"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 Four: Build the Base
With browned meat set aside and your pan deglazed, rinse and dry the pan, then set it back over medium heat. Slick the bottom with oil and add the vegetables and garlic with a few pinches of salt. You can either "sweat" aromatics until they smell good and the onions are clear, which will give you a clean, bright flavor, or you can slowly cook and stir them until they're caramelized and jam-like, for more intensity. When you're ready, add the pimentón and cook until you can smell it, then stir in the tomato paste and cook until it's rusty-colored.
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