Friday, March 18, 2016

Dry Your Beef!: A Lesson on Browning, Involving Some Beef and a Towel

It's almost spring here in Boston.  I was clearing out the yard yesterday, and I uncovered all kinds of buds peeping up out of the ground.  I even saw my first robin the other day! Woohoo!

But although the weather is teasing, my stomach isn't quite there, yet.  The air is still cool enough on a regular basis that I'm still enjoying my soups and stews and hot yerba mate lattes.  And with stew-making comes beef browning, and holy cow (no pun intended), have I learned a fabulous lesson!

Regardless of the fact that I write a food blog, I can be the world's dumbest cook.  I forget steps all the time.  Like--a biggee: TASTE to season before you serve.

Nope.  Forget to do that ALL THE TIME. Even for my guests when you would think I would want to show off.  I just get too damn excited, and I put out the meal, and then when I go to take my first bite, I find myself thinking, "Damn it! I forgot again!"


Another one? Mise en place. That is the fancy French way of saying get your shit together before you start to cook.  It is also why I have a plethora of ramekins and small bowls: to measure out all the ingredients first so that when the clock is ticking down the two minutes I have before I need to add the minced garlic, I'm not left still trying to frantically peel that persnickety paper off the garlic clove as my timer goes off to now please add the garlic...  Again, I just get too excited about starting, or I'll think, "Oh, this first step takes 10 minutes to brown? I've got plenty of time to get everything else together, then..."

Yeah, no. Fail.  EVERY TIME.

BUT.  I think I may have cured myself of another one of my "I-always-forget"s for good, and that is drying off the beef before I brown it.

Always forget that.  Always.  Except for the other night.  Not sure what made me remember...BUT, I did.  And, wowzers, NOW I know why Julia obsesses about this so much! Because the end results are BEAUTIFUL.

Drying beef before browning makes a difference!

Look at that color! That crust! No squishy, steamy-grey beef chunks here! No, sir! 

You take that paper towel and go pat that beef dry before you salt it and drop it into the hot, oily stew pot (or skillet or whatever), and this is what you get! Tell me you aren't in love! 

My only other tips: if you are browning cubes for stew, do the cubes in batches so they don't touch. Touching means steaming.  Ew.  And I don't brown every side.  I'm too impatient.  I just brown two sides.  So there.

Want to show off your browned beauties? Send us a picture in the comments below!

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