Of all the kitchen techniques up my sleeve, none is more useful or inspirational than the transformative act of braising. I love simmering tough, inexpensive cuts of beef in an aromatic liquid, then enjoying a bowlful of tender, richly flavoured stew. Most chefs don't cook extravagantly. We're far more interested in cost-effective solutions than following the latest expensive trends. Braising fits the bill perfectly and is also key to unlocking some of the deepest, richest flavours on the planet.
Our values around food rate tenderness over flavour, which means that the most tender cuts of beef are the most expensive because they cook the fastest. Paradoxically, this means that the more flavour there is in a particular cut of meat the less expensive it will be. This is due to the simple fact that the more a muscle is used the tougher it gets and consequently the more flavour it develops. That's where braising comes in.
If you simply simmer a tough, inexpensive cut of meat in a flavourful liquid, it will eventually tenderize. Along the way, stir in lots of tasty flavours from all over the world, one of my favourites being an Asian-inspired orange and ginger combination. To serve, ladle the flavourful meat over spinach leaves and bean sprouts for a stew and salad in the same bowl.
Ready time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Splash of vegetable oil
1 pound stewing beef, cubed
2 onions, peeled and chopped
Small knob unpeeled ginger, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce can beef broth
1 cup orange juice
1 cup orange marmalade
Splash of soy sauce
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 10-ounce bag baby spinach
Handful of bean sprouts
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Handful of cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
Preheat large pot over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom evenly. Season beef with salt and pepper and sear in pot until evenly browned on all sides. Do not overload pot - sear in batches if necessary. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Add onions and ginger and stir until lightly browned. Ginger doesn't have to be peeled, just rinsed. If the pan starts to burn, add a splash of water and continue. Return the meat to the pot and add beef broth, orange juice, marmalade, soy sauce and five-spice powder. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue to simmer until meat is tender enough to break into smaller pieces (about 1 hour). Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Divide spinach and bean sprouts evenly among 4 bowls. Add green onions and cilantro leaves to stew (keep some cilantro aside for garnish) and ladle into bowls. Top with remaining cilantro leaves.
Chef Michael Smith is the author of Chef at Home and host of Chef Abroad on the Food Network