"The better I got as a cook," my chef in culinary school once said, "the more I loved the cheap cuts." Anyone can grill a good steak, he meant, but only a real cook can take gristly meat and make it great. On this point, we disagree a little. I think anyone with a couple of hours and some pride can learn to braise bony, tendony meat into tender, delicious submission, to wield the transformative power of a slow, rich, aromatic simmer. Here's a recipe for a simple braised beef, flavored with smoke and beer – but really, you won't even need a recipe once you learn the process behind it. Get comfortable with this method, then mix and match your favorite ingredients and flavors.
Smoky Beer-Braised Beef
- 2 lbs beef chuck or other braising cut, such as short rib
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- 12 oz porter, stout, or other beer
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón), plus more to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 pints beef or chicken stock
- Soy sauce, to taste
- Brown sugar, to taste
- 6 small radishes, thinly sliced, for finishing
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped, for finishing
Read on for preparation instructions.
Step Five: Simmer
Set the oven to 325º. If you're not in a hurry, 300º. If you have all day, 275º. (The slower you cook it, the juicier it will be.) Add the rest of the beer to the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the meat and enough stock to cover it completely or at least halfway up. Season with salt. Bring back to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Drop it in the oven and check on it in one hour. (If your meat is only partially covered with liquid, flip it about halfway through. ) It might be done now or could take two or more additional hours. When you can cut the meat with a fork, you're done.
Credit: Jean Cazals / Getty Images