The smell of red wine, onions, and fresh rosemary and thyme permeated our entire apartment last weekend. It made us hungry well before we were ready to have dinner. By the time that our braised beef was finished, we were almost famished, eager to dig in to the tender meat, root vegetables, and rustic mashed potatoes made from creamy German butterball potatoes bought that morning from the farmers market.
I am ashamed to admit that it has been far too long since I ventured downtown to the Union Square Greenmarket. The fall is actually my favorite season to visit the farmers market. I love the gourds, pumpkins, root vegetables, and apples that are prominently displayed. It inspires me to cook, and to be creative in the kitchen. In the summer I shy away from making complicated dishes, preferring to make simple dishes that allow the flavor of the vegetables and fruits to take center stage. In the fall and winter, I want to make stews, braises, and French sauces, recipes that allow me to build layer upon layer of flavor.
The following recipe is certainly not groundbreaking; it is rustic and uncomplicated, definitely suitable for a Sunday dinner on a cold evening. The ingredients that we bought from the farmers market are what stood out and made this delicious. At one stand we found baby carrots with their green tops still intact; at another, we found celery root, fresh rosemary, thyme, and small cipollini onions in various colors. My favorite purchase was a bag of German butterball potatoes, which cost a small fortune, but made up for it in flavor. After eating feather-light gnocchi made out of German butterballs at an Italian restaurant earlier in the week, I knew that they would make delicious mashed potatoes, and I was right. In addition to the vegetables and herbs, we also found grass-fed beef that I later cut into cubes.
The steps involved in this recipe are not difficult, but they do require some patience. You don’t want to rush the browning process of the meat, nor do you want to skip sweating the onions and garlic, which is necessary in order to develop a complex braising liquid that is rich and flavorful. There are many ways in which you could modify this recipe. For example, you could use turnips instead of celery root. There is a good deal of red wine involved here, so I recommend using an inexpensive wine that you enjoy drinking, because it will make a difference. Now let’s get to the recipe!
Red Wine Braised Beef with Fall Vegetables
- 1 ½ lbs. grass-fed stew beef, cut into cubes (beef chuck is ideal here)
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil (for browning the beef)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1 bunch of baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, and left whole
- 18 cippolini onions (3 per person), peeled and trimmed, and left whole
- 1 head of celery root, peeled and cut into 1½ inch cubes
- ½ to ¾ of a bottle of red wine (I used a Bordeaux)
- 2 cups of beef broth
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Place a large cast-iron pot (or any oven-safe pot with a lid) over medium-high heat.
- Add the canola oil and the cubed beef and brown the beef on all sides. Once the beef is well browned, remove it from the pan and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sweat over low heat until translucent.
- Add the tomato and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add all of the cognac. Allow the cognac to reduce by ¾ and then add the tomato paste. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Add the flour and browned meat and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add enough wine to come up to ¾ of the height of the vegetables and then add enough beef broth to just cover the vegetables and meat.
- Add the rosemary, thyme, carrots, cippolini onions, and celery root. Season with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
- Allow the liquid to come to a simmer and then cover the pot and place it in the oven for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
- When the meat is tender, remove the braise from the oven. Using a ladle, ladle out 5 to 6 cups of the braising liquid (without any meat or vegetables) into a wide, shallow sauté pan with sloping sides.
- Place the braising liquid on the stove over high heat and reduce until the braising liquid is nappant (meaning that it coats the back of a spoon).
Ladle a portion of meat and vegetables onto a plate and spoon some of the reduced braising liquid over the meat and vegetables. Serve with homemade mashed potatoes.