I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

German Style Beef Braised in Beer

I stumbled upon a good cookbook about French food called La Bonne Cuisine de Madam E. Saint-Agne. Of the book Amazon says:

Translated into English for the first time since its original 1927 publication, La Bonne Cuisine has long been the French housewife's equivalent of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook or The Joy of Cooking—a trusted and comprehensive guide to "la cuisine bourgeoise" or home cooking, rather than the haute cuisine of chefs and Escoffier. Julia Child called LBC "one of my bibles" and drew heavily upon its detailed approach to preparation as she labored on her own classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I like the book because it has old time cooking techniques that have been bastardized by modern cooks to make them simpler. One such technique is braising. The book goes into great detail describing the technique. It is a lot of trouble but the results are astonishing. Why go to the trouble you ask? Because you will never eat food prepared this way unless you do it yourself. Most modern chefs don't even know the correct way to braise meat and even if they did it would be too much trouble to carry off in a business. So forget about getting it in a restaurant.

The book I have been using for German food is The German Cookbook. The way it is written reminds me a lot of the French cookbook. They were both originally written back when people still cooked their own food. The technique described in the German Cookbook for beef in beer is fairly true to the original description of braising but has been modified slightly. One modification is that the meat is marinated overnight. The French cookbook makes no mention of marination when it talks about braising. I think the French would call it redundant. I decided to take the recipe from The German Cookbook and use the classic method of Braising. I made 2 1/2 pounds of beef because I just happen to have the perfect pot for braising that size of roast. I'll go through it step by step.

The first step is to make a marinade and marinate the meat overnight.

Rinderschmorbraten in Bier

2 1/2 pound eye of round
Grease from a few strips of bacon
salt and sugar to sprinkle on the beef
6 to 8 cloves
6 to 8 peppercorns
2 t caraway seeds
6 juniper berries *see below*
1 large bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced
3 to 4 sprigs parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cans dark beer

1) Rub the beef down in the bacon grease.
2) Sprinkle with salt and sugar on all sides.
3) Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl big enough to hold the roast and the liquid.
4) Marinate the beef 12 hours or so, turning a couple times.

*Juniper berries are indeed hard to find. We found ours at World Market. You could always leave this out.*

The next step is to prepare the beef for braising.

Preparing the Beef for Braising
*before doing anything preheat your oven to 250*

1) Remove the beef from the marinade and dry very well with paper towels. If you don't get it dry it won't brown properly.

2) Strain the marinade and save the liquid. Discard the solids.
3) Heat a cast iron skillet or other pot big enough to hold the roast over medium-high to high heat.
4) Add enough butter or bacon grease to the bottom of the heated pan so that it completely covers the bottom. Let it heat until it just begins to smoke.
5) Brown the roast on all sides and remove to a platter.

6) Meanwhile take 1 onion and 1 carrot and cut it into 1/2 cm thick (3/16ths inch) slices.
7) Saute the onion and carrot in a little oil until they brown a little bit.

Setting up the Braising Pot

The next step is to prepare the pan for braising. You want a heavy pot, ideally cast iron, which is only slightly bigger than the piece of meat you're trying to braise. If the pot is too big you will need too much braising liquid and you will end up with boiled meat. That is a completely different thing.

1) Slice fat back into pieces about as thick as 2 fingers. Wash them off really well to remove most of the salt.
2) Line the bottom of the braising pan with the fatback, so that no metal is showing.

3) Place a layer of the sliced, browned onions.

4) Place a layer of the sliced, browned carrots.

5) Set the meat down on top of everything. It should not touch the sides of the pot or the bottom.

6) Add 1/2 cup of the marinade to the pot and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
7) Boil, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
8) Add enough of the remaining marinade to go about halfway up the sides of the beef.

9) Bring to a boil again, cover and place into the preheated oven.
10) Bake in the oven at 250 for 3 to 4 hours, basting occasionally, until meat is fall apart tender.

**You will have to adjust the temperature of the oven so that the liquid is undergoing a very slow simmer. Mine seems to do well set at 300.**

11) At the end of braising, remove the roast from the pot and set on a roasting pan.
12) Turn the oven to broil.
13) Strain the braising liquid and reserve the liquid.

*This is the trick: you'll have to strain the liquid twice. The first time strain it to remove the large particles. The second time line the wire strainer with paper towels. Straining twice will remove most of the grease and leave you with a nice clear, particle free juice at the end.*

14) Skim the fat off the top of the braising liquid.
15) About 8 minutes before you are ready to serve the beef, spread just a little of the strained/degreased braising liquid over the top of the meat and place the meat under the broiler until it darkens a little bit. This is called glazing.

Preparing the Gravy

1) Heat 2 T butter in a saucepan.
2) Add 2 T flour and cook, stirring, until the flour turns the color of cocoa.

3) Add 1 cup of the strained/degreased braising liquid to the pan and stir until it is about the thickness of sour cream.
4) Add the remainder of the cooking liquid and stir until it makes a nice gravy.
And now for the meat:
It is so tasty and succulent that you don't need a fancy serving platter.