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The Cure for Anything (Beef Brasato with Pappardelle and Mint)

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. 

~Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

Before I knew what was happening at the hair salon yesterday, a twenty-year-old had cut and styled my bangs into a coif reminiscent of the Rainbow My Little Pony, circa 1983.

{Image via this site}

My resemblance to a little girls’ collectible item is not the kind of holiday party conversation fodder I wanted to be cultivating at this time of  year.  In fact, I was hoping to catch up on some NPR so I could drop bombs about the proposed congressional insider-trading ban, the potential FDA regulation of the arsenic content of apple juice, and the challenges facing the interim government in Yemen.

But now when I try to impress people with these facts over the eggnog bowl, they’ll be all “ummm. . . so, does apple juice make your hair . . . pointy? Or is that a new Yemeni thing?”

And I’ll sigh and tell them that no, it’s really just the stress of fighting the war on insider-trading that causes my bangs to radiate outward at a ninety degree angle to my face.

To put my hair situation another way, I was going for something like this:

{Image via this site}

Instead, I got one of these coming out of my forehead.

Back at home after the salon, I experimented with bobby pins and ate a whole bag of gummy bears, except two.  Two popped out and Thunder pounced on them.

Many of you have suggested Thunder may be made of magic and marshmallow and whimsy.  In closing on this fine Friday afternoon, I am happy to confirm that yes, she is so happy that she literally poops Haribo gummy bears.

I can also confirm that Isaak Dinesen was right.  Salt water–if used to boil pasta–can fix almost anything.  It can even make you forget that you look a little funny.

The recipe below is kind of wild.  Technically, it takes a long time to make, start to finish– but you’re not actually tending to it for very long.

This is the overview: You dump a bunch of steak, a bottle of wine and some mint into a plastic bag.  That takes about one minute.  It sits in the refrigerator overnight, looking like something out of American Psycho.  The next day, you do a few quick things before you put the it in the oven to braise for two and a half hours.  The meat gets so tender you can shred it with a fork.  You boil up some pasta, toss it all together, and you have a hearty, sophisticated dish that will knock your socks off.

The recipe is for beef brasato with pappardelle and mint.  It was featured in the August, 2011 volume of Food & Wine, and it’s based on a dish created by Chris Cosentino, owner of the San Francisco restaurant Incanto.

I halved the recipe and used stew beef (rather than beef shank), a can of diced tomatoes (rather than crushed tomatoes), the cheapest bottle of red I had lying around, and “fresh” fettuccine–the kind you can get in the refrigerated section of the grocery store–rather than pappardelle.  I also added a can of drained and rinsed Great Northern beans about 2 hours into the braising because I wasn’t sure we had bought enough pasta and I wanted the extra starch.  We didn’t need it, and next time I’ll leave the beans out.  The stew beef was very tender, so depending on the price of meat, I’ll probably stick with that substitution in the future.

Below are the ingredients as they appear in Food & Wine.  It makes 8 servings.

Pasta with Braised Beef and Mint

Ingredients:

2 3/4 pounds trimmed boneless beef shank, cut into 2″ pieces

1 bottle of wine (750 ml.)

15 mint sprigs, stems removed

salt and pepper

1/4 c. olive oil

1 35-oz. can peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed

1 lb. fresh pappardelle

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

Directions:

Remove mint leaves from stems and put the mint leaves back in the refrigerator.

In a large ziploc bag, combine the beef, mint stems and the bottle of wine.  Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.

About 3 1/2 hours before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Drain the beef but preserve–do not discard–the wine marinade.

Discard the mint stems.

Pat the beef dry with some paper towels.  In a cast-iron pot (like a Le Creuset that can go in the oven), heat 2 tbsp. of the olive oil.  Add half of the meat to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until well browned all over, about 12 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate.  Brown the remaining meat.

Return all the meat to the pot.  Add the wine marinade and bring it to a boil.  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and place it in the oven to braise for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, until the meat is very tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate and shred with two forks.  Boil the braising liquid until reduced to about 2 1/2 c., about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the garlic.  Also, cook the pappardelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the meat and the reduced braising liquid and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil and cook the garlic until lightly golden, about a minute or two.  Add the mint leaves and cook for about 10 seconds.  Pour the garlic-mint oil (with the garlic and the mint pieces) over the pasta and toss.

