quest. Last week during our hoax of a “blizzard” I set out to make what was probably my 25th beef stew for the family with one mission and one mission only: to knock the indifference right outta Victor once and for all. As soon as I knew we would be “snowed in” all I could envision was a Staub pot simmering on my stovetop for hours, filling our home with the aroma of beef, carrots, and red wine. The heady aroma of classic beef stew was brewing for a good four to five hours as the snow settled upon Brooklyn.  My one key tip for the perfect braise (and the key to my success in winning over Victor) is patience. The longer you cook, the swoonier the meal becomes, which leads (finally!) to a chorus of melodic (and genuine) oohs and ahhs from even the most skeptical of husbands. Mission accomplished!

Beef Stew

EyeSwoon Kitchen - Inspired by epicurious.com

The Ingredients

5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch disks

4 celery ribs, diced

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

1-2 head garlic, halved crosswise

1/2 lb of assorted mushrooms

5 tablespoons tomato paste

pinch finely chopped habanero (optional)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1  bottle dry red wine

3  bay leaves

4 thyme sprigs

3 cups beef broth

3 cups water

2 pounds small white potatoes quartered

2 medium sweet potatoes roughly diced

Equipment: 6-to 8-quart heavy, cast iron pot

The Prep

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and lightly sprinkled with flour.

Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat until meat is browned on all sides, work in 3 batches – about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, habanero, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, bay leaves, and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add broth to pot along with water, beef, and any juices from platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

While beef braises, cut white potatoes into quarters and peel and chop sweet potatoes.

Add potatoes to stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and liquid reduced, about 40 minutes to one hour.

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