Braised beef is a wonderful party dish; it is not only delicious to smell, look at, and eat, but you have no worries about overdone meat, and you can cook it ahead of time if you need to. The following recipe calls for a 6- to 24-hour marination of the beef in red wine and aromatic vegetables before cooking. If you prefer to omit this step, pour the marinade ingredients into the casserole after browning the meat.
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Red wine marinade
An enameledpyrex, or porcelain bowl just large enough to hold all the ingredients listed
Place half the vegetables, herbs, and spices in the bottom of the bowl. Rub the meat with salt and pepper and place it over the vegetables. Spread the rest of the vegetables and herbs over the meat. Pour on the wine, brandy, and olive oil. Cover and marinate for at least 6 hours (12 to 24 hours if the meat is refrigerated). Turn and baste the meat every hour or so.
Half an hour before cooking, drain the meat on a rack. Just before browning, dry it thoroughly with paper towels. It will not brown if it is damp.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add the fat to the casserole and place over moderately high heat. When fat is on the point of smoking, brown the meat on all sides. This takes about 15 minutes. Pour out the browning fat.
(*) Recipe may be prepared in advance up to this point.
Pour in the wine marinade and boil it down rapidly until it has reduced by half. Then add the veal knuckles, calf’s feet, and rind, and pour in enough stock or bouillon to come two thirds of the way up the beef. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, skim, cover tightly, and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid remains at a gentle simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, and turn the meat several times during its braising. The beef is done when a sharp-pronged fork will pierce it easily.
While the beef is being braised, cook the carrots and onions. Set them aside until needed.
When the meat is tender, remove it to the platter. Discard trussing strings. Trim off any loose fat, and keep the meat warm while finishing the sauce (5 to 10 minutes).
Skim the fat off the braising juices, and strain them through a sieve into a saucepan, pressing the liquid out of the vegetables. Simmer for a minute or two, skimming, then boil rapidly until liquid is reduced to about 3½ cups and is full of flavor. Taste carefully for seasoning. Sauce should be lightly thickened. If too thin, beat in the starch and wine mixture and simmer for 3 minutes. Then add the cooked carrots and onions and simmer for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the meat. Decorate with parsley. Pour a bit of sauce over the meat and send the rest to the table in a warmed sauceboat. (Or carve the meat and arrange on the platter with the vegetables and parsley, and spoon some of the sauce over the meat.)
VEGETABLE AND WINE SUGGESTIONS: Boeuf à la mode is traditionally garnished with braised carrots and onions, and is usually accompanied by buttered noodles, parsley potatoes, or steamed rice. Other vegetables could be braised lettuce, celery, or leeks, or buttered green peas. Serve with it a good, characterful red wine, such as a Burgundy, Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
BEEF CUTS FOR BRAISING: Although it is not essential, beef for braising is usually larded. That is, strips of fresh pork fat are inserted into it, going in the direction of the grain. They baste the interior of the meat as it cooks, and make an attractive design when the meat is sliced. Most butchers will lard the meat for you. Choose a piece of beef of at least 3 pounds, and, however long it is, its width should be at least 4 inches. It shrinks quite a bit during cooking. Count on 1 pound of boneless beef for 2 or 3 people. First Choice: Rump Pot Roast—Pointe de Culotte, or Aiguillette de Rumsteck Other Choices: Sirloin Tip, Knuckle—Tranche Grasse Chuck Pot Roast—Paleron or Macreuse à Pot-au-feu Top Round—Tende de Tranche Bottom Round—Gîte à la Noix Eye of Round—Rond de Gîte à la Noix
(*) AHEAD-OF-TIME NOTES: For a wait of up to one hour, return meat, vegetables and sauce to casserole, cover loosely, and set over barely simmering water. For a longer wait, slice the meat and arrange it on a fireproof platter. Place the vegetables around the meat. Baste with the sauce. Half an hour before serving, cover and reheat in a 350-degree oven. Leftover braised beef will be just as good the next day, heated up the same way.