Braising is one of my favourite methods for slowly cooking meat - it really allows you to play with flavours that just end up melting into impossibly tender meat. It’s a simple technique that is pretty tough to screw up, but full of enough variables that one could spend a lifetime trying to master it.
We entertained some guests recently and I served bourbon-braised beef over mashed cauliflower and asparagus as our main course, after an appetizer of fried truffled goat cheese over shredded beets. It was a decadent treat, and very easy to re-create.
To start, get a nice striploin (or even a piece like a shoulder roast) from your local butcher and cut it into meal-sized portions, depending on who you’re feeding and how hungry you are. Season the beef well with sea salt, cracked pepper, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic salt, onion salt and a little dash of chili powder or cayenne if you’re so inclined. Sear the chunks in a hot pan before placing them on a bed of garlic and onions in a deep saucepot. For extra richness, I always throw a big dollup of butter into the bottom of the pot as well.
Add as much bourbon to the pot as you’re comfortable parting with from your cupboard. I got lucky and inherited a bottle of Jack Daniel’s recently so I didn’t feel bad at all just dousing the meat in the most lowly of sour mashes. And I still had plenty of Maker’s for my cup. Add some beef stock and table spoon of tomato paste as well, until the liquid is just starting to engulf the beef. Once it starts roasting and the fat renders, the meat will be totally submerged.
Roast for AT LEAST three hours at around 300-325. More time you have, the lower and slower you can go. Keep checking on it and turning any pieces poking up from the liquid every 30-45 minutes.
Once the meat is cooked so that it’s tender enough to be cut with a plastic fork, turn the oven off and drain the liquid into a frying pan through a fine sieve. With just a bit of corn starch to bind it you’ve got one savoury stock to top the meat with on the plate.
For this dish I served the beef over mashed cauliflower, which is a really great and healthy substitute for potatoes. In the mash was cream, garlic, butter and crumbled blue cheese (just like I said, totally healthy), and it should be noted that the best results come from a hand blender, working out a the lumps patiently in the pot. The blue cheese was a nice sharp compliment to the meat and was a crucial touch for a meal accompanied by several bottles of good red wine.
Besides the asparagus, I also dusted some wide, thin slices of garlic and shallot rings in flour, then fried them up crispy. It made for a really nice textural balance to the creamy cauliflower and moist beef, not to mention kicking up the flavour that one extra notch in the realm of the sublime.