Beer-Braised Beef and Mini Yorkshire Puddings

>> Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beer-Braised Beef and Mini Yorkshire Puddings

We found this beer-braised beef recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She says beer is typical for a Belgian braise, and the recipe is called "Carbonnades a la Flamande". The beef is cut into small cutlets, quickly browned, then braised with onions and beer until it is falling-apart tender. The beer, brown sugar, and vinegar give it a wonderful sweet-and-sour flavor.

Joe and I didn't know for sure the difference between braising and stewing, but Julia tells us that to braise food, you cook it in oil first, then finish it with some liquid. Stewing is nearly the same, with or without the browning step, but the food is cooked with a large amount of liquid, and the end result is much more soupy.

beef cutlets browning in pan

We decided to tackle Yorkshire pudding, something we've never made before, because we're making it as an accompaniment to my mom's standing rib roast for Christmas dinner. Joe's English side of the family, the Finchams, come from Yorkshire, so it seemed a nice tie-in. And as I've read so much Victorian literature, I've been curious about Yorkshire pudding.

Actually, the British concept of pudding is rather puzzling to Americans in general. Yorkshire pudding is a light batter that bakes up like a popover, but their black pudding is essentially a sausage, and plum pudding is similar to a fruitcake, and often people say pudding to mean any kind of dessert at all.

Yorkshire pudding is easy to make and a traditional accompaniment to a Sunday roast. Joe found that the first mention of it was in a cookbook in the early 1700s. Cooks would place a pan of the batter underneath a roast and let the juices drip down to flavor the pudding. Nowadays cooks spoon a bit of the roast's drippings over the batter as it bakes, and the result is a fluffy, savory muffin whose crown rises then collapses when it cools.

Miniature Yorkshire Puddings
These puddings are not burnt - they are brown from the rich beef juices we poured over them.

While bakers often make Yorkshire pudding in on pan and cut slices for diners, we made these in mini muffin tins so that people at dinner could try just a little bit without taking too much if they happened to not enjoy it. I don't think there will be any left, though!


Yorkshire Pudding

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons beef drippings and fat

Beer-Braised Beef

1 3-lb top round roast or tenderloin
2 tbsp oil
6 cups onions, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef stock
3 cups Pilsner-style beer
2 tbsp light brown sugar
6 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp fresh marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp white wine vinegar


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

To make the Yorkshire Pudding batter, stir together the flour and salt. in a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Gradually add to the flour to the egg mixture, beating it into a thin, smooth batter, but being careful not to over-mix it. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Yorkshire pudding ingredients

Cut the beef into 2 x 4 inch cutlets, about 1/2 inch thick. Place between layers of paper towels and allow it to dry so that it will saute properly. Heat a large skillet, then add the oil and heat at medium-high until nearly smoking. Add the beef strips a few at a time, and quickly brown them on both sides. Set them aside, then pour the oil and beef drippings into a bowl to be used with the pudding.

Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 more tbsp oil. Add the onions and brown them for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Set them aside, then saute the garlic until tender. Pour the stock into the pan and bring it to a boil, scraping up the browned bits of food from the pan. Stir in the brown sugar and beer and remove from the heat.

Tie the herbs together in a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter to make a "bouquet garni". That way, the herbs will impart their flavor to the meal without overpowering it or causing the diners to pick stems and leaves from their food.

a bouquet garni - an herb bouquet for cooking
A bouquet garni - an herb bouquet for cooking

In a casserole dish, arrange half the beef strips and season with salt and pepper. Spread half the onions over the beef, place the herb bouquet in the center, then repeat with the rest of the beef and onions. Pour the beef broth mixture over the casserole.

Cover the casserole and place it in the bottom third of the oven. Cook at a slow simmer for 2 hours, or until fork-tender.

Remove the herb bouquet and drain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch and vinegar mixture into the liquid and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until thickened. Pour the sauce over the meat and keep warm.

Turn the oven to 450 degrees.

Spray two mini muffin pans or a 9 x 11 casserole dish with oil. Pour the pudding batter into the pan or dish about 2/3 full. Measure the beef drippings - you should have 3 tablespoons. If not, add melted butter to make the right amount. Pour this mixture over the batter.

Bake the pudding, without opening the oven door, until risen and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the meat.

Serves 6.


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