The Many Faces of Braised Balsamic Beef Cubes
Folks, this recipe may seem simple…and that’s because it is!
It couldn’t be any easier to throw together, but somehow these minimal ingredients meld in a way that you simply just can’t get enough. At least I can’t! True story: I have eaten cold balsamic beef while sleepwalking…more than once. Embarrassing? Yes, yes, it is. Point proven that it’s delicious? I hope so.
Preparing and cooking this dish is extra simple since we are starting with cubes. Just empty two packages and pat them dry. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 300-degrees and pull out your Dutch oven to start warming it on the stove. I like to mix the salt, pepper, garlic and oregano before seasoning the cubes but go ahead and just season them how you like – it’ll turn out great! Once they’re all nice and seasoned and your oil is heated in the Dutch oven, you can toss in your first batch to sear. Depending on the size of your pan (Dutch oven), you’ll likely want to cook the cubes in 3-4 batches to avoid overcrowding. When they are too close, the steam prevents them from acquiring a good, hard sear quickly – and that’s our ultimate goal.
Once all of the cubes have some good color on them, throw in the sliced onions and stir well, followed by a cup of water. You’ll want to make sure to scrape all of those delicious bits from the bottom and sides of the pan and incorporate them into the water. Throw the lid on and pop it into the preheated oven for two hours. Meanwhile, you can start working on your sides and/or your plans for the leftovers! (Caution: your mind may wander while thinking of all the possibilities: GO FOR IT!)
Your home is smelling pretty amazing right now, yes?! Once the two hours are up, lift the lid (being cautious of the steam) and check for two things; doneness and liquid. The cubes will, for the most part, be in whole form still – though just beginning to shred. The water, now more similar to a thin gravy, should still be totally covering the bottom surface of the pan. Now is the time to add more water (maybe just ¼ - ½ cup) if you feel you need it. Add ¼ cup barrel aged balsamic vinegar* and replace the lid. Place back into the oven for another 30 minutes or until done to your liking. You may want to adjust the salt and pepper to taste, as well as the balsamic. I personally end up adding close to another ¼ cup because I can’t seem to get enough of it.
*If you do not have aged balsamic, you may choose to make a reduction to get similar results. Reduce regular balsamic by about 1/3 and add honey or sugar to sweeten and mellow. Please note that the barrel aged balsamic does not contain any added sugars.
It’s ready to serve! This goes well with so many sides, it’s difficult to even start a list. My only advice is to not confine your mind because the aged balsamic is so balanced that it lends itself well as a participant on just about any plate.
On a quesadilla, in a quick breakfast hash, on pizza, in grilled cheese; these are some of the ways I’ve enjoyed the leftovers in the past. I don’t want to bore you because its potential really seems endless. I’ll just show you what I did with my leftovers last week:
Simple stuffed mini peppers. I mixed together about ¼ cup beef, 1/8 cup shredded parmesan, 2 Tbsp. cream cheese, 1 tsp. aged balsamic and ¼ tsp. dried Italian seasoning and stuffed them into 14 halves of mini sweet peppers (save the scraps!). Top with shredded mozzarella and provolone, baked at 350-degrees for about 15 minutes.
Hooked-up pasta; I don’t feel it’s authentic enough to claim as ragu! I grabbed a trusty jar of marinara and added it to sauteed peppers (^pepper scraps!) and onion in a saucepan to warm along with shredded beef. Allowed it to cook down a bit before stirring in some heavy cream and another splash of aged balsamic. Tossed with pasta and freshly shredded parmesan.
Baked sweet potato lunch. I was pretty surprised to be ‘wowed’ by such a simple plate after eating so many exciting meals in the days prior. But it was so good! I just baked a sweet potato, topped it with some grass-fed butter and sea salt followed by reheated beef and another drizzle of aged balsamic. A dollop of sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and chives were enough to hit the spot for me - but shredded cheese, onion and spices could be fun to play with!
Last, but certainly not least: these gorgeous, crispy wontons that I simply couldn’t get enough of. Although far from healthy, I will for sure be making these again! I started by reheating the beef and shredding it fine, then stirred in enough cream cheese to coat the beef. I added gochugaru flakes (red pepper flakes would be a good substitute), finely sliced scallions and garlic powder to the mix and incorporated well before filling the wonton wrappers. I’m lacking in proper wonton folding skills, so I simply sealed the meat-mixture dollop into a triangle shape using water. From there, I used water to fold and seal my corners like an envelope (not the right way, I understand – but it worked!) before dropping them into hot oil in a deep saucepan for just a few minutes. They were garnished with chives for serving after briefly placing on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any extra oil.
So, now I'd love to know - what are YOU going to do with leftover braised balsamic beef cubes?