Apple Cider Braised Beef
We are going to be out of town the weekend of Thanksgiving, so this weekend was spent hauling out the Christmas decorations and decorating the tree. It’s still one of my favorite activities of the entire year, but it takes on a whole new dimension when you’re managing a five year old who thinks she can do everything on her own, and a two year old who sees those heirloom ornaments as bright and shiny balls, just the right size for his sticky little hands. After a few tense moments our tree is shining beautifully in the corner and we are only missing two not-so-sentimental ornaments. I consider that a big win.
When John and I began dating he worked for an airline which afforded us some very nice perks. After three months of dating we traveled together to Rome, and then for four years we never stopped. Free flights will do that to a person. It was a time in my life that I will never forget and for which I’m deeply thankful. When we became parents our traveling slowed down, then not too much later John moved on to another company. Our days of showing up at the airport with just a suitcase and a passport with no idea where we’d end up are long gone. Not that I’d trade the life we have now, but we often sit at the dinner table and wish for just a few more of those carefree vacations from reality. That’s why our Christmas tree is so special to me. On every trip we took I made it my mission to bring back a Christmas tree ornament. I remember laughing about how we’d some day tell our children about our adventures as we put up our Christmas tree. Funny, because today we told Sophie some pretty amazing stories about why we have a silver-plated bookmark on our tree that reads “Barcelona” (it was August in Spain – there were no Christmas shops), and why that one Santa Claus from Buenos Aires has a very good tan. There’s the one from Harrods of London that looks just like a perfectly wrapped gift that she always wants to grab first. And the weird one from Paris that has a baby holding the Eiffel Tower in it’s arms while sitting on top of a globe – that thing even creeps me out, but beggars can’t always be choosers. And the ceramic tropical fish that we got in Positano, Italy on our honeymoon. He stands out a bit among all the traditional Christmas colors. There are so many more that Sophie and Max will get to know, and eventually roll their eyes at as we start telling them the stories over and over again each year. I love sharing those memories with them, but most of all I love the rush of memories that flood back each time I open a box. Collecting ornaments is a tradition we’ve continued with them too – along with all those famous cities, we’ve added ornaments from Disney World, various aquariums, museums, and zoos, the Nutcracker ballet, and an untold number of ornaments made from pipe cleaners and glitter, which are without a doubt some of my favorites.
So what does all of this have to do with what I’m supposed to be writing about – dinner? Not much, except that since I knew we’d be wrangling children and walking down memory lane most of the afternoon, I wanted a meal that would be hands off, but still supremely satisfying and comforting. I hit the nail right on the head when I found this recipe, originally published at Simple Bites. Braising is a technique that everyone should learn and use. The flavor you can get from a simple braise is like nothing else. Essentially it goes like this: brown the meat on the stove, add some liquid, and let it finish cooking slowly in the oven where all the flavor develops. The addition of apple cider here was something I’d never tried before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The result was stunning. A beautifully tender piece of beef with all the flavors of fall. I savored every single bite. The apple cider (note, not apple cider vinegar) was just the right note to make this braise stand out as one of the best I’ve ever made. I really encourage you to read the original post from Simple Bites to learn the basics of braising if you’re not sure. Shaina has already described it better than I ever could, plus her photo is sooo much more enticing than mine. I followed her recipe to the letter because I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d change and it was divine. Exactly the kind of meal you want to linger over, perfect for an evening with friends and family. And memories in the making.
Apple Cider Braised Beef
2 Tablespoons butter
1 (4-5 pound) beef brisket, or similar cut of beef, trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into large strips
5 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cups apple cider, preferably unfiltered (note, not apple cider vinegar)
2 apples, cored and sliced (I used Gala)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Season beef on both sides with salt and pepper. Add butter to the Dutch oven and cook until melted, then add beef. Cook until well browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Remove beef to a plate.
Add the onion and garlic to pan and saute until soft and golden brown. You can add just a little more butter if necessary. Pour in 1/4 cup of the apple cider and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Place the brisket back in the pan, along with rosemary and the rest of the apple cider.
Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until tender. Add the apples into the pan 30 minutes prior to the end of cooking time.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly, then skim off any fat that has accumulated on the top. Remove beef, onions, and apples to a plate and heat the remaining sauce over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, onions, and apples back to pan and cook until warm. Serve immediately.
Recipe credit: Simple Bites
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