Sunday, January 8, 2012

Most people hate the taste of beer to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice that many people have been able to overcome. ~Winston Churchill

My friend G. (who lives in another state) suggested we cook some dishes 'together' and compare them.  We decided to go with something French...which lead us to Mastering the Art of French Cooking (since I know we both have it), and we settled on Carbonnades a la Flamande - that is, Beef and Onions Braised in Beer as our first dish.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MTAOFC)

So the first part of the adventure took me to the store.  Julia said to get three pounds of 'lean beef from the chuck roast or rump'.  I am not too good with meat nomenclature - certain cuts are referred to differently in books and store and I don't always know the translation.  I ended up with some 'round eye roast' since it looked lean.  I'm not sure this is what she was after, but it turned out nice for us.  Although, I did have a little trouble cutting it neatly....maybe next time I will freeze it for 15 minutes or so to make it firmer.

The next new thing I learned was about beer.  Now, I'm not a big drinker - never have been.  So there's a lot I don't know about wine, beer, etc.  Julia called for a Pilsner, but I couldn't find it at my regular grocery store. We ended up going to a little liquor store and found some, but I still didn't get what was the big deal.  So I looked it up when I got home.


Turns out Pilsners are from Pilsen, in the Czech Republic.  They are what they are due to the particular hops that are used, as well as the unusually soft water there.  It is also 'bottom-fermented', which is a little beyond my ken.  Sometimes people call a beer a 'pilsner' when they mean something like 'premium', but that is a misuse of the word.

ANYway, it did turn out to be a nice beer and was worth the hunt.

Ok, so first I browned the meat:

Then I set it aside.

And cooked the onions for a bit in that pan.

Then I got out my nice braising pan and layered in half the beef, half the onions, and repeat.

Meanwhile, I put a cup of beef stock (I used Better Than Bouillon) into the pan and deglazed it.  That broth went into the braiser and my pan got most of the way cleaned up...

Then I put in one bottle of my Pilsner and an herb bundle (it's tucked into the liquid up there at the top), brought it to a simmer on the stove, and put it into the oven for about two and a half hours.  Julia said to watch that it stays just at a simmer, so I ended up turning down my oven just a bit.

That's just about it.  All that was left was removing the spent herbs, pouring the liquid off into a small saucepan and putting a red wine vinegar/arrowroot mixture into it and simmering that for a few minutes before returning it to the pan.  Viola!   (Sorry I don't have more final pictures, but they seem to have fallen into a black hole.)

In the last 45 minutes or so of oven time, I got to work on some Pommes de Terre Sautees - Potatoes Sauteed in Butter - also from MTAOFC.  This was pretty easy, though I did wimp out on a bit of technique.  Julia tells you to cut the potatoes into 'elongated olive shapes all the same size...cut them smoothly so they will roll around easily and color evenly' she says.  Pooh.  Sorry, Julia, I love you to pieces, but I don't have time for that.  I just cut them as uniformly as I could and made sure to stir them frequently.  I cooked them in some butter and olive oil for several minutes at a fairly hot temp.  Then I salted them and turned down the heat, covered them, and let them go for about 15 more minutes.  Then, off heat, I added a bit more softened butter and some minced parsley.  Yum.

These were both great dishes - we gobbled them up at my house!  A French "Meat and Potatoes" sort of thing.  The beef dish was a good company dish as you do most of the work up front and the braising just makes its own magic in the oven.  That leaves you plenty of time to attend to another dish or dishes if you want.  The Pilsner was nice in it - not overpowering or even 'beer-y' in the final taste - if that makes sense.  The potatoes were easy - so easy I won't even need to refer to the book next time.

They were both delicious!  Thanks, G. for the suggestion - this was fun!


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