Hangover Hero [Braised Brisket Ragu with Penne]

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While many of you are spending your weekends busily cleaning house, running errands, driving kids from ballet to soccer, studying, working overtime or catching up on your reading, I’m suffering through a hangover from an overindulgent night spent with the best of friends. Or so was the case last weekend.

We celebrated the inaugural issue of Herd Magazine, for which I contributed to, last weekend and soon after found our bellies pressed against the bar at Union Local 613, downing bourbon-lemonades and stuffing our faces with the world’s most delicious deviled eggs (yes, I mean this with all my heart. Best in the world. More on Union here).

I awoke Saturday morning feeling foggy, bones aching and head pounding. We’d invited some friends over for dinner that evening and though my current state made me question my commitment, my want to see them far outweighed my squeamish gut. I just had to make a meal that would do all the work for me while I recovered tucked between my wrinkled sheets and cozy comforter. 

Slowly simmered beef brisket forgotten in the oven for a few hours turns a tough slab of meat into a rich, flavourful ragu suitable to top any pasta, potato or bun you have on hand. Throw a few simple ingredients into a stock pot, cook for 2 hours while you rest (or while you’re being responsible and tackling things that need to get done… either way) , and all that’s left for you to do is figure out what you want to blanket this sauce over. My weapon of choice was some penne, because we already had it, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and a bit of basil. Who looks like a hero and gets to enjoy the company of good friends and a hearty meal after sleeping all day? This guy. There’s still time for you to be a hero today, too! Get to it. 

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Braised Beef Ragu with Penne
adapted from Donna Hay
serves 4-6
 
4-5 lb beef brisket
2 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp  olive oil
1 yellow or brown onion, halved & sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups stock, beef or chicken
1 cup water
1 lg can whole plum tomatoes
3-4 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp honey or raw sugar

1 lb penne or other shortcut pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
good quality olive oil
red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350. 
Cut the brisket into 4 pieces. Warm 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan (with a fitted lid) over med-high until sizzling. Toss the beef with the flour and after shaking off excess, brown pieces 2 at a time in the pan until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside. Add the other 2 tbsp olive oil and the onion to the pan and cook until just starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the red wine, scraping all the bits stuck to the pan up, and cook until liquid has reduced by half. Add the stock, water, bay leaves, tomatoes (break them up with your hands as you add them in), tomato paste and honey/sugar. Stir to combine and add the beef back. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2 hours, until beef is easily shredded with fork in the preheated oven. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and shred the meat using 2 forks. 

With 20 minutes left, cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Serve the ragu over pasta and finish with parmesan, basil and olive oil. Add red pepper flakes if you like a little spicy kick. 

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