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Sloppy Pierres is Copyright © 1998 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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background on the recipe
Sloppy Pierres have a lot of flavor, and are a wonderful variation on traditional handheld foods such as grinders.
If you prefer your food plated, serve a ladle or two aside a mashed mixture of potatoes and turnips, over which you've poured some of the rich, hot, dark sauce.
friends before food
Hot dogs kill children.
Their neatly-knotted ends, bitten off, are just the right girth to form plump plugs in juvenile esophaghi, stoppering everything but the trickle down last taste of mustard and sweet, sweet relish.
That's the problem with hand-held foods, be they hot dogs, grinders, pizza or Sloppy Pierres. They don't need plates, they don't need forks, napkins or tables. All you have to do to eat them is mindlessly glide their deliciousosity past smeared, mawing teeth. Hand-helds work so well as food because they are the best convenience. Food as length, a last refuge of linearity even post-moderns like.
Sloppy Pierres are adapted from a Julia Child recipe for stew. I sincerely hope you don't choke to death eating one.
To feed a vague number of people you'll need:
All right. Let's get started.
Cut the chuck roast into cubes about one and a half inches square. Discard any cubes wriggly with gristle, or chunked with fat. You want solid meat.
Spread a paper towel on the counter, space the cubes across the towel like a mid-game of checkers, and put them to bed with another sheet on top, gently pressing the two towels together to blot up any moisture on the meat (damp meat doesn't brown). If your paper towels get soggy and pink with juice, pull off more sheets and repeat until all the cubes are reasonably dry.
Heat a quarter inch of oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat, then place the cubes in a single layer across the bottom. Like modern lovers fearful of infection, they should not touch. You may have to do a couple of shifts to get all the cubes cooked, lifting out cooked cubes and lowering raw ones as you go.
Once a cube is brown on one side, turn it over onto another side, and so on, until all six sides are done. NOTE: a lot of recipes fail because the cook doesn't really understand a common cooking term. It's been my experience that many people, browning beef cubes, tend to only sizzle them until they've lost their rubiness-- i.e., until the sides are grey. Either they're in a rush, or they think if they let them get too dark, they'll be overcooked. The truth is, you want the cubes to get a good mahogany color, because that sears in their juice, and adds a crust of flavor to their surface. Using the mahogany method, by the time they're thoroughly stewed they'll be falling apart and flavorful.
Once all the cubes are thoroughly browned and removed, dump into the dutch oven the two cups of sliced onions and the one cup of sliced carrots. Swirl the vegetable slices around in the hot, beef-speckled oil until the whorls of onion are separating and the carrots are starting to get browned. Put back the beef, add the canned tomatoes one at a time, cutting them into spoon-sized pieces as you drop them into the stew, then pour in the bottle of Zinfandel and one and a half cups of the beef stock. NOTE: to make your own beef stock, follow the stock recipe in HOT CHEESE CHICKEN, using beef bones rather than chicken bones; or use canned broth. Drop in the two bay leaves and sprinkle across the wet surface the teaspoon of grey-green thyme.
Stir the ingredients to evenly distribute them, bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook at this slow temperature for about three hours, peeking and stirring occasionally. When is this part of the stew done? Cook books tell you the meat should be fork-tender, but the truth is, since you're cooking it for yourself, and can therefore customize it for your own tastes, the stew is done when the cubes of meat are in the physical state you find pleasing. That could be still quite intact, slightly resilient, or falling apart.
At any rate, once the beef is close to the texture you personally prefer, boil a pot of water and drop two or three heads of garlic in. Push them around through the hot bubbles and steam with a wooden spoon for about a minute, then lift them out, let them cool enough for you to be able to handle them (but don't pour cold water over them to cool them-- you'll wash away flavor), then gently separate the heads into cloves. NOTE: Do not at any point crush or flatten the cloves as you might in other recipes. Garlic contains an oil whose bite increases the more the cells of the clove are crushed. In this recipe, because of the quantity of cloves you're using, you want to bring out the garlic's subtle, nutty flavor rather than its bite. Peel the paper off each slippery clove until you have 30 or more bare toes (as they're called in New Orleans). If you want, you can take a small knife and slice off the brown root end of each clove for aesthetics. Bring the cup of white wine and remaining half cup of beef broth to a simmer in a skillet, and add the cloves. Continue the simmer for half an hour. NOTE: "simmer" means the liquid is hot, but only a bubble or two at a time breaks the surface. The liquid should not be boiling.
Meanwhile, back at the range, once the beef is to your liking, pour all the contents of the dutch oven into a colander securely set over a large bowl. What you'll have then is a bowl full of rich wine liquid, and above it, straddling its rim, a colander full of steaming ingredients.
Remove the beef cubes from the colander, pushing off any vegetables clinging wetly to their sides, and put the cubes back in the dutch oven. Press down on the vegetables in the colander so their hot juices drip rapidly through the holes into the bowl below. Add all this liquid in the bowl back to the dutch oven with the beef. NOTE: do not eat the vegetables in the colander, even though they smell good. Vegetables simmered that long will cause indigestion.
What you have now is a dutch oven filled with beef and several cups of cooking juices. To that add the garlic cloves and the liquid in which they simmered. Stir to combine all the ingredients and keep at a low boil.
On a plate or cutting board, using the back of a fork, mash the three tablespoons of flour with the two tablespoons of slightly softened butter until you have a paste. If not all the flour will merge with the butter that's fine. Drop this paste into the dutch oven, and gently move a wooden spoon back and forth through the beef, garlic and liquid until the liquid starts to thicken to the consistency of gravy. If it's still too thin after the miracle of thickening takes place, add a little more butter and flour in the same proportions.
Place a baguette on its spine and slice into it to form a long pocket that doesn't pierce through the crust at the bottom or ends (or cut through one side of a section of a french or italian loaf without cutting through the other side).
Widen the slit so the pocket is elliptical, and gently spoon into the parentheses of bread the hot, dark beef, the soft garlic cloves, the rich, thick wine sauce.
Raise the heavy linearity to your red lips, close your eyes, and use your teeth to pull the beef, garlic cloves and sauce into your mouth. Let the hot sloppiness of it softly bump against palate, tongue, teeth and throat, temporo-mandibular joint closing maxilla and mandible around the rapture.