Serve with the cheese, as desired.

Food & Wine suggests pairing the dish with a blackberry-rich Washington state Syrah, if you want to get fancy about it.

In case you were wondering, this is still happening.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. I truly believe that any haircut takes two weeks to get used to and for your hair to lay right, so you still have time before Christmas is here.
    This pasta dish does look awesome and the perfect thing to fill you up on a chilly evening. Thanks for sharing this link and have a great weekend.

    December 3, 2011
    • Hi there! Thanks for the kind words–thankfully, it’s getting cold and could be hat weather soon. 🙂

      I have a question for you that I’ll post when your comments section opens again, but if you see it here first: those cinnamon Sri Lanka cookies you made look delicious. What’s their consistency? Are they crunchy or chewy, do you recall?

      December 6, 2011
  2. teenagefreak #

    Wow. I just died. Multiple times laughing. (And then I got kind of hungry.) I actually go to a barber to get my hair cut because feminine places like hair salons make me feel weak. One of the gals I work with once said, “Madeleine, OMG I know your hair stylist” and I was kind of like, “Um? You mean my barber?” Which cracks me up whenever I think about it. On good mornings, my hair looks like the third picture.

    Regardless, I’d talk to you about Yemen no matter what sort of life form you have on your head.

    And, to conclude, Thunder is still cute. And I still want to kidnap her. Or maybe just eat gummy bears with her.

    December 3, 2011
    • Madeleine, it’s funny you say that because whenever I see the word “salon,” I cringe. I cringed writing it in the post last week, and I cringed just writing it again here. So I’ll sign off before it gets any worse.

      December 6, 2011
  3. Liz Malone #

    Looks and sounds wonderful! Are those photos of the dish as you made it? If so, you appear to have talents not only for writing and cracking me up, but also photographing food, which is not really easy to do! I sometimes dream of what you are doing and on the rare times when I do cook food, I take a photo of it, but it looks like crap. Seriously – somethings I make something and I think this tastes pretty good. Then, I look at the photo on my phone and I am like, I will never make that again!

    Here is a challenge for you — I want to serve apple cider at the Christmas party with cinnamon vodka. We had it over the weekend at this place in Rehoboth, but I am not sure how to recreate it. Got any good recipes or ideas?

    Love and miss you!

    December 5, 2011
    • Liz, this whole thing started because when I first moved down here, I was snapping pictures of our meals with my blackberry and sending them to Brent in San Francisco. I noticed the same thing– it’s hard for things on iphones to look delicious.

      I went cinnamon vodka shopping yesterday because of your comment, and can’t find any in Huntsville. We do have cinnamon schnapps, so I got that and fresh apple cider and will work on it. But it’s really easy to make your own flavored vodka. I’ve done it with Hendriks gin. I am sure you’ll have a better chance of finding the real deal where you are (if you haven’t already) but you could also get a cinnamon-heavy tea, like Good Earth original, and put a tea bag or two in a bottle of vodka overnight or even just for a few hours. It really works. I made Earl Grey martinis that way once, and the Earl Grey flavor was strong.

      Love and miss you too!

      December 6, 2011
  4. Hi! I’m a friend of Scott’s from high school and I think we may actually have gone to law school together — I was UVA law ’06. I love your blog! (And I’m totally intrigued by someone who’s kicked biglaw and is doing something fun instead 🙂 Anyway, I made this recipe last night and my husband loved it! What do you think about using lamb instead of the beef?

    December 5, 2011
    • Kristen, hi! I am so glad you made it and that it was a success. It’s good right? I feel like I’m in a fancy Italian restaurant when I eat it. I am going to look into the lamb idea. I am guessing it’d be even better with lamb, but am going to check with people who know more about meat than I do. I was ’07, and I’ll stalk you on Scott’s facebook page to see if I recognize you. (And I myself am STILL intrigued by the fact I left the firm, in a way!) Hopefully we will meet at some point.

      December 6, 2011

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