Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beef Rollade Braised in Tomato-Onion Sauce

I'm gradually making my way through the free-range beef in the freezer, and it is forcing me to explore new territory.  I love stews of all kinds, things that require long slow cooking and imprecise timing, and ground meat is flexible and easy to handle, but steaks and roasts are terra incognita for me. My experience with steak several weeks ago was not that positive, so it was with some trepidation that I turned my hand to the cuts of braadstuk (literally, roasting piece).  Of course, I ratcheted up the tension by inviting someone for dinner too.

I found the basic recipe on the internet (Braadstuk in tomatensaus), but adapted it in several ways:

  • Reduced the tomato sauce quantities by a third
  • Reduced the butter and oil that went into it by two thirds.
  • I had only two smallish pieces of beef totaling 300 grams instead of a single cut of 800 grams. Rather than cook them individually, I decided to roll them together in a rollade with a stuffing between them.
  • Added a fennel bulb that I happened to have on hand 
  • Added bay leaves and herbs to the sauce, trying to balance the sweetness
There are things that I would do differently next time, though:
  • Adjust the balance between the tomatoes and the onions. I found that caramelizing the onions made the sauce overly sweet. Reducing the onions and/or increasing the tomatoes would help. Or perhaps letting only half of the onions caramelize and adding the rest with the tomatoes.
  • Prepare the beef rollade the day before and season it with salt and pepper. By letting it marinade with the salt in its own moisture, the meat would have been better seasoned. I found the end result rather bland.

Beef Rollade

Serves 3-4

300 grams beef, in two pieces
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
1 sun-dried tomato
3 tablespoons fresh parsely
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
  1. Soak the mushrooms and sun-dried tomato in hot water for 15 minutes.
  2. Drain them, reserving the soaking liquid, and chop finely with the garlic and parsley.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the mixture over one piece of meat, then put the other on top of it.
  5. Using kitchen string or twine, tie the pieces together. (You can do this by cutting individual lengths of string and laying the beef on top of it and tying the individual pieces, or you can use one long length, wrapping as you go. For instructions see this video. There's a bit of spoken Dutch (or Flemish, judging by the accent), but the visual says it all.

Tomato-Onion Sauce

This yields about 6 cups of sauce—too much for this meal, but it makes a great pasta sauce that can be used in subsequent meals.

50 gram butter
2 tablepoons oil
4 large onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped (optional)
2 chili peppers
1 small bulb garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 kilos tomatoes
500 ml red wine
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
parsley to garnish

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat. When the foam from the butter subsides, add the beef rollade. Turn it every few minutes until it is nicely browned on all sides (aproximately 10-15 minutes).
  2. Remove the beef to a plate, let cool, then cover and refrigerate while the sauce cooks (3-4 hours).
  3. Add the chopped onions to the fat, stir thoroughly, turn down the heat to low, and let the onions cook uncovered for one half to three-quarters of an hour. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any browned bits.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the chili peppers: chop one complete chili pepper, including the seeds, but scrape out the seeds of the other and mince only the flesh (unless you like your sauce very hot).
  5. Separate the cloves in the garlic bulb, smash them and remove the outer peel, then mince the garlic with the salt.
  6. When the onions are thoroughly browned and carmelized, add the minced chili peppers, Stir and cook for 2 minutes or so.
  7. Add the chopped fennel, then stir in the minced garlic.
  8. Add the red wine and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid.
  9. Add the whole tomatoes, then cook the sauce, uncovered, for two hours. By this time, the tomatoes will be soft and have mostly subsided into the sauce. Use a potato masher to break up and smash the tomatoes into the sauce.
  10. Add the bay leaf and herbs and cook over low heat for another hour. 
  11. While the sauce finishes cooking, take the meat out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature. About 40-50 minutes before you want to serve, add the beef to the sauce, cover and cook over low heat. For medium rare, cook for 30 minutes (or use a meat thermometer to determine how when ti's done to your taste).
  12. Remove the meat, cover loosely with tin foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving it with the tomato-onion sauce. Serve with pasta and a steamed green vegetable, such as broccoli.

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