Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stuffed Flank Steak or Brisket ~ Julia Child

I've had Julia's "The Way To Cook" for many years and turn to it frequently. Recently however I recently received the DVD set and started watching it during workouts. I knew many of the recipes from the book but until now I had never tried her stuffed meat, such as flank steak, brisket and even veal breast. They all follow the same basic technique and she gives you a number of stuffing options. So today I'm making a stuffed beef brisket.

Julian's Stuffed Braised Beef Brisket
As she notes in the show, if you use flank or brisket, you have a relatively inexpensive piece of meat which can be served to guests and look elegant because of the preparation. Certainly it's worthy of any table and worth the little extra effort to make a simple cut of meat into a great dinner.

These recipes come from Julia's "Master Recipe" for braising pieces of meat, especially beef. But she also uses the technique for lamb, pork and veal, although you should substitute white wine for braising rather than red. As she notes, once you have the basic technique for braising down, you can use it widely for all tough pieces of meat that will benefit from a slow cooking in liquid to render their tougher fibers suitable for your table. If you don't have Julia Child's "The Way To Cook" I strongly advise adding it to your collection both in print and DVD.

Julian's plated stuffed brisket with corn au gratin.
I selected brisket today because that's what my butcher had available, pronouncing flank steak as "out of season." I'm not sure how that can be, but there it is. If I had the choice I would prefer flank steak for this recipe as I think it is more tender and flavorful, but either will do. A usual sized cut is 1.5 to 3 pounds and feeds 4-8. You could also stuff a bottom round of beef (Paupiette of Beef Gargantua, per Julia) if you need to feed a crowd of 15 or more.

When stuffing a flank or brisket I prefer a hearty meat stuffing, rather than mushroom or corn bread. These looser, lighter stuffings are fine in other cases where a greater quantity of meat is included with the dish. But in the case of flank or brisket the beef only serves to encase the stuffing by a thin layer of meat. So providing a stuffing much more like the meat surrounding it makes for a more consistent and pleasing serving. Julia also seemed to prefer the meat stuffing I use here.

Ingredients
Beef Flank or Brisket (per above)

Braise
vegetable oil
2 cups red wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 cups chopped tomatoes
2-3 cups beef stock

Herb Bouquet
6 parsley springs
6 peppercorns
3 whole cloves
4 allspice berries
1 teaspoon thyme
2 large garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour

Stuffing
2 Cups of Meat Stuffing of your Choice
I selected the following:
1 cup ground beef
1 cup ground pork
finely chopped trimming from the steak
1 small finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6-8 black olives, halved
12 saltine crackers, crushed
1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
1 tablespoon dry ground mustard
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons dried parsley
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon ground rosemary

Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup white wine or water

Directions (from the book but modified with additional helpful hints)

Prepare the meat. Trim any excess fat from the meat's surface. Slit a pocket in the side of the meat using a very sharp pointed knife. If the meat is thicker than about 1/2", you may need to remove a pocked of meat from the center. Carve out any excess until you have a workable pocket suitable for stuffing and a ring of steak about 1/4" thick all the way around. Season the interior lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Stuffing Ingredients
Prepare the stuffing. Mix together all of the stuffing ingredients until well combined. While a spoon may get you started, using your hand will provide the best result. Do not use a food processor or mixer for this purpose as it tends to grind up the ingredients and make the mixture tough.

Stuff and tie the meat.  Spoon the stuffing into the meat pocket. Use 2-3 metal pins/skewers to close the pocket. Using butchers twine, tie the meat crosswise in 4-5 places and again lengthwise.

Prepare the braise.  Roughly chop the vegetables and gather the braising ingredients close by your cook top. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the stuffed tied meat and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Stir adding a little more oil if necessary. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir in for 1 minute more. Add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes. Return the meat to the pan and add enough beef stock until it covers about half or a bit more of the meat. Toss in the herb bouquet and stir. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours. This can be done on the cook top or in a 350 oven. Check every 30-40 minutes and baste the meat (as she directs in the book) or turn the meat (as she instructs in the video). Add more liquid if necessary.

Click to Enlarge
Sauce and serving. Remove the meat the from braise and set on a cutting board covered loosely with foil. Strain the solids from the liquid, and de-grease the liquid. I prefer to do this using a large fat separator which I showed in my prior post.  Let the liquid sit in the fat separator for about 20 minutes and then pour the good juices without the fat into a sauce pan. Mix together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with white wine or cold water (slurry). Bring the gravy to a simmer and whisk in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and then the slurry. Stir until thickened. Do not boil. Using an electric or very sharp knife, cut the meat crosswise and lay out on a platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve.

Julian's Stuffed Beef Brisket Dinner

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