MY FAMILY AND I wait all year for the fall season. I love how the brisk wind and crisp air draw my hands to my pockets, and I wrap myself tighter in my coat.
As I walk, the trees’ leaves seem to ignite in flame. It starts in early September as a slow burn: some burnished maple leaves appear at the trees’ edges, then suddenly there are infinite hues and saturations of reds, pinks, oranges, yellows.
The cool autumn breeze carries these leaves down around me, showering me in colorful tears. The leaves glide and spin silently on invisible air currents, making them flutter and tumble around me.
Then, there’s nothing quite like coming home after a long walk, pushing open my door to the warmth of an oven that has been cooking all day.
The savory smells of beef, sweet apples, aromatic onions and garlic, rosemary and thyme encase me in memories of my mother’s Sunday pot roast cooking in the oven.
I curl up on the sofa with a book, or play games with my family; we laugh and wait for dinner. I think that is what I love most about fall and winter: the increasing darkness, the turning inward to family, to myself.
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THIS RECIPE is a comfort meal that features the stars of the fall season: apples and apple cider. The subtle sweet, acidic flavor of the apples and apple cider balances the richness of the beef. Herbs bring a refreshing and enhanced flavor and aroma to this classic dish.
Braising is a method of cooking that uses liquid to create moisture in a tightly closed pot. Braising simmers meat and vegetables, partially covered in a rich broth, slowly at a low temperature, allowing flavors to fully develop.
The meat is braised in the apple cider and cooked for several hours until tender. I know it’s finished when I can put a fork in and the meat easily falls apart.
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BRAISING tenderizes certain cuts of beef so they become juicy and tender, melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
But it requires time and patience. As the brisket cooked Sunday, I helped my kids build a tent in the living room using blankets and sheets. Inside the tent, we told funny ghost stories while a symphony of aromas filled our house.
I served the brisket, apples (I used Gala and McIntosh), and onions with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus with olive oil and lemon. At the end, we had the quintessential, cozy, fall meal.
My favorite part was the delicious, sweet-savory sauce I made from the drippings and liquid that has the essence of thyme, rosemary, garlic and onions and, of course, apples.
You can pour it over your meat or drizzle it over your potatoes. It’s absolute perfection and all the comforts of home!
Apple Cider Braised Beef
Adapted from food blogger Meghan Yager
The recipe takes about three-and-a-half hours to make, and serves six to eight people.
2 T butter
4 ‑ 5 pounds beef brisket or chuck roast, fat trimmed
1 t salt
½ t freshly ground pepper
2 T all-purpose four
1½ t olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thickly sliced
5 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 c apple cider, divided
1/2 c beef stock
2 apples, cored and sliced
1 T cornstarch
2 T cold water
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325ºF
Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour over beef, covering all sides.
Melt butter in Dutch oven, then add beef. Sear until brown on both sides, a few minutes per side, to seal in the meat’s flavor and juices. Transfer beef to a plate.
Reduce the heat.
Add olive oil to pan. Add onions, cooking until soft and golden. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add ¼ c apple cider to prevent garlic from burning and to deglaze. Scrape any browned bits from pan.
Place beef back in pan with rosemary, thyme, remaining apple cider, and apple cider vinegar.
Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in oven. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until fork-tender. Add apples to pan 30 minutes before meat is done.
Remove from oven and let meat rest. Transfer beef, onion, and apples to a serving platter. Discard rosemary and thyme sprigs.
To make the sauce, whisk together cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl. Strain the liquid from the pan, then add to cornstarch mixture.
Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Slice meat, add fresh parsley for garnish. Serve with sauce.