This recipe came out of one of my self-imposed cooking challenges, wherein I have committed to using every cut of beef I can find, at least once.
In one sense, the challenge is even trickier because, at least for us, it requires the services of a butcher, to say nothing of the other hands required to transform a field of grass into a serving of meat for our table. ( And I am dead-set serious about knowing where our food comes from and how the animals lived, and died, to become ingredients for our meal). Luckily, we have crossed paths with some adventurous farmers and butchers during this quest. I don’t even know how many different cuts of beef exist…it seems each cow will offer up a different combination, and I am very appreciative of the knowledge and craftsmanship that is needed to maximize the gifts of each animal.
Grassfed animals (photo courtesy of Eat Wild)
So, all that being said, what ended up in our cooler last week was a new-to-me cut called ” mock tender“. I researched text and web to get some information, without much success. It seems to be a pretty rare piece of beef ( yes, you can wince now.) The most helpful recipe I found was on Jersey Cook. I adapted it to what is in season and in our pantry now.
This is a very camera-shy recipe. My poor photography skills are familiar to you, but even Jersey Cook commented that she had a hard time taking a good picture. The taste, though, is wonderful. The beef flavor is true, and the slices are tender enough to use a spoon. The mix of colors, textures, and flavors hits all parts of the mouth. And, like all good stews, the leftovers were even better.
Braised Mock Tender Winter Stew. The flavor is far more vibrant than my picture.
Braised Mock Tender Winter Stew
(I used my largest covered pot throughout this recipe. The slow-cooker would have been great, but it was being used to cook pork for the pets. Priorities, you know.)
Our mock tender came in the form of a roast. It was about 2 pounds, the size and shape of a toy football. If you have the time, you could slice it into steaks up front. I left it as a roast to the end.
- Heat 1 TBL olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and then brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan for more work space.
- Reduce heat to medium and add 3 sliced carrots, 1 large chopped yellow onion, and finely chopped garlic to (garlic powder would work here, too) Stir while heating gently, until the onions are translucent and the carrots soften.
- At this point, you need to add an acid to help break down the collagen in the meat during stewing, as well as a liquid to keep everything moist. Red wine and beef stock are usual, but that would have put a too big a dent in our pantry. I used 1/2 cup dry vermouth to deglaze the pan, and then added one can of diced tomatoes. Use what you have, remembering you can always add flavor as you go, but you can’t take it out if it’s overpowering. For seasoning, I keep it simple with thyme (fresh or dried) and bay leaves.
- Swizzle everything around, then add the beef back to the pot, add water to cover, put the lid on, and turn down to a low simmer. The roast took 4 hours to get the texture I wanted. If you cut it into mock tender steaks first, the time would be about half.
- At least a half hour before serving ( a whole day, in my case) add 3 or 4 cups of fresh spinach ( a bag of frozen spinach is fine). No, it’s not too much greenery…it cooks down, and it’s good for you, anyway. Then fold in 2 cups cooked cannelleni beans ( that’s one can of white beans, drained). Heat everything through, gently.
What you will have is a one-pot meal, and a great way to stretch 2 pounds of an inexpensive cut of meat. The vegetables are seasonal or pantry staples, which is another way to keep grocery bills in check. This is lighter than the standard meat-and-potatoes stew, with loads of fiber and nutrients from all the veggies.
Adapt this to use any tough-but-flavorful cut of beef you have. Let me know if you discover any tips or tweaks to make this even better. Enjoy!
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