Beef brasato

Italian-style braised beef:  not exactly an ideal meal for the deep heat of August, is it?  But it is an ideal topping for the fresh fettucini remaining from my pasta-making efforts earlier this week.  Red wine, carrots, crushed plum tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary yield a mellow, medium-thick sauce when braised with tenderized round steak for a little less than an hour.

Tenderized round steak, sometimes called as cube steak, is simply a piece of beef subjected to mechanical tenderization.  The meat passes through a tenderizing or cubing blade, which makes cuts into the muscle fibers and connective tissue.  Shorter fibers mean greatly reduced cooking times resulting in a softer-textured piece of meat.  Frequently, tenderized round steak becomes chicken fried steak….a dish I can easily live without.  (Who dreamed up the white cream gravy that accompanies chicken fried steak?  Don’t these people understand that browner is better when it comes to food?)

I ordinarily don’t buy tenderized round steak, but several packages of it were included in my meat selection when I bought  a grass-fed quarter-calf.  So I decided to try it in an Italian-accented braise….

Italian-style brasato (braised) beef

  • 6-8 individual serving sized pieces of tenderized beef round steak
  • 2 T all purpose flour
  • black pepper & salt
  • 2 T olive oil, butter, or other fat
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced small
  • 2 t fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes, pureed in blender or food processor
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • additional salt and black pepper, to taste
Sprinkle round steak pieces on both sides with salt, pepper, and flour.  In a 12-inch heavy skillet, heat oil until it shimmers, then add onion and green pepper.  Saute until the onion is golden brown and peppers are soft.  Push vegetables to one side, add the seasoned beef, and allow it to brown thoroughly before turning each piece over.  When undersides are lightly browned, add garlic, carrot, and fresh rosemary, then pour in plum tomatoes and red wine.  Stir to combine, making sure that each piece of beef is slightly submerged in the liquid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Taste for salt and pepper; adjust if necessary.  To serve in the Italian style, remove beef pieces to a platter; keep warm.  If juices remaining in the pan are thin, increase heat and boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add freshly cooked pasta directly to the skillet, using tongs or a spatula to coat the pasta evenly.  Serve the sauced pasta as a first course, followed separately by the braised beef.  Serves 4-6.
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