Beef Braise with Mashed Parsnips
Woah. Is is the middle of November already? How did that happen?
I’m in love with the warmer weather in Texas, but my Midwestern brain is still confused by it. While everyone else is like HOLIDAY SEASON! I’m like, wait is it fall? Still catching up here. So to convince myself that it is indeed fall (almost winter?) I made this super festive dish. Seriously, if you’re on the hunt for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Celebratory-winter-season dishes (or just something to make this weekend), I’ve got you covered. This beef braise is, um, amazing.
Actually, I can’t take full credit for the recipe here — the idea came from Chef Watson. Have you played around with it? You put in a starting ingredient, and Watson gives you 3 ingredients that go well with it. You can stop there, or it gives you some sample dishes, based on Bon Appetit recipes. There’s some unexpected ingredients in this recipe: beef, tomatillos, chocolate, vermouth. But don’t be intimated because OHMYGOD it’s so delicious.
This recipe came at the perfect time for me because I’ve kind of been in a food rut recently. I love cooking, but in the real world of working full time, it’s so exhausting to have to come up with something to make every night. (And even if we go out to eat, there’s the decision of “where to go?” ugh.) But cooking is a creative outlet for me, and when I don’t do it enough, I feel unsettled. Honestly, it’s a form of therapy for me — I’m doing something productive, but my mind can focus on the task at hand and for awhile I can block out all the other thoughts in my head that will never shut up.
This recipe is time-consuming yes, — it cooks for an hour and a half! But if you enjoy cooking for the sake of cooking, get yourself in the kitchen and make this. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down to eat a big bowl of flavorful beef and squash on a bed of mashed parsnips that you just spent several hours making. Mmmm. Can’t wait until we make this again for our families for Christmas!
Beef Braise with Mashed Parsnips
- 2 slices bacon
- ½ pound stew meat beef
- ½ pound winter squash cubed (half a medium red kuri or acorn squash, about 2 cups when cubed)
- 3 tomatillos cubed
- ½ serrano chile chopped
- ½ cup vermouth
- ½ cup water + 1 heaping tbl chicken bouillon or ½ c chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon each dried oregano & basil
- 4-5 leaves large mint whole
- 7-8 leaves large basil chopped
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- salt & pepper to taste
- 3-4 parsnips
- 1-2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
- ½ serrano chile or jalapeño pepper
- handful of asiago cheese
- 2 teaspoons rosemary
- Salt & Pepper to taste
For the braise: Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat. When crispy, remove to paper towels to drain (leave bacon fat in the pot).
Season beef with salt & pepper. Brown beef in bacon drippings over medium-high heat. When browned but not completely cooked, remove from pot and set aside.
Chop the squash, tomatillos, and chile pepper (and / or other veggies). Add to pot and cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes, until squash begins to soften. Add vermouth and boil uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Break the bacon into small pieces. Add to pot along with the chicken stock, dried oregano & basil, fresh basil, and mint. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.
Return beef to pot, cover partially, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Check to make sure liquid has not boiled off, and add more vermouth/wine/chicken stock as necessary. At the end of the 1 1/2 hrs, the beef & veggies should be coated in a thick liquid, kind of like a less liquidy stew.
For the parsnips: While the beef is cooking, prepare the parsnips. Cut off the top and bottom (if your parsnips are very thin at the bottom, just cut that part off & discard it too). Chop roughly. Parsnips have a tough & un-tasty core, so cut that part out when chopping them.
Add parsnip pieces to a medium pot of water & bring to a boil. Cook until parsnips are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain water and return parsnips to pot. Mash the parsnips until smooth. Add oil, chile pepper, cheese, rosemary. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Turn burner on low to keep parsnips warm until braise is done.
Back to the braise: After 1 1/2 hours, remove the mint leaves, and add in the cocoa powder and dried marjoram. Stir, season with salt & pepper. Adjust any seasonings to taste.
Serve braise over the mashed parsnips and enjoy! Pairs nicely with a Cab, or a nice fall beer like a pumpkin ale or stout!
This recipe makes 2 servings but it can easily be scaled.
I used a red kuri squash, but any winter squash will do. If you use a butternut squash or squash with tough skin, you'll need to peel it first.
The veggies used here are phenomenal, but you can always change them up. I think Watson recommended red bell peppers and mushrooms as alternatives. Tomatoes would probably be good too!
If you don't have vermouth, you can always use a full-bodied red wine like Cabernet, or a dark beer like pumpkin or stout. (Or all three! Which is actually what I did.)
The original recipe actually called for cooking for 1 1/2 hrs, removing the beef, and then cooking for another 1 1/2 hrs. I didn't do that because a) I wanted to eat before 10:30 PM, and b) Seriously, who wants to dig through the stew and pick out all the beef?! But if you feel so inclined, I'm sure this would get even more delicious the longer you cook it.
The mashed parsnips can easily be replaced with mashed potatoes, but the slight sweetness & tang from the parsnips really complemented the beef braise quite well!
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