One of the foods we have been trying desperately to get into Nolan for the past two weeks is red meat, rich in iron for an anemic kiddo. He doesn’t seem to like hamburger and mostly rejects steaks, but occasionally some tender braised beef has a bit more appeal. We got a little grassfed beef chuck roast, just two pounds, and I rooted around in the garden and came back with some green stalks of rhubarb and a ruddy beet, another incredibly rich source of iron.
Braised in a sultry bath of rhubarb and ginger, honey and spices, with the beet providing not only earthy sweetness but rich color to the liquid, the beef became tender and succulent. We served slices of it over spätzle that I made with shredded zucchini inside and sauteed zucchini outside. Only my dad is a beet fan in our family, but since they played a supporting role under so many electrifying and comforting flavors, I was able to find no objections to the taste. Nolan, true to form, ate maybe two bites of beef and then filled up on spätzle, but at least that was made with some sprouted flour and vegetables hidden inside!
Braised Beef with Rhubarb and Beet
For the spice rub:
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice berries
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the beef:
One 4-lb beef brisket or pot roast
1 lb rhubarb
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 T minced fresh ginger
1/3 C golden raisins
1-2 beets, peeled and diced
1 1/2 C white wine
2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (about 3-inches by 3/4-inch)
2 thyme sprigs
1 dry bay leaf
1 1/2 T honey, plus more if needed
12 hours before you want to make the pot roast, combine the spices in a small dry skillet over medium heat and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Allow to cool for a minute, then grind the spices together to a coarse powder in a mortar or a spice grinder. Add salt and grind to combine. Wipe the beef with paper towels, and spread the spice rub all over both sides of the meat. Place on a platter, cover loosely, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, until it is shimmering. Brown the meat on all sides about 4 minutes per side, turning the meat with tongs when it’s time. Watch the beef carefully – if you think it’s browning faster than the indicated 4 minutes, turn it on another side earlier. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and set aside.
While the meat is browning, trim both ends of the rhubarb stalks, strip the outer stringy layer from the rhubarb, and chop the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. You should have about 4 cups.
After you are done browning the meat, add the onion (you might need to add a tablespoon more oil) and sauté until softened and beginning to color, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the garlic, ginger, and raisins; sauté for another minute. Add the wine, bring everything to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until the liquid reduces slightly. Add half the rhubarb, the beets, orange zest, thyme, bay leaf, and honey. Bring everything to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, to allow the flavors to meld. Lower the beef back into the pot.
Place the Dutch oven lid on top, and slide the pot into the lower third of the oven. After 15 minutes, check to see if the liquid is bubbling actively. If it is – lower the heat 10 to 15 degrees. Continue to braise at a gentle simmer. Turn the beef over after 30 minutes. Then, after another 1 1/2 hours, turn it again, and add the remaining 2 cups of rhubarb. Continue to braise for another hour or so, until the meat is fork-tender – for a rough total of 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
Gently, remove the beef fro the pot using a spatula or tongs – and set it on a carving board with a moat to collect any runaway juices. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Your sauce will be thickish from the rhubarb and will have mostly collapsed into the braising liquid. Skim any surface fat and taste the sauce—if it tastes too “sharp” from the rhubarb, add a bit more honey, but only a little at a time, as honey can quickly overpower other flavors.
Carve the rested meat diagonally, across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices. Ladle the rhubarb sauce over, and serve.
Source: Slightly adapted from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens.