Boeuf a la Mode

One of the truly classic dishes of French cuisine, Boeuf a la Mode (bcrf ah lah mohd) is a perfect dish for an elegant dinner party. And much of it can be prepared ahead of time. The cold version, Boeuf a la Mode en Gelee is equally famous and can provide an excellent centrepiece for a buffet. Ask your butcher if he will lard the beef with bacon.

5 lb. piece of beef, topside or top rump , boned, trimmed, larded and tied

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 ½ pints beef stock

1 calf’s foot, or

2 small, cracked veal knuckles

5 tablespoons brandy

1 pint 2 cups dry red wine

3 medium-sized carrots, scraped and sliced medium-sized onion, finely sliced garlic cloves, crushed

4 allspice berries bouquet garni, consisting of

3 parsley sprigs,

1 thyme spray and

1 bay leaf, tied together

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil grated rind of orange

2 oz. butter

1 lb. small white onions, peeled

1 lb. carrots, scraped and quartered | pint beef stock

3 tomatoes, sliced

1 bunch of watercress

Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together in a large deep bowl. Add the meat and spoon the marinade over it.

Put the bowl in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 12 or preferably 24 hours, basting the meat; occasionally.

Just before cooking, remove the meat from the marinade and let it drain on a rack placed over the bowl containing the remaining marinade, for 5 minutes. Pat the meat with kitchen paper towels to remove any excess liquid. Reserve the marinade.

In a large, heavy, flameproof casserole heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the beef and fry it until it is browned on all sides. Pour off the excess oil and add the reserved marinade, the beef stock and the calf’s foot or veal knuckles.

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the casserole tightly, lower the heat to very low and simmer slowly for 3½ to 4 hours.

During the last hour of cooking, prepare the carrots and onions, Melt the butter in a large frying-pan over moderate heat. Add the onions and carrots and, turning frequently, brown them lightly all over. Transfer them to a large saucepan, add the beef stock and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until they are almost tender. Drain the vegetables and set aside. Discard this stock (or keep it as a base for soup).

At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the casserole, strain the cooking liquid, and, as it cools, skim off the fat. Rinse the casserole dish.

Return the braised meat, carrots, onions, and the strained stock to the casserole and cook, uncovered, over moderate heat for 30 minutes.

Transfer the meat and vegetables to a hot serving platter. Boil the braising liquid briskly over high heat, stirring continuously with a metal spoon until the liquid has reduced to about half. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve the beef whole, or sliced, sur-rounded by the carrots and the onions, and garnish with tomatoes and water-cress.

Pour the sauce into a warmed sauceboat and serve separately.

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