"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 Six: Finish and Serve
If the sauce seems runny, ladle out a bunch and boil it in a separate pot until it's thicker, then add it back in. Master move: Add soy sauce, pepper, brown sugar, or more pimentón to your liking. Maybe a splash of vinegar. Experiment until the flavor really pops. Ladle into bowls, and top with the radishes and chopped celery. Serve with bread and a salad, and congratulate yourself: You just became a better cook.
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