Sunday, October 12, 2008
Pardus is Brazen ( Braising)...
It's a spectacular Hudson Valley Indian Summer day and Sierra and I are expecting company. Cedric Tovar, Chef and Director of Restaurant Ops at a major NYC hotel, is a good family friend and he and his girl friend are coming up to pick apples and have dinner, what am I serving? A braise. A chuck roast braised in beef stock with tomato puree, onions, garlic, carrots, pancetta, calamattta olives, capers, anchovies and sage.
But all of the accessories are irrelevant. Braising seems to flummox so many people - and it should not. You could be braising a goat in sub-Saharan Africa, a Yak in Mongolia, a horse in Argentina, or a pot roast in Indiana.
Here are the basics:
Tough cut of meat with lots of visible fat and connective tissue between the muscles - butt, shank, Bottom round, Chuck, Shoulder, Cheek meat
Aromatics - french mire poix or anything else that smells good and fits the regional profile that you're striking for - carrots, onions, celery; lemon grass, garlic, ginger, scallions; onions, garlic, sage, chiles. You get the picture?
Liquid - stock or water or vegetable broth or any combination that fits.
Herbs to match the region
Finishing ingredients/edible "garnish" - olives and capers; root veg added into the pot near the end; fresh herbs from the region
Method for today's Braised Beef:
Render pancetta in olive oil until crisp - remove pancetta, leave oil in pan
Heat oil hot enough to sear meat on both sides until deep brown - with out burning fat OR meat
Remove meat, lower heat
Add aromatics and brown ( this works only if aromatics have sufficient sugars to brown)- onions, garlic, carrots today
Add liquid - beef stock and fresh tomato puree
Add Beef back to pan
bring liquid to gentle simmer
Place pan into low oven - 300 F today
Cover if needed (how to tell? Is the liquid really deep?- leave uncovered and check for evaporation every 30 minutes. add more water if it starts to look dry). If liquid level is low to begin with, cover to inhibit excess evaporation - check every 30 minutes anyway - add water if it starts to dry out
When meat is REALLY tender, add finishing ingredients - today olives, capers, anchovies
Turn down oven to 250F and allow flavors to meld for about 15 minutes. If guests are late, or you don't want to eat right away, turn down to 200F....it will hold that way for a looooog time.
Serve with a braised vegetables - presuming you did not add one to the pot during the last 30 minutes of cooking - a starch that is appropriate - mashed potatoes, polenta, steamed rice - and plenty of appropriate bread (if bread would be inappropriate in some cultures, serve more rice on the side).
Don't follow recipes, follow techniques and make up your own recipes.
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