It took my mom 30 years to manage to make her Beef and Noodles exactly like Grandma’s, so I suppose I should not be disheartened. And in fairness to both my mom and myself, my mom is hamstrung by my dad’s complete aversion to salt and I on the other hand was hamstrung by either my absentmindedness or my hectic life depending on how you want to spin it (I choose the latter).
So I feel pretty confident that I can post the recipe here even though mine did not taste perfect.
So first of all the salt. Do not go lightly here. If you are using storebought stock, you can probably get away with salt at the searing stage and the onion stage only; if you are using homemade stock, then probably you will need to add additional salt with your stock. My dad really prefers his food be cooked without salt, and then people can salt at the table. This is a great idea in theory, but some dishes need that salt added while cooking and this is one of them.
And now my mistake. Have you noticed that beef stock is just not called for much anymore? Well I don’t keep any on hand and I forgot to buy it. I was even at the store for goodness’ sake. My dish tasted perfect at the pot roast stage; I could taste Grandma’s kitchen in that bite and I nearly swooned. But I needed more stock for the noodles–so will you–and all I had was chicken. The final dish was good, but it just was not quite beefy enough, you could taste that hint of chicken stock (my mom is shaking her head in exasperation right now because she warned me–but I had to make this this past weekend and could not go out for beef stock). I added some canned beef, which helped immensely but it was not liquid enough for the noodles, which must be cooked in the dish, not separately. And because I did not want to add too much chicken stock, my noodles did not really have enough liquid to move around freely and so some clumped together.
Note to self: buy beef soup base and some beef stock.
Anyway I am still glad I made this. This dish is not for the faint of heart where beef is concerned. My grandma was a cattle farmer’s wife and it shows in this dish. It is for people, like me, who just flat out love the taste of beef. It is also very hearty and filling–how I put away as many bowlfuls of this as I did as a child I don’t know. I was growing I guess. These days I would serve it with a generous vegetable side and a salad (my grandma probably did too, but of course all I wanted was the Beef and Noodles).This dish is of course my entry to my Grandma’s Recipes event. The deadline is April 11, but my next few weeks are kind of crazy so I wanted to get my entry done (did I say my life was calming down in a previous post? Am I nuts?). So don’t forget to send in your own entries and check back after the 11th for the round-up!
- 1 3-4 lbs piece of braising beef, preferably bone-in (but mine was not) (My mom uses chuck and so would I normally but the local farmer's market only had rump, which they put in netting for me--not necessary)
- 2 T vegetable oil
- coarse salt and pepper to coat the beef (at least a tablespoon of salt)
- decent pinch of salt for onions
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 T white wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 3-4 cups beef stock, maybe more (you want the noodles to move freely)
- canned beef, optional (anything to up the beef flavor, but if you have good beef stock is not necessary)
- salt if stock is homemade
- 1 lb homemade handcut noodles (if impossible, buy a homemade style egg noodle, such as Amish egg noodles)
- 1-2 T flour if needed for thickening (see directions)
- salt and pepper to taste for final dish
Heat an oval dutch oven (any braising dish will work, although Grandma always used an oval, about 5 qts, which happened to be what I have too) over medium high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and heat it to shimmering. In the meantime, dry the beef thoroughly and coat and rub it in salt and pepper. Be generous here, there should be a decent coat of salt on the meat. Place the beef in the heated oil and sear on all sides. Take your time and let a crust develop before turning it. Get as many sides as you can--due to shape you may miss some, which is ok.
Preheat the oven to 300 F to be ready in 3-4 hours--if you need to take longer you can also cook it at 275 for the first few hours and take more like 5-6 hours total.
Remove the beef and place on a dish that will catch the juices. Throw the onions and garlic into the pot. Turn down the heat if it is too hot, which will happen with cast iron. Cook until the onions are translucent. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, just a splash or 2. Add the 2 cups beef stock and bring to a boil. Add the beef, with its juices, back into the pan. Cover the pan with parchment paper hanging over the sides and place a heavy, tight fitting lid on top of that. Place in the oven for 3-4 hours. Turn the beef over halfway through, especially if your cut of beef is higher than the liquid line.
When the beef is falling apart tender, break it apart into bite sized clumps. Add canned beef if using. Add enough stock to be able to cook the noodles and add some salt if using homemade.
Bring to a boil on the stovetop over medium high heat and add the noodles. When the noodles are done, take notice of now thick or watery the sauce is. If it is too watery, let it simmer, uncovered. Mix 1-2 tablespoons flour (depending on how watery you think it is) with the equivalent of cold water and add it to the sauce. The finished dish should be saucier than mine looks (see notes above about my stock problem). Taste for salt and pepper.
If you have some guests who need heat in their food no matter what, serve with red chil pepper flakes (Grandma just rolled over in her grave, as did Grandpa too, but what can I say I am married to a Chile Head).