A Square Sendoff and A Sleepy Homecoming

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January 28, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

Being back in the US was great! It was wonderful to see friends and family and I miss them already, but two weeks living out of a suitcase (no matter how large) will get old, so it’s strangely good to be back in London. After the bitter NY cold, London feels surprisingly mild. Plus the sun is out today. Who knew!? Hopefully I don’t miss it, as I’m feeling a bit jet lagged after an overnight flight and a groggy Sunday surviving on just a few hours of sleep.

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I’m spending today unpacking (yikes! I have no idea how I managed to keep that bag under the weight limit), restocking the fridge, and hopefully getting around to taking our dog for a long walk. Before I get back to cooking in London, I have one more meal, cooked stateside, to share with you. Saturday afternoon, before our evening flight back, we had a big lunch at Chris’ father’s house with a bunch of family and friends, including my adorable niece, Ada, who is getting so big and more beautiful by the day!

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Although I was tempted to just grab one last slice of NY pizza, I knew we should have a square meal before an overnight flight with yucky airplane food. So I took matters into my own hands and managed to cook a spread for 18 people with ease. All it took was a bit of forethought. I kept the menu simple: braised beef, mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli. I’ve provided the recipe for 8 people but to feed a crowd, double all the ingredients, use a 6-7 pound beef shoulder, and add about 45 minutes to the cooking time.

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Thankfully, my husband is the mashed potato king. No matter how big the crowd, he is happy to mash away, seasoning as he goes, so I can focus on the other dishes. For the broccoli, I simply tossed it with olive oil, salt, red pepper flake, and parmesan, and roasted in a hot oven while finishing off the beef.

The beef takes a few hours, so be sure to plan in advance. And while it does take a few steps to prep, it comes together easily and little has to be done while your guests are there. I braised the beef the day before and was able to just finish it up the morning of the lunch.

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Start by trimming off any fat and sinew.

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Cut slits into the beef and stuff with slices of garlic and pancetta.

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Sauté the onions and pancetta in a dutch oven with olive oil. Remove and reserve then add butter to the pot. Once you have covered the beef with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and cinnamon, sear the beef on each side, creating a brown crust.

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Add back the onions and pancetta, along with the basil and bay leaf. Pour in the wine and broth. Once simmering, put the beef in the oven and cook over a low heat for about 2 1/2 hours, rotating twice.

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The recipe, to this point, can be done a day in advance. Cool and refrigerate overnight. An hour before serving, place back on the stove, bring to a simmer and reheat in the oven for 30-45 minutes. Then proceed with the shredding and sauce.

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Remove the beef and shred. Pour 1/2 cup of liquid over the meat.

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Put the pot onto the stove, bring to a boil. Ladle 1 spoonful of sauce into a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch.

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Whisk the cornstarch mixture back into the braising liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Serve with the beef.

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Chianti Braised Beef

Serves 8

*adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. butter

4 oz. diced pancetta, divided

1 onion, diced

3 Tbs. flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 lbs. boneless beef shoulder, trimmed

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp dried basil

1 bay leaf

2 cups Chianti or other dry red wine

1 cup beef broth

1 1/2 Tbs. corn starch

Preheat oven to 300˚F.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and 3 oz. pancetta and cook for 2 minutes. Ad the onions and continue to sauté for 5 minutes until the pancetta is crisp and the onions are soft. Remove from the pot and reserve.

To prepare the beef, make sure that all excess fat and sinew has been trimmed. Using a sharp knife, make 1/2 inch slits spaced out evenly into the beef and stuff with small dices of the remaining pancetta garlic.

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Dust evenly onto the beef.

Add butter to the dutch oven and sear the beef on all sides, about 4 minutes each rotation of the beef.

Once the beef is browned evenly, add back the onions and pancetta, along with the basil and bay leaf. Pour in the wine and broth and bring to a simmer.

Cover and place into the oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, turning twice after 45 minutes each time.

After cooking for 2 1/2 hours, make sure that the beef is tender enough to shred easily with just a fork (if not continue to braise for another 30 minutes).

Remove the beef and shred. Pour 1/2 cup of liquid over the meat.

Put the pot onto the stove, bring to a boil. Ladle 1 spoonful of sauce into a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch.

Whisk the cornstarch mixture back into the braising liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Serve with the beef.

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