Chosen Bites: Winter Warmer

Try this simple recipe for low braised beef ragu and get cozy in the winter time.

Beef ragu (photo credit: LAURA FRANKEL)
Beef ragu
(photo credit: LAURA FRANKEL)
I made this dish for my family and it was simply delicious. We gobbled up the tender meat and savory sauce over al dente homemade pasta. YUM!
The meat, once browned, cooks itself and the slow cooked sauce is deep and richly flavored.
My favorite technique is braising. I love the transformation a few simple ingredients make when browned to a deep, rich-brown and then slowly cooked, submerged in fragrant stock and wine.
I serve the ragu with homemade pappardelle pasta (pasta rags). The pasta is easy to make and the process is very quick. There is nothing wrong with store bought dried pasta and I use it often in a pinch. But homemade pasta is silky, densely textured and glorious. Making homemade pasta may not be an everyday task, but it is special and worth trying. Try it just once and you will make it over and over again. 
Serves 6-8
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 3-pound beef chuck
2 leeks, sliced (white parts only)
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine (I use cabernet)
Bouquet garni of bay leaf, fresh thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig and parsley stems tied with kitchen twine
2 cups chicken stock
1 pound mushrooms sliced
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 162 C or preheat a slow cooker to HIGH
1. Heat a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat. 
2. Pat dry the meat and season all sides with salt and pepper. Place the meat in the pan and cook until dark brown and caramelized. Turn the meat and brown the other side. Transfer the meat to a dish or to the insert for the slow cooker and set aside.
3. Add the vegetables in batches to the Dutch oven or sauté pan, adding more olive oil if necessary, and brown the vegetables until they are golden. Be sure to season each batch with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste to the last batch of vegetables and stir to combine.  (this will caramelize the tomato paste and ensure deep rich flavor).Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker or pan.
4. Add the wine and chicken stock to the Dutch oven or pan and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the liquid to the slow cooker Dutch oven.
5. Cover the pan or slow cooker and braise in the until the meat is fork tender.
6. While the meat is braising, heat a large sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil over medium high heat, and sauté the mushrooms until they are brown and slightly crispy on the edges. Set aside.
7. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Strain the braising liquid and discard the vegetables. Reduce the braising liquid by about 2/3 or until it coats the back of a spoon. 
8. Cut the meat into large chunks and arrange them on a platter. Scatter the mushrooms on top of the meat and pour the sauce over the meat. Garnish with parsley. Serve with pasta, potatoes, rice or your favorite grain.
Homemade Pasta
Making pasta is such a great and satisfying pursuit. I love the way the dough quickly comes together and creates superbly textured pasta.
If you are reading this, then you are about to make and eat something so delicious and special that will make the dried pasta eaters insanely jealous. 
Homemade pasta is a completely different dish than dried pasta. I eat and enjoy both. But when I want something really extraordinary for an occasion I make homemade pasta. It is truly extraordinary.
You can do this in the mixer, but for some reason I do it by hand. I don’t know why, I just love the feel of the dough. Choose your method and enjoy!
Serves 4-5
7 ounces all-purpose flour
7 ounces semolina flour
4 eggs at room temperature, whisked 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Stir the flours together and mound them on the counter. Make a small well in the center and place the cracked eggs and olive oil in the well.
2. Start pushing a little of the flour into the center of the well and mix a bit. Keep doing that until the mixture is pasty and holds together. Gather up the dough and roll it into a ball. Push the ball with the heel of your hand and gather it back with your fingers. Fun right?
3. Try to avoid adding more flour as this will result in dry pasta dough.
4. Knead the dough, vigorously, for 3-4 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for an hour or overnight.
5. Set up a pasta machine and break off a piece of dough. Dust the dough with flour and roll the dough starting on #1 thickness. I run my dough twice through #1.
6. Gradually work up to #6. Lay out your gorgeous sheet of dough and cut into pappardelle or wide, noodles/rags. Finish rolling out the dough.
7. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 30 seconds for al dente. 
In a mixer using a cake paddle attachment:
1. Combine the flours and add the eggs, one at a time. Add the olive oil and change the attachment to the bread hook. Knead the dough for several minutes, cover and proceed as above in step 4.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.