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Une Recette De
Bifteck Suisse Pour Donna
By John Havel

It's been a cold winter here in Upstate New York - not to mention the several inches of snow. My cravings now turn to comfort foods; good and satisfying home cooking ... like Swiss Steak. If the term makes you think of a cheap TV dinner, you'll be pleasantly suprised to know that this can be a fabulous meal.

I always wondered why they call it "Swiss" Steak. The Swiss certainly have a lot of cattle considering the cheese and milk chocolate they produce, but they don't seem to make any Swiss Steak. More likely the term comes from the process of "swissing", which refers to fabric or other materials being pounded to soften them.

In the 19th century, this type of recipe was referred to as smothered steak. The big difference was that there were no tomatoes included. However, adding an an acidic element like tomatoes or wine (or both) helps in tendorizing the tough cut of meat. It also helps to give it an extra good pounding in the beginning.

Braising is also the key to breaking down the tough tissue in the meat. It's first seared in order to brown its surface and enhance its flavor. Vegetables are added for more flavor and the dish is cooked covered at a very low simmer until the meat is fork tender. This cooking method dissolves collagen from the meat into gelatin, to enrich and add body to the braising liquid.

Normally, you wouldn't add a lot of seasoning to this dish - the slow simmering brings out plenty of flavor. I decided to imart a little French twist by adding tarragon, one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, but I'm not going to call it French Steak.

Swiss Steak
2 pounds beef bottom round
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 rids celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the meat into 1/2-inch thick slices and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Combine flour, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound meat to 1/4-inch thickness with flat side of a meat pounder, turning meat over occasionally.

Lightly coat each piece of meat with seasoned flour. Heat olive oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Saute meat (working in batches if necessary), stirring constantly and turning over, until evenly and lightly browned on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom and side of pot, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and side of pot, 3 minutes.

Return meat to pan. Add tarragon, broth, and wine, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Music By John Havel

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