Monday, January 18, 2010

Braised Beef in Red Wine with Orange Zest

Wow. Let me repeat myself... Wow.

You know you've made a good dish when the minute you finish eating it, you feel like cooking it again. For those of you wondering what I was going to do with the beef that was the subject of my previous post, this is the result - the meat was falling-apart tender, as were the carrots. The onions, wine and orange zest melded into a flavorful and complex but not overpowering sauce. 

This recipe was from the September 2008 issue of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine. The issue's focus was Paris, and the recipes were primarily French. This recipe, as printed in the magazine, was called "Joues De Boeuf Aux Agrumes" which actually means beef cheeks braised in red wine with orange zest, but there was no WAY I was going to cook anything with a name like "cheek." The recipe listed beef chuck as an alternative to beef cheeks, and you can be sure that I found that option far preferable. The butcher cut the meat up for me, thereby sparing me from the psychological trauma of having to cut it myself, and the rest was a breeze.

My tasters (my parents) and I gave this recipe an A. In addition, I'll note that it has very few ingredients (only 6), and spends much of the cooking time braising in the oven, giving the cook time to clean the kitchen, make the side dishes, drink some wine, and put on makeup, and drink some more wine before the guests arrive. There was one dicey moment when I took the Le Creuset out of the oven and opened it and was greeted with what looked like blackened food -- but it turned out it was really just the wine that gave that appearance. (For those of you who have seen the movie Julie and Julia, you'll remember the scene when Julie was making Boeuf Bourguignon and fell asleep while it was braising in the oven. When she woke up, hours later, the dish was overcooked and she threw it out. My dish looked just like that -- but it was PERFECT.)

The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity. You brown the meat, you saute some carrots and onions, you pour in a bottle of wine, and throw the whole thing in the oven for three hours. Couldn't be easier. Yet it creates a dish that you could proudly serve to company (provided they don't look at the pot the minute it comes out of the oven).

My mom said it was better than anything she could get in a restaurant. My dad -- who I will hereafter refer to as "the fussy gourmet" -- said that it was good, but "you probably could make something just as good with Lipton Onion Soup Mix."  (Note: my dad believes that you shouldn't bother cooking anything WITHOUT Lipton Onion Soup Mix -- it is apparently the key ingredient for everything.)

Prep time - minimal
Did the final version look like the magazine picture? Yes!
Did it make a full meal? Yes!
Would I make it again? Absolutely!!
Gluten free? Yes
Vegetarian? No
My grade - A

What did I learn from this recipe? Wine is a great tenderizer for beef. You really have to get the oil hot and the beef dry in order to brown it. If you put enough wine in anything, it will probably taste good.

Without further ado -- here is the recipe (my version -- not the beef cheek version).

Braised Beef in Red Wine with Orange Zest

- 2 lb boneless beef chuck roast cut in four pieces against the grain
- 2 Tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
- 1 lb (about 3) onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb baby carrots
- 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon - an inexpensive bottle)
- 8 (3- by 1-inch) strips of orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle.

Pat beef dry and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Heat oil in a 4- to 6-qt heavy pot over meduim heat until it shimmers. (I used a 5 qt Le Creuset - it goes from stovetop to oven, making it perfect for this purpose). Brown beef on all sides, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to plate with tongs. (I browned two pieces at a time).

Add onions, carrots, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and zest and bring to a boil. Add beef and return to a boil. Cover pot and braise in oven until meat is very tender 2-3 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with carrots and sauce.

I served this with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes and a salad.  Recipe says it makes 4 servings, but I got 6 out of it.


  1. Entertaining post and delicious looking meal. I'll definitely try this. Better yet, I'll give it to my husband (who does most of the cooking so I can sit and write novels). He'll love that it has only 6 ingredients.

  2. I'm enjoying your new blog, Ann. I can't wait to try this recipe out - it seems delicious. Maria

  3. Looks terrific! I absolutely can hear "the fussy gourmet" making his comment.

    A very similar recipe - sans the orange zest - is Stracotto en Barolo from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking. (I'm a little fuzzy on the spelling of "stracotto" without running to the kitchen to check the spelling in her book. We've made it many times and it always comes out great. You're right - you can't go wrong with beef cooked in red wine.

  4. Before you turn up your nose, I think you should know that beef cheek (“chic” in Provence) has been used successfully in numerous recipes from around the world, including “Beef Chicks,” a staple from Manhattan’s old Hell’s Kitchen that’s braised in a quart of whisky and served with boiled potatoes; “Beef Chico,” a Southwestern U.S. variant that uses tequila for braising and is served with cornmeal cakes; “Beef Sheikh,” a Middle Eastern favorite that eschews alcohol and instead uses camel’s milk and is usually served with mashed chickpeas and olives; and “Beef Shiksa,” a traditional dish favored by Irish girls that have married into Jewish families—it uses a half-gallon of Manischewitz wine. Recipes available upon request.

  5. Love any recipe that involves wine! But my question is
    "why was I not invited to dinner?!"
    This will be delicious for Wine Club!!!


    It is my honor to be here to give my comment. This is wonderful.

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