Daube of beef

Something to stew about

Originally appeared in the January 3, 2013 edition of the Southside Times.

Daube of beef (4)

In cooking cliques there exists the Q-and-A tradition of quizzing ones culinary comrades with this scenario: if you died tomorrow, what would your last meal be today?  And I’ve listened to a gastronomic gamut of responses—foie gras, langoustine, otoro tuna, kobe beef, caviar.  But, when queried, I’ve often followed the impulse to make a nostalgic return to the formative and financially modest days of my culinary vocation.  When I was a student in Chicago, I didn’t have the cash to buy filet mignon, but if I could get my hands on an economical cut of beef at the nearby market, I could use a few vegetables, a small amount of stock along with a bit of leftover wine to conjure something magical.

Daube of beef is a stew which was a staple of the provincial poor in France.  There are countless variations which call for different cuts of meat and particular piece of equipment.  Though purists would urge you to use a daubière (a uniquely shaped pot well-suited for braising) a sturdy stockpot will do the trick.  And tell you what: you bring along a crusty baguette and some parsley and caper salad and we can enjoy this meal together.  So long for now, dear reader.

Daube of beef

Serves 2

  • 1 pound chuck steak, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ onion, small dice
  • 1 carrot, peeled, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry, red wine
  • 1 pint water or light chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  In a high-sided stockpot, season and sear the beef in batches, reserving on a plate when meat is browned and mahogany colored.  Remove and reserve on a plate.  Sauté onion and carrot for several minutes; add garlic and cook briefly (don’t burn).  If more fat is required, add a small amount of olive oil.  Add tomato paste and stir until vegetables become dark.  Add a small amount of olive oil along with flour; stir to form a paste.  Add wine and, using a wooden spoon, deglaze bottom of pan by scraping up browned bits.  Add beef back to pot and pour in water or stock until liquid just covers the top of the meat (depending on pot size, may need to adjust liquid).  Add bay leaves and bring to a gentle simmer and cook for until reduced halfway.

2.  Occasionally skim impurities from the top of the stew, and be vigilant about the liquid (meaning you may need to make further additions if reducing is too rapid).  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  When stew is thick, flavorful, and beef is tender, ladle into large bowls ad serve with crusty baguette and parsley and caper salad.

Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Phớ bò (Vietnamese beef and noodle soup)

Phớ sure

Originally appeared in the July 5, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Okay, sure—as our region continues coping with comically high temperatures, you may think the heat has addled my mind when sharing a recipe for steamy Vietnamese soup.  But don’t jump to conclusions.  Phớ is more about celebrating humble summer ingredients than flirting with an uncomfortable burn.

The backbone of phớ (pronounced “fah”) is a distinctive, savory broth (usually served with rice noodles); but the main attraction is not the soup, but rather the accompaniments: fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, among others), tart lime, crisp onion, fish sauce, hoisin, and spicy jalapeno.  Of course there are interpretations, as Vietnamese tradition holds that each vendor would encourage diners to tinker with the quantity and combination of their desired garnishes.

To experience a knock-out phớ, my wife and I typically made a trip to either Lafayette Road or the indelible Sandra Rice and Noodles on Pendleton Pike.  But as luck has it, Beech Grove is home to Egg Roll #1 Phớ #1 (4576 South Emerson), which boasts a wonderful Vietnamese menu along with a host of phớ variations.

If you can’t make phớ at home, stop by Phớ #1.  You’ll understand that the heat is not getting to me.  Not yet.

Phớ bò (Vietnamese beef and noodle soup)

Serves 2 – 3

  • 64 ounces beef bones
  • As needed, water
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 3-inch piece of ginger
  • To taste, kosher salt
  • 3 fluid ounces fish sauce
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 16 ounces cooked rice noodles
  • 8 ounces raw beef tenderloin, sliced very thin

1.  Place beef bones in a stockpot and add enough water to just cover the bones.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and skim impurities from time to time.  Meanwhile, cut onion in half and slice ginger lengthwise; place both ingredients on a sheetpan and place under a 500° F. broiler until flesh is charred.  Using a piece of cheesecloth and strand of kitchen twine, combine star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, and secure with length of twine (this is called a sachet).  Add charred onion and ginger, along with salt, fish sauce, and sachet to beef stock.  Gently simmer for roughly 4 hours, until stock has reduced and flavors have concentrated.  Afterwards, remove sachet and strain the liquid.  Return stock to low heat and adjust seasonings.

2.  Suggestions for garnishes (all amounts are as desired): thinly sliced onion; bean sprouts; fresh herbs: cilantro, basil, mint; lime wedges; fish sauce; fresh jalapenos; and chile sauce.  In preparation for service, place garnishes in separate bowls and reserve.

3.  Reheat cooked rice noodles in simmering beef soup.  Portion soup and noodles into extra-large bowls.  Add sliced beef tenderloin to each bowl and allow the hot liquid to cook the beef.  Place desired amount of garnishes into soup at service.


Published in: on July 5, 2012 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Summer gazpacho

Just chill—it’s gazpacho

Originally appeared in the May 31, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

A few summers ago, I went through a phase where I couldn’t get enough gazpacho.  And while it may not have been an unhealthy habit, it certainly was an obsession.  For me there were so many attractive aspects to this cool concoction, not the least of which is the cool component.

Gazpacho is a chilled tomato-and-cucumber soup; but this is the version that most Americans are familiar with.  There are also celebrated varieties in Spain, including a white gazpacho made with almonds and grapes.

Traditionally, gazpacho contains some sort of bread.  In fact, it’s suggested in some culinary quarters that “pacho” derives from the Latin word pasti, meaning bread or dough.  It’s not uncommon to use day-old bread as a thickening agent in gazpacho; or the bread may be soaked in the soup-base before being strained or pureed.  For this particular interpretation, I’ve chosen to employ a garnish of toasted croutons to represent the bread.

Allow the flavors to truly mingle by chilling your gazpacho overnight.  This recipe makes about 1 ½ quarts, so you might consider using a pitcher for storage and service.  And the way this summer heat is rolling in, the refreshing chilled soup won’t last long.

Summer gazpacho                

Yields roughly 1 ½ quarts

  • 28 ounces peeled, diced tomatoes
  • ½ red onion, medium chop
  • 1 green bell pepper, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 2 – 3 plum tomatoes, seeded, small dice (divide and reserve half)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, rough chop
  • 2 fluid ounces each: balsamic and red wine vinegar, and olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 – 1 ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • To taste, cayenne pepper
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper
  • 23 ounces tomato juice
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Garnish: homemade croutons

1.  Pour peeled and diced tomatoes into a food processor or blender.  With the exception of the tomato juice and small-diced vegetables (bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes), add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Add in tomato juice (or more to achieve desired consistency).

2.  Adjust season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Transfer pureed soup into a storage container and stir in reserved diced pepper, cucumber, and tomato.  Refrigerate at least twelve hours before serving.  Garnish with cilantro sprigs and toasted croutons.

Chicken and smoked sausage gumbo

Go-to gumbo delivers hearty Fat Tuesday

Originally appeared in the February 16, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

This upcoming Tuesday is of the “fat” variety.  Next week is Mardi Gras, and what better way to celebrate than stewing up a batch of that gastronomic delicacy know as gumbo.

As with many dishes in the canon of Cajun cuisine, there are two fundamental components with gumbo:  1) trinity and 2) roux.  Popularized by native Louisianan chef Paul Prudhomme, the trinity—or “holy” trinity—is a riff on the French mixture known as mirepoix, an aromatic trio of onion, celery, and carrot; but here, the Creole variation replaces carrot with bell pepper.  More after the jump: (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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