04 January 2020

Weekend Cooking: How to Braise by Michael Ruhlman

review of How to Braise by Michael RuhlmanToday's post is in the category of "I swear I reviewed this wonderful cookbook years ago when I first got it." But, alas I did not. Really sad news for you, but I've been happily cooking out of Michael Ruhlman's How to Braise (Little, Brown, 2015) for years. In case you haven't yet guessed: I'm wholeheartedly recommending this book as a buy.

How to Braise is part of series Ruhlman was putting together about techniques. I'm not sure how many cookbooks ended up being published, but this book and his How to Roast (click for my review) have both been heavily used in my kitchen.

From this book, I've made braised short ribs, lamb shanks, fennel, cabbage, chicken thighs, turkey legs, leg of lamb, pot roast, and the stew recipe I'm sharing today.

Ruhlman's magic is in creating amazing flavor and perfection with a less is more attitude. Oh, and no fancy kitchen or equipment are needed. His recipes are accessible to everyone.

What made me search my blog to see if I've written about How to Braise is the recipe for Ida's Beef Stew, which I made for our annual New Year's Eve dinner party this year. I'm usually all about the fancy, the courses, the 5 days in the kitchen, but this year I went rogue and opted for casual.

This beef stew couldn't be easier. The book notes that the recipe serves 4 but we had 6 at the table and still had leftovers. There is no reason (as Ruhlman says in the recipe introduction) not to make a full batch. The leftovers are delicious reheated and the finished dish will freeze beautifully.

BRF notes:

  1. Ruhlman uses two pans to make this stew, but I followed his mother's example and seared the meat in the dutch oven so I didn't have to wash another pan and to catch all the flavor of the meat.
  2. I always opt for the 4-hour cooking time and the meat is absolutely spoon tender.
  3. Ruhlman suggests stirring in corn or peas. I've also used green beans. I'm sure he thinks we should use fresh veggies, but I use frozen and stir them in after taking the pot out of the oven, letting them warm up in the sauce. I've used all three options and don't really have a preference.
  4. I didn't take a photo because we had company. I scanned a pic from the book.
  5. Thanks to Little, Brown for the review copy (recipe & photo used here in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holder)
Ida's Beef Stew
Serves 4
  • review of How to Braise by Michael Ruhlman1 (2-pound) chuck roast cut into 2-inch cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 Spanish onions, cut into very large dice
  • 4 carrots cut into large pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, lightly smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, pureed (see note)
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into very large dice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 300F.

Season the meat cubes on all sides with salt and pepper and dredge them in flour (or shake them in a plastic bag with flour). Shake off all the excess flour.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil over medium-high to high heat. When it's visibly hot, with currents swirling, add the pieces of meat so that each has its very own spot in the pan. When a beautiful brown crust has formed, a few minutes, turn the meat and continue searing till all sides of the meat are browned. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat a thin film of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic, and stir to sweat them, adding a four-finger pinch of salt as you do.

When the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes, add the wine and bring it to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the potatoes, the honey, and the bay leaves. Add the reserved meat. For meat that still has some bite, cover the pot and pop it into the oven for 2 hours. If you prefer the meat to be completely fork-tender, bring the pot to a full simmer before covering it and putting it in the oven. Cook for up to 4 hours.

Note on tomatoes: You can puree whole tomatoes in a blender, or use an immersion blender right in the can--be sure to pour off the juice first (reserving it) so it doesn't whirlpool over the rim of the can.
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Marg 1/4/20, 6:16 AM  

It's not stew weather here, but this still sounds delicious! We are always look for good recipes when it is the right weather but haven't found one just to keep making over and over.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/4/20, 7:40 AM  

I love easy recipes that will work for company. This sounds great!

Tina 1/4/20, 7:51 AM  

I’ve used this book before and I agree, it’s excellent. I’m with you on the slower cooking times as the meats come out so tender. Brilliant stew!

Mae Travels 1/4/20, 8:09 AM  

I've enjoyed Rulhman's "Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America" but haven't tried his books on how to cook. My go-to stews are mainly from Julia Child (boeuf bourgigon, carbonnades...) but this one does have a lot of appeal.

Here's to lots more Weekend Cooking posts in 2020!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

bermudaonion 1/4/20, 8:35 AM  

There's nothing better than a big pot of stew on a cold winter day!

Claudia 1/4/20, 10:20 AM  

Looks very much like how I make my beef stew. I've several of his books, though the one I use most, for some reason, is Ratio.

Deb in Hawaii 1/4/20, 12:11 PM  

Happy New Year! We are having a cooler (for Hawaii) & very rainy last night & morning here so your hearty stew looks perfect! ;-)

Stacie 1/4/20, 1:00 PM  

That stew sounds so good and will be perfect for a Sunday dinner this winter.

Jackie McGuinness 1/4/20, 1:20 PM  

I'm late posting as I didn't really feel like I had anything to write about.

Beef stew, nothing like it.

Interesting book, I will have to check it out.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 1/4/20, 4:20 PM  

I'll have to pass this recipe on to my daughter in law. She makes a lot of beef stew in the winter. Looks comfomting.

Vicki 1/4/20, 4:28 PM  

I love beef stew! How is it that I've been cooking for 45 years and have never braised anything? I'm going to find a copy of this book and see what I've been missing.

Vicki 1/4/20, 4:53 PM  

What would you suggest replacing the red wine in this recipe with?

Beth F 1/4/20, 4:55 PM  

@Vicki: I'd just use a flavorful beef broth and maybe a splash of red wine vinegar. I think it'd come out just fine.

Carole 1/4/20, 5:50 PM  

Serendipity - I did a post about a Ruhlman technique - and so did you! Cheers

Greg 1/4/20, 9:07 PM  

I love stew and even though I went vegetarian last year I still cheat occasionally haha. I have a feeling I would cheat for this recipe. In fact I'm making a note of it- I might whip up a batch of it one f these days, everyone else in my family loves beef stew also.

Aj @ Read All The Things! 1/5/20, 8:44 PM  

I’m looking for cookbooks because cooking more is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ll have to check this one out. The beef stew looks yummy!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

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