It’s winter and I’m craving braised foods, casseroles, soups and long-cooked meals. Actually I’ve been craving this kind of food for months, but I was having a hard time getting the rest of my family to desire a long-cooked braised meat and potatoes when it was 90 degrees outside. Well that’s not the problem any longer, it’s 30 to 40 degrees around here now. Exciting!
The other exciting news is that I’m going to take my first college culinary class starting in January. Most everything I’ve learned in my life, computer programming, photography, how to play golf or tennis has been through reading books, a ton of practice and trial and error. By myself I can usually increase my skills to the level of advanced amateur pretty quickly, but when things start to get hard, I usually give up and move on to something else.
Well I’ve decided that I’m going to try and take my cooking and culinary knowledge to the next level. At the same time I’m terrified of going back to college after 20 years. I’m sure there will be a certain level of boredom at times since I do have pretty good knife skills and I do know how to cook but I really need to learn the basics. I’m one of those people who often times skips the basics and this limits my abilities in the long run.
Well no pain no gain right? I’ve been working at the restaurant for almost two years now and I’m cooking quite a few things. It seems like this is going to be my long-term career so I better make sure I’m good at it. I also figure even if I spend the majority of my time on the business side of the restaurant, the more culinary knowledge I have the better off we are!
So on to Grillades… in Creole parlance, it means thinly sliced beef, sometime veal, braised in a roux-thickened stock and served over buttered grits. We found a ton of rice in the pantry last month so I decided to serve them over rice instead. This recipe is from Molly Stevens’ book All About Braising, which I highly recommend. I’ve cooked multiple recipes from this book and all are great!
The roux made from the peanut oil and flour in the drippings of the meat was out of control. The braising liquid was awesome, thick and rich. The meat was also perfect. I will be making this again, over polenta/grits next time!
Grillades & Rice
- 2 pounds of boneless beef steaks (chuck, flat iron or top round) about 1/2″ thick
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons of peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
- 1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped into 3/8″ pieces
- 2 celery stalks, chopped into 3/8″ pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
- 2 cups beef or chicken stock
Slice the steaks crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Season all over with salt and pepper. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small heavy saucepan, pound the strips to a 1/4-inch thickness.
Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a large deep heavy skillet or a Dutch oven (5 or 6 quarts) over medium-high heat. Lift a strip of steak with tongs and lower just the tip into the hot fat – if it doesn’t sizzle immediately, wait another 20 to 30 seconds before trying again. Once the fat is hot, add only as many strips of steak as will fit without crowding and sear them, flipping once, until mahogany-colored in spots and around the edges, two to three minutes per side. Set aside on a large plate without stacking and continue searing the remaining steaks.
Once all the steak strips are browned, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste, which is known as a roux. Expect to see black specks in the roux left from browning the meat; the roux itself will be dirty beige. Continue to stir gently but continuously until the roux begins to glisten, about five minutes.
Stir in the onion, green pepper and celery until evenly coated with the roux. Cook, still over medium-low, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to become limp and fragrant (you’ll smell the bell pepper most), about 20 minutes. The roux will darken from a dirty beige color to more like caramel, and the moisture released from the vegetables will help keep it from scorching. Don’t stray far from the stove, through, when the roux and vegetables are cooking. You have to be vigilant about stirring every few minutes so that nothing sticks or scorches.
Stir the garlic, thyme, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne and a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, for another three minutes. Slowly pour in the stock, stirring until smooth, increase the heat to medium and boil for a minute or two, stirring once twice, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of gravy.
Adjust the heat to low and wait for the sauce to slow to a quiet simmer. Return the steak to the skillet, along with any juices that pooled on the plate, stir to combine the meat with the sauce and the vegetables, and cover tightly. After about five minutes, check to see that the sauce is only simmering sluggishly – if it is too close to a boil, you’ll wind up with tough steak. If necessary, lower the heat or place a heat diffuser beneath the pan. Continue to braise, lifting the lid every 25 minutes or so to stir, until the steaks are fork-tender and the sauce is quite thick, about one hour.
During the last 45 minutes make the rice.
Remove the grillades from the heat and taste for salt, pepper and cayenne. The sauce should be piquant. Serve over the rice.