Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brasato or braised beef

I did it. I went out and 'bought me' a Le Creuset for Christmas. Well, to be honest my in-laws contributed greatly with a Christmas envelope, otherwise I probably wouldn't have treated myself to one just yet, but I am now the proud owner of a big 'n' heavy cast iron enamelled French pot to play around and experiment with.

The experiments have begun. I am pretty much into throwing anything I can get my hands on in there and slow cooking it for hours until it gets all soft and melty. Yes, I'm talkin' to you, slabs of meat, bags of beans, greens. Watch out, you plump little children running around my kitchen! Beware when the orange pot is sitting on the stove, for I may grab you and make you for supper! You shall not fool me by sticking bones through your cage, for my eyesight is pretty good (thank you B&L disposable contact lenses) and I know a dimply finger when I see one.

My first attempt at a stew was successful but in the excitement of the moment I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. My second attempt was just as good (I will say so myself since the pot and meat get all the merit) and this time I remembered to take a few pics. In this cold weather I just cannot get enough, so get ready to read a lot of recipes for stews, soups and braised meats.

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

cut of beef approx. 3-5 lbs
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup red wine, stock or other braising liquid + additional as needed
olive oil
bay leaf

I usually buy my meat at the supermarket since the quality of meat in supermarkets is usually pretty good here. On the label it tells you the best way to cook the meat you are buying. I chose a cut that was good for boiling or braising. These cuts are usually cheap because they are tough if not cooked slowly. Make sure you buy a piece that has marbling and connective tissue. The way you cook the meat will break down this tissue, making the meat tender and moist.
Pour some olive oil into your pot and then, after having accurately dried your cut of meat and seasoned it with pepper and salt, brown it on all sides, making sure you sear in all the good juices. Once it has browned nicely, set it aside on a plate and pour out the fat, keeping approximately two tbsp in the pot. Sauté the chopped vegetables until they soften and turn slightly golden. Pour in the cup of cooking liquid and drop in a bay leaf. Let cook for a couple of minutes and then add in the meat. It should not be covered more than halfway. Bring the liquid to a boil and lower the heat. Cover the pot with a tight lid and cook for up to 3 or 4 hours, according to the size of your cut, turning it about every half hour and making sure the liquid doesn't dry out. It should cook on very low heat, the liquid just barely simmering. If it gets dry add a little liquid. When it is fork tender it is ready, keep in mind it is possible to overcook when braising despite the general idea of "the more the better". You don't want your meat to turn stringy and dry. Take out the meat and the bay leaf, squash the vegetables with a fork (or strain the sauce if you have texture issues), add a little flour and butter and let the liquid thicken into a gravy, adding seasoning if needed. In the meantime, once the meat has cooled down, slice thinly and then serve with its sauce. I served polenta alongside.


  1. Shut up! I just wrote a post (coming soon) where I mention my Le Creset too! We received ours as a wedding gift (many years ago) and talk about getting your money's worth! The pot practically cooks for you!

    Oh and what a PERFECT dish to prepare in it! I would love to sit down at the table and enjoy this beautiful beef dish!

  2. I own the same pot in red and another one a little smaller. Love them both. Luckily I could purchase mine at "Tuesday Morning", that means a hefty discount. I check there all the time. They are wonderful for braised beef. I am sure this was an amazing dish.

  3. Congratulations on your purchase! Love the smell of meat braising in the oven on a cold day. Your dish looks so appetizing.

  4. That dish looks so tempting and full of juicy flavors!YUM!

  5. DD&W - This is getting almost eerie...we must meet at some point!
    MyKintheR - There really are times when it is worth investing money in something, and this is one of them. Great job at Tuesday Morning!
    Anna - Thanks! I agree, nothing better than something simmering on the stove when it is cold and grey outside.
    Cakewhiz - hi, welcome! Brownies happen to be one of my all time favorites, so was happy to find your recipe when I opened your blog.

  6. What a perfect dish for cold weather! Looks yum...

  7. Treat and trick - Hi! Glad you like. Off to see your blog too.

  8. What a beautiful Le Crueset, stunning colour. It reminds me of a tube of new lipstick, bright red and enticing. What you made with it is just as exciting. My it bring you lots of fun and happiness.
    *kisses* HH

  9. I got a dutch oven last year for Christmas and I can't get enough of it! There's just something about cast iron enamel that is absolutely amazing!

  10. ooh wow!!! How generous...I've always wanted a Le Creuset! I keep hoping I win it at the Pioneer Woman's giveaway, but I never do. It's quite the stunning tool in the kitchen!

  11. I am drooling over that braised beef. OMG that looks good. I know what you mean about Le Crueset. I didn't think I could love an inanimate object so much. I have just one but I use it for everything.

  12. HH - I stuck to the traditional can't go wrong. And they were out of stock to be truthful
    Peggy - Can't wait to get some recipe ideas from you
    Sophia - been there, done that many times. You, me and another 30,000 keep trying. For that and the Kitchen Aid and the camera give aways, right?
    Kelly - yeah, I tried to pick the best option to just have one. I probably won't be buying another one anytime soon. But it is great for pretty much everything, I agree.

  13. I love my Le Creuset pans have had them for many years. I used to have their saucepans at one time but just too heavy. Thankyou so much for your recent visit and comments on News From Italy which are much appreciated, hope you will call by often.

  14. This is very awesome and very creative mind involved it. Thanks for the recipes..:)


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