It has been a long time since I have had Not For Sale beef in the freezer. My family used to slaughter cattle for beef and send me off to college with packages of white butcher-paper-wrapped cuts of beef, stamped Not For Sale. How long have I not had it? Big Red, the furry blob, was NOT the mascot of Western Kentucky University when I attended.
A good friend of ours dropped off a swag bag of goodies on our front porch the other day on her lunch break. A bag full of peat-moss planting plugs, planting trays, and Not For Sale Beef from her family. The "fatted Calf", I believe she called it. Sweet, awesome, and memory flooding. I missed those packages of beef.
In college, I took these white packages of beef for granted. They were always there, an endless supply. No bottom to the barrel. Like government cheese, there was no limit or end.
However, this Not For Sale beef was special. A gift from someone else's family. Not to be taken for granted.
Yesterday, I thought I would take the Rump Roast package and make beef stew. Standard beef stew. That was I attended and even started to make until the culinary Mr. Hyde part of my brain took over.
If a bottle of red wine had been within arm's reach in the house, it would no doubt have turned into beef bourguignon or beef in red wine. Not the case. No red wine.
I went the Italian route.
I browned the salt & peppered rump roast in olive oil until crusty. Removed it to a plate and added turnips, parsnips, onions, carrots, garlic, and sauted them until caramelized and tender. After deglazing the pan with marsala and adding beef stock, crushed tomatoes, basil, fresh thyme,parsley stems, bay leaves,and fresh oregano, I brought it to a boil, reduced it to simmer, and placed it in the oven to braise.
The house smelled amazing. It smelled like pot roast on steroids.
I let it braise for three hours, gave it a stir, added some water, and let it braise for another hour.
It braised for so long, it didn't resemble stew or pot roast. Everything in the pot had collapsed into each other, unrecognizable in individual form but not in flavor. It was spoon-able Osso Buco, tender and rich with deep deep flavor.
I made a light feathery polenta to serve under this melted Not For Sale meat. Infused with gruyere, reggiano, fresh parsley, basil, oregano, cream, and mascarpone cheese, the polenta was the perfect pillow for the stew.
The beef was meltingly tender and present at the same time, a characteristic of rump roast, firmly holding up to the absorbed broken down vegetables and sauce. The fresh thyme perfumed the entire polenta throughout with pungent aroma and flavor. A soft bursting speckled pillow of polenta.