Starches like pasta and side dish vegetables like broccoli are easy to improvise recipes for. They cook quickly and are hard to mess up. But preparing a luscious meat dish requires much more finesse, especially when dealing with tougher, wallet-friendly cuts. Fortunately for us home cooks, Jean Anderson (James Beard Award-winning author of over 20 cookbooks) dispels all the mysteries of cooking with less tender cuts of meat in her cook, Falling Off The Bone. In the book, she covers beef, veal, lamb and pork. She describes from which part of the animal each cut comes from and discusses the best methods for cooking them and why.
Here is the first recipe I made from the book. It is a classic Brazilian beef stew, which is the perfect recipe for a tough, virtually un-marbled cut of beef like bottom round (meat from the well-exercised, hind leg area of the cow). Many thanks to Justin Schwartz, the editor of this book, for sending me a copy of the newly released paperback edition!
Recipe from Falling Off The Bone by Jean Anderson (Wiley, 2010)
(Yield: 4 large or 6 small servings)
3 tbsp corn or peanut oil (I used vegetable)
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 lbs finely diced bottom round or ground lean beef chuck (I used bottom round)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 ground ginger
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 c finely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives (I skipped these)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp raw sugar (I used regular granulated)
1 tsp salt + 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Procedure: Heat oil in large skillet (I used my Dutch oven) over moderately high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, 8 to 10 min. Push all to the side and add beef. Brown well, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 min. Stir in all remaining ingredients, turn heat to low so that mixture simmers very slowly. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Then taste and re-season if necessary. Serve hot.
The spices, sugar and raisins make this a very flavorful, well-balanced beef stew. And because of the long simmering time, the tomato sauce ends up coating the meat like a gravy.
I chose to serve it over pearl cous-cous but Anderson recommends tossing it with pasta, or ladling it over potatoes, hamburger buns as in sloppy Joes, or rice.
Take it from someone who tends to be intimidated by cooking with unknown to me meats, this book is a truly invaluable find. I see myself referring back to it for recipe ideas for years to come.