A Languid Dinner
The best part about cooking a stew or braised dish is that it can be prepared in advance at one’s leisure and heated up for quick dinners during the working week. The worst part about cooking a stew or braised dish is that it has to be prepared in advance and left to sit - one has to be tortured by the delicious aromas wafting from the stewing pot during the cooking process and not be able to eat it immediately.
Over the weekend, I christened my newly-purchased bright red “La Cocotte” Dutch oven by cooking a dish adapted from a recipe of Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks learnt from Chef Patrick Heuberger of Au Petit Salut. The original recipe, which apparently is a real hit at his restaurant, calls for beef cheeks and veal stock, but both of these were not immediately available, even at the speciality butcher where I shopped – hence I had no choice but to replace the beef cheeks with other stewable parts of the beef and used chicken stock instead of veal.
My attempt resulted in having to spend much of my Sunday afternoon inhaling the winey, gorgeous smells emanating from my oven as the beef slowly cooked in a mixture of red wine, chicken stock, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, clove, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, whole black peppercorns and salt, without being able to eat any of it immediately! The wine was first warmed up in “La Cocotte” to boil away the alcohol, the beef placed in on its own, followed by the rest of the ingredients which were simply roughly chopped up and thrown in, the whole mixture brought to boil and then placed in the oven at 150° Celsius. Chef Heuberger had advised that the meat needed to sit for at least one day after being cooked to enable all the gelatin in the beef (beef cheeks will give the best result) to break down into a moist, fork-tender scrumptious piece of heavenly meat. At the end of two and half hours of slow cooking in the oven, there was therefore nothing I could do but salivate, stick “La Cocotte” into the fridge and wait more than 24 hours before being able to sample the promisingly aromatic dish.
Fast forward to Monday evening – I came home from work, leisurely set some potatoes to boil, slowly warmed up the little red treasure pot of braised beef, tossed some baby spinach with a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and mustard, roughly mashed the cooked potatoes with a fork together with a handful of flat leaf parsley, and dinner was served. The meal was fabulous. The beef was indeed as tender and flavourful as promised after imbibing the essence of the wine, vegetables and herbs it had been cooked with. The gravy went beautifully with the fresh-tasting parsley potatoes and best of all, the only oil present in the meal was the olive oil in the salad! We felt very healthy (though we ate a huge portion each, so perhaps the good effects were negated) and our fine dinner brightened up an otherwise blues-filled Monday evening. Along with a glass of good red wine, it felt pretty close to a restaurant meal (albeit we were slumming it in our T-shirt and shorts) despite being so very simple to make. Best of all, I’d made a double portion of braised beef so there is more of this to look forward to later this week!
Food and Drink