Chinese Braised BeefMy love affair with Cook’s Illustrated is so lopsided. Cook’s Illustrated is much smarter than I am and doesn’t care about me (but I keep rushing back!). The recipes are always about the hyper-tested process.

The recipe for the “Chinese Braised Beef,” from the May/June 2014 issue, goes on and on about the merits of boneless beef short ribs in this application. I went ahead and swapped in stew beef. A blunder? Who knows. We enjoyed it, regardless (recipe below).

Chinese Braised Beef
Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2014
Serves 6

1-1/2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
2-1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
3 scallions, white and green parts separated, green parts sliced thin on bias
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise, and crushed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1-1/2 tsp. five-spice powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths
1 tsp. corn starch

Sprinkle gelatin over 2-1/2 cups water in Dutch oven and let sit until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat softened gelatin over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sherry, soy sauce, hoisin, molasses, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, and pepper flakes. Stir in beef and bring to a simmer. Remove pot from heat. Cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours, stirring halfway through cooking.

Using slotted spoon, transfer meat to a cutting board. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to now-empty pot. Cook liquid over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, 20 to 25 minutes.

While sauce reduces, using 2 forks, break beef into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Whisk cornstarch and remaining 1 Tbsp. water together in small bowl.

Reduce heat to medium-low, whisk cornstarch mixture into reduced sauce, and cook sauce is until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Return beef to sauce and stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is heated through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle scallion greens over top. Serve.

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I was excited about the saucy potion that was mixed with the gelatin in my Dutch oven: sherry, soy sauce, hoisin, molasses, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, pepper flakes. Can you smell it? The scent of that star anise in the five-spice powder was so soothing, as the beef stewed in the oven for 2-1/2 hours. Again, the process.

Much of this recipe is hands-off. Indeed, the sauce needs to reduce and be “defatted,” so I did the best I could. I produced a fine stew that wasn’t too spicy. It’s all about the beef. And the process.

Stew Beef (3.22 lbs.) = $24.61

PREP TIME: set aside at least 4 hours to the process
stewed beef warmed by spices and saltiness

Next time, I’ll ease back into something sweet. I’ll make the “Blueberry Coffeecake with Almond Streusel,” from the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light. Come back to my site next week to enjoy this with me.