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Boeuf a la Cuiller

An elaborate and elegant way of serving braised beef, Boeuf a la Cuiller (berf ah lahkwee yair) is an excellent main dish for a dinner party because, although it is rather complicated, it may be prepared well in advance and reheated and assembled 10 minutes before serving. Accompany this dish with buttered parsley potatoes, and, petits pois. Serve a red wine such as Cote Rode or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. celery stalks, sliced garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium-sized onions, sliced

2 carrots, scraped and sliced

2 teaspoons salt

6 black peppercorns

6 juniper berries

1 tablespoon dried thyme bay leaves grated rind of

½ orange

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 pints red wine

2 fl. oz. brandy

5 fl. oz. olive oil

4 lb. lean piece of topside beef, cut into an even square, trimmed and tied with string

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 to

2 pints homemade beef stock or stock made with a beef stock cube

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 slices ham, chopped

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon tomato puree

4 oz. butter, melted

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

4 oz. cups fine dry breadcrumbs

3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

1 ½ tablespoons chopped parsley

Put all the ingredients for the marinade into a large bowl and mix them well. Put the meat in the bowl and baste it with the marinade. Cover the bowl with alumin-ium foil and place it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade. Put the meat on a rack placed over a baking tin and leave it to drain for 30 minutes, reserving the marinade. Dry the meat with kitchen paper towels.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180 °C).

Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over moderately high heat. When the oil is hot, put the meat in the casserole and brown it on all sides, turning frequently. When it is brown, remove it from the casserole and place it to one side.

Add the beef marinade to the casserole and boil it quickly over moderately high heat, until it is reduced by half. Remove and discard the bay leaves and pepper-corns from the marinade. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add sufficient beef stock to almost cover. Heat until the liquid simmers.

Skim off any fat and cover the casserole.

Put it on the lowest shelf in the oven and, turning the meat every hour, cook it for 3 hours, or until it is almost tender.

When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pan and reserve the sauce. Place the beef onto a plate and put another one on top. Place a heavy weight on top of it to keep its shape. Leave it for 1 hour. Then remove the trussing string.

When the meat is cool, trim the edges with a sharp knife. Holding the beef firmly slice out a small square cavity in the centre leaving a 1-inch thick shell.

To make the filling, chop the meat from the centre, and the leftover trimmed pieces, into small squares. Put them in a large, heavy saucepan.

Heat the butter and oil in a frying-pan over moderate heat. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Stir the mushrooms and onion and the chopped ham into the chopped beef. Still stirring, add half of the reserved sauce with the Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree. Cover the pan and simmer gently over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be fairly thick, but if it is too dry, add a little more sauce to it. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and set aside.

Preheat the oven to very hot 450°F (Gas Mark 8, 230 C).

Break the egg into a small bowl. Add the salt and beat with a fork until the mixture is fluffy. Place the beef shell in a baking tin. Using a pastry brush, cover the beef shell with the beaten egg mixture.

In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese and spread a layer of the mixture over the meat, then brush the shell with the melted butter. Place the beef shell in the oven for 10 minutes.

Replace the pan containing the mush-room, ham and onion mixture over moderate heat. Stirring continuously, reheat the mixture for 3 minutes. In another pan reheat the remaining sauce until it is hot but not boiling.

Remove the browned shell from the oven and place on a large warmed platter. Spoon the filling into the cavity in the centre of the beef and garnish with the chopped parsley. Pour the sauce into a warmed sauccboat and serve separately, with the meat.

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