Beef is stunningly expensive, so it needs to go a long way when we get it. It is winter right now, a time when we long for slow braises which fill the air with the aromas of warmth and comfort.

There are only two of us, though, and while it is possible to make Stew For Two, it’s not so much fun. I also find it frustrating to have a mass quantity of something with a very strong flavor profile, as meals can get repetitive after a while.

This dish is quite simple. It’s easy to ignore for hours, it’s easy to use in many different ways.

It’s very mild, so it will match quite nicely with many options of sides, and the beef flavor will shine.

The wine you choose will be important here, as the goal is a brightness from the verjus. A new wine is appropriate, something with a bit of acid such as a “two buck” or taverna wine.

 

beef in a cryopac, and the ingredients for the dish measured and arrayed in dishes.

A rather large bounty of beef

25. Verjuice soup of chicken or whatever meat you wish.

BROUET DE VERJUS DE POULLAILLE OU DE TEL GRAIN COMME
VOUS VOULDREZ. Cuisiez en vin, en eaue et en verjuz tellement
que le goust du verjus passe tout l’autre, puis broyez
gingenbre et des moyeulx d’oeufz tous cruz grant foison,
et passez tout parmy l’estamine ensemble, et mettez boullir;
puis gectez sur vostre grain, quant il sera friolé, et mettez
du lart, au cuire, pour luy donner goust.

 

Cook in wine, water, and enough verjus that it tastes mostly of verjus. Add some pork fat to give flavor.

Crush ginger and bread, and moisten with egg yolk, and strain this through a cheesecloth.

Boil it and throw it onto your meat, when it is browned.

4 LBS of beef (or a whole lot less, it’s OK)

2 cups wine

1 cup water

1 cup verjus

4 oz pork fat, prosciutto rind, or other barding,

1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 raw egg yolks

Wash the beef and place it in a vessel of the size that seems best; close but with room for wine and some simmering space. Be sure the lid fits well.

beef tenderloin in a pot, curled up to fit.

Layer the fat over the meat, if you wish to use it.This fat is partly to protect the meat, partly to allow the richness to melt in. Higher collagen cuts will rely less on this, though they would still benefit. A layer of cheesecloth with olive oil would work for a very lean cut in which you prefer not to add pork.

Add the liquids and permit to simmer until the meat is fully cooked. I choose to simmer it til the meat falls apart, much like for Ropa Viejo

about to disintegrate, the meat has shrunk.

Remove the meat, allow the broth to cool slightly,

Blend the ginger with the breadcrumbs, and fold some broth into the bowl of breadcrumbs,

Allow them to soak up the broth for a time, then add them to the pot.

Separate your eggs, and either fold them cautiously into the pot of cooled broth, or temper the broth into the eggs, then

add them to the pot.

Simmer the broth with the egg yolks and bread crumbs til thick.

Meanwhile, in a pan, sautee your meat and allow it to brown. The instructions are pretty clear that the meat and broth should be separated before the broth is thickened.

Another choice is to allow the meat to settle in the pot and brown within the broth, but I find this lends a somewhat burnt taste. I believe this might have been a not-unknown  method, as there are several notes explaining how to remove the burnt taste from a brewet as required.

Serve the meat well sauteed, with the thick, seasoned sauce.

 

Please note; There are many translations of this dish which are written differently. There are other varietions of instruction in related books, some calling for more specific seasonings.

I disagree firmly with the instruction placed in one translation of this recipe to brown the meat before braising, as the entire mindset of Medieval cookery is counter to that method, for humoral reasons.

I will go more into depth on humours some other time.

 

Scully, T. (1995). The art of cookery in the Middle Ages (p. 223). Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press.

http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm

http://www.telusplanet.net/public/prescotj/data/viandier/viandier415.html#viandier18

The English Housewife

Gervase Markham pp 76-77

This loosely written recipe calls for “a neck of veal, or a leg, or marrow bones of beef, or a pullet, or mutton.”
Versatility is good.

(oops! No final picture! We ate it!)

It’s a simple meat-in-a-pot affair, poached, skimmed well (albumen, the white to brown frothy stuff, is a form of protein which is unappealing) and thickened by pressing trimmed, broth-soaked bread through a sieve.
Then fruits and spices are added, the dish can be optionally colored with turnsole or sanders (a red food dye made from the wood of a tree), and served on by first putting sippets, soup-toasts, then layering on the broth, meat, “and the fruit uppermost.”

We had very nice shoulder of mutton, everything called for except currants, and a bitter cold day which needed soup.

a bowl with meat, and another with dried fruit and sliced bread. A small pinch-bowl has the cloves and mace blades.

Everything ready to use.

After trimming and rinsing the meat into the pot and simmering in plainb water for about an hour, I took some of the hot broth and started soaking the sliced, staled bread. The recipe called for de-crusting the loaves, I should have obeyed. I figured a modern baguette would have a more tender crust than a manchet. Oops.

Soaked bread being pressed over a bowl. The broth pressed through is very starchy, to thicken the pot.

pressing bread

After pressing the bread in to the pot to add starch for body, I added the fruits and spices and let it cook a while longer.

dried fruit being placed into the pot of hot broth, which appears white from the starch of the just-pressed bread.

adding fruit

Not being interested in adding sanders to the whole dish, I did a side-by-side to show the difference between plain and enhanced. Interestingly, the sanders somewhat emulsified the broth.

two identical bowls, one with broth, the other with a little sanders blended in. The one with sanders is slightly redder, and the floating oils are emulsified into the broth.

there is a visible difference.

 

We agreed that the quantities of fruit called for made the dish excessively sweet. This is a situation I have run into frequently, with a single ingredient having quantities and none of the others being specified. It makes sense to me that these are “key” ingredients, suggesting proportions for other items, and that the recipes are intended to serve rather more than two people.

When I make this again, I will use 1/8 (modern) fruit per pound of meat, a proportion which I am comfortable with.

Recipe:
3 lbs mutton (or something)
6 oz prunes
6 oz raisins
3 oz currents (subbed with more raisins)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mace blades
3 whole cloves, cracked

Ratings;
+ almost any protein
+ simple stovetop, minimal fuss
+ inexpensive common ingredients (mace is cheap in Indian markets)
+reasonably quick to cook.
– not obvious use of bread product, needs clear gluten warning.
– cloyingly sweet as written
– don’t leave spices loose as I did, put them in cheesecloth. Someone will be unhappy.
– the resulting broth is not an ingredient. It’s a final product, which will not be easy to cannibalise for future recipes.

In spite of the “more minuses than pluses,” the pluses are of greater value, in my mind.
This simple dish takes one burner, three separate moments of attention, and has a very limited ingredient list.
It would be very nice on a cold winters’ day to tide one over ’til dinner.

I’m making it again this week, just way lighter on the fruit.