Tomato Beef braise, Fennel/Tomato salad, Cauliflower dinner

Tomato-based Beef Braise
It sometimes drives Lisl nuts when I create a two-color-palette meal, but I clearly have a tendency in that direction, as evidenced by the above photo. Today I got away with not having anything green on the plate! Granted that time for both of us was limited, but still there was enough to put together a decent meal.

This meal came about because the local butcher, the owner of an excellent store called Crisfields, sold me on a cut of what he called “super chuck” (once he starts pitching me on something, I usually fold like a house of cards). The steak was a 1.5 inch think cut of chuck, shaped not unlike a typical brisket cut, but with much more marbling.

Tomato Beef Braise
2 lb flat cut of chuck steak
1 yellow onion
4 carrots
3 celery stalks
2 tins of italian peeled tomatoes (14 oz)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh oregano
Bay leaf

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven on the stove top on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the beef and once the pot is hot, sear on both sides for a minute or two either side. Remove and set aside.

Chop up a yellow onion and 3 or 4 garlic cloves and saute in olive oil over low heat for a few minutes until onions start to turn translucent. Take 3 celery stalks and 4 peeled carrots, and put them in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped (I wanted the flavor but not extra chunkiness, hence this step). Add to the pot and saute for a few more minutes. Add two tins of Italian skinless tomatoes and about half a cup of wine (in this case I used white but red would do). I think I added about two teaspoons of salt, a bunch of ground pepper, bay leaf (or two) and a nice handful of fresh oregano. Once this is all simmering for a bit, break up the tomatoes with your spatula and nestle the beef in the sauce. Spoon some sauce over top to make sure there is moisture on all sides of the beef.

In my case, I didn’t have the ability to start this recipe during the day, so I put it on when I went to bed the night before, and set the oven nice and low at 225F. In the morning I spooned away some of the melted fat, moved it all into another container, and placed in the fridge. That night after work, I put it back into the dutch oven, got it simmering again on the stovetop, added salt and pepper to taste, tossed in some more oregano, and left uncovered in the oven at 250F for another hour or two.

This ended up delicious and flaky, but so rich that I decided to serve it with some cauliflower, simply steamed, to have a healthy but neutral addition, and then whipped up a tomato and fennel salad to add a bit of acidity. This was probably my last braise for a little while, given the rapidly rising temperatures.

Cherry Tomato and Fennel Salad
Half a fennel bulb
A handful of cherry tomatoes

I sliced the cherry tomatoes into 4 slivers and placed in a bowl. The fennel bulb I washed then sliced as thin as I could with a sharp knife. Because I didn’t have a mandolin to cut it really fine, I decided to soften the fennel a touch by steaming it for about 2 or 3 minutes, then adding to the bowl. I dashed some olive oil, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon on top to complete.

P.S. I’m not going to give myself awards for food photography any time soon, not least because I am usually hungry so hurry it along, but it was nice to discover that I could manually set the white balance on my little Canon digital, and that helped remove the orange cast I was seeing with night shots. I can always aspire to be like Aun, a high school friend, who takes the dreamiest pictures of food ever.