Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Autumn Stews from France - Estouffade

Estouffade has two meanings in French, one is meat cooked very slowly in very little liquid; braised or casseroled and the other is a brown stock made with veal and beef bones plus pork knuckle. Traditional recipes for Estouffade have deserted the tables as they ask several hours of cooking to be tasty but you can buy preprepared jars of Estouffade in France to quicken things up in the kitchen.

Auguste Escoffier gives a recipe in Le Guide Culinaire for Estouffade which contains marrow bones, beef, poultry carcasses, carrots, turnips, leeks, celery, parsnips and onion and is simmered and skimmed for several hours producing a dark brown liquid which is the basis for many other sauces, soups and stews. It is the basis of Sauce Espagnole and Demi-Glace. Escoffier (1846 – 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine.

Estouffade of Beef with Apricots, Almonds, and Raisins

½ lb dried apricots
1 ½ cups boiling water
4 ½ lbs boneless beef shanks
salt and ground pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cloves
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their liquid
3 ½ cups beef stock or canned broth
2 bay leaves
½ cup raisins
½ cup slivered blanched almonds, for garnish
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
cooked egg noodles, for serving

Soak the dried apricots in the boiling water until plumped. Drain. In a large bowl, toss the beef cubes with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and the cinnamon. In a large pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until almost smoking. Add half the beef cubes to the pan and cook over high heat, turning, until will browned on all sides. Transfer the beef to a large plate. Add 1 more tablespoon of the oil and brown the remaining beef.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until softened, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and cloves and cook, stirring, until the spices are aromatic. Add the wine and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the crushed tomatoes with their liquid and the beef stock. Add the apricots to the pan, reserving 8 for garnish. Simmer the sauce.

Purée the sauce in a food processor until smooth. Transfer the purée to a casserole dish. Add the beef and bay leaves and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 ¾ hours. Uncover and simmer. Add the raisins and simmer until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick. Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

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