Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Braise on the Street

Those of who know my husband and I know that we don't live in the best neighborhood here in Washington, DC...We are always on the look-out for illegal behavior and we make it clear to our neighbors that we are watching out for things.  We attract a lot of attention for this attitude and because we have two big dogs.  And, probably because we are the only white folks for several blocks.

Night before last, though, really got the neighbors talking.  My husband was walking our dog Charley when he was charged by the neighbors little poodle.   He brought Charley back inside and led the little dog back home.  Trying again to walk Charley, the poodle escaped once more to charge them.  Hearing the barking again, I walked outside to escort the poodle back home and talk to his owner.  Then, we noticed that her car's trunk was open and her front door was ajar.  Concerned, I took Charley's leash and my husband walked up to the neighbor's door.  He knocked and called her name while fending off bites from her two small dogs who were barking ferociously.  At this point, neighbors on all sides have stepped into their yards to watch the commotion and see what those crazy white folk were up to again.  The poodle's owner finally answers the door, and when she and her boyfriend stepped onto the porch to speak to my husband it was clear they were on something and in fact had been simmering in something for quite some time.

I found this ironic since for dinner I had served beef that had been braising in beer for hours.  What is braising you ask?  Braising is a cooking technique in which meat is seared or browned in a bit of fat and then simmered in liquid at a low temperature in a covered pot.  It works great with tough cuts of meat by breaking down the tough connective tissue in meat.  It has an effect similar to barbeque, or apparently the drug our neighbors were on, which seemed to break down the fibers in their brains and impact their ability to think or speak clearly.  Braising is a very simple technique that results in tender meat with a delicious sauce or gravy.  The only perceived drawback is you may have to plan for several hours of cooking, but it is non-active cooking - you just leave it in the oven or on the stovetop and let it go.

For those of you interested in the resolution of my seems as though the neighbors were just high and being careless with their car and dogs.  They mumbled a few words of thanks, walked out to their car to lock it up, and brought the dogs inside.  The others on the street stared at us for a bit longer, and then shuffled back to their porches or went back to their game of street ball.  Nothing more to see here, people.  Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Beef and Onions Braised in Beer

3 medium white onions
1 (4 lb) boneless beef chuck roast
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
2 bay leaves
3 (12-oz) bottles or cans of lager-style beer, such as Miller High Life (keeping it classy, folks)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Slice onions lengthwise into long strips.  You can slice it in half lengthways and then slice thinner slices lengthwise again.

Pat beef dry with a paper towel to allow the seasonings to stick better and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  For this recipe, I prefer kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil in a wide (5 to 6-qt) heavy pot over medium-high heat until it is shimmery.

Brown the beef on all sides then remove and transfer to a plate.  It took me about 12 minutes.

Add the sliced onions to the pot with the remaining 1 Tbsp of canola oil and cook, scraping up any brown bits from bottom and stirring until onions are well browned.  While the onions are cooking, turn your oven to 350 degrees F.

When onions are done, add the beer and garlic and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits.  This is known as deglazing the pan.  You can vary the type of beer used and the amount of garlic, of course.

Add beef to pot and return to boil.

Then, turn off the burner and cover the pot.  I didn't have a lid to match my hand-me-down pot, so I just covered it loosely with foil.  That worked just fine.

Place it in oven to braise until meat is very tender when pierced in several places with fork.  My roast was in the oven for about 4 hours.

If you want to serve it in slices, transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it stand or rest for about 20 minutes.  Place the slices on a plate and drizzle with the sauce.  I decided to shred it with two forks in the  sauce in the pot and served the saucy meat over rice.  Also, this roast was very lean, so there wasn't much fat in the sauce.  If you have a fattier cut of beef, you may need to remove the meat first and skim the fat from the sauce before serving.

NOTE: You aren't going to screw up the meat if you skip the step of patting it dry first.  I do it because I find the seasoning stick to it better.  But, also when I put it in a hot oiled pan, it doesn't splatter with the combination of water and oil.  Some folks believe it creates a better sear or browning on the meat when it is dry, but I haven't conducted any experiments on this myself.

I'd like to hear the opinions of my readers on this...

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