June 25th, 2011

Beef and mushroom casserole (with extra gravy)

I felt like making a beef casserole this weekend. I can’t count the number of times and variations on this theme that I’ve cooked in my life, but (if I do say so myself) this one is particularly good.

Tip #1 for great casserole: chuck steak. Don’t buy that “super lean diced beef” from the supermarket, get quality, fatty meat and cut it yourself – the fat and sinew will keep the meat from drying out and will become lovely, soft and sweet in the slow cooking process.

I browned the steak in batches first – as Kate says “that chuck steak doesn’t look like much”, but trust me…

After the steak was all browned, I deglazed the pan with some red wine, and wiped it clean before getting on to the vegetables. I saved all the pan juices to add back later – you don’t want to waste all that flavour!

Lots of large pieces of garlic, large chunks of carrot and onion, some finely chopped celery and carrot, and a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, bay and a single red chilli (leaving the chilli whole doesn’t make the dish “hot” as such, but does give it a gentle warmth).

I cooked off the vegetables, and added tomato paste, lots more red wine, and chicken and beef stock, plus lots of black pepper and some butter. I stirred in the beef, then cooked the casserole in a low oven (lid on) for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours, I added some field mushrooms and swiss mushrooms, then it’s back in the oven for another half an hour.

But now, it was still overly wet (but still delicious). I added some lemon zest and extra parsley, some flour to thicken it up, and moved it to the stove top to cook off some of the liquid. I started to worry about overcooking the mushrooms though, I was also worried that it might get too salty if I reduced the liquid too much…

So instead, I ladled the extra liquid in to another pot, added some flour and butter and made about a litre of delicious mushroomy beefy herby gravy. Now we have tasty gravy in batches in the freezer, for future meaty meals.

So there we have it – beef casserole and extra gravy. But we’re not eating the casserole tonight. Tip #2 for great casserole: leave it overnight – it is always better. Always.

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