The lack of braised dishes is the single worst thing about summer (from a food perspective). Sometimes I give in and braise overnight, but for the most part I avoid braised dishes in the summer, both because they make the kitchen hot and also because they tend to be heavier, heartier dishes. But the kids and I adore braised meat in particular, so it is always with excitement that we welcome autumn and make the first braised beef dish of the school year.
When I first met John, he was not such a fan of braised meat, i.e., pot roast. That soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture is not to his taste. But then Alex, who at 14 months disliked all meat, had a braised brisket with butternut squash at 15 months–and devoured it like she was going through 5 growth spurts at once. She clearly took after her mama in this regard. So my goal in the 9 years of our marriage has been to find interesting and usually international versions of pot roast that are more to his taste.
The keys to this one, a Persian khoresh, is a spice blend called advieh (recipe below) and tart (underripe) peaches. And it is so worth every single second of effort. We pretty much licked our plates every night, and there was not even a smear of sauce left after 2 nights. Words just cannot express how succulent, flavorful and absolutely divine this was.
We made this khoresh in the first few weeks of September, when the air was just turning cooler but the farmers’ markets were still selling peaches. If it is too late for peaches where you are, I see no reason this would not work well with a tart apple, like a granny smith. If you are somewhere tropical, green mango or papaya might also work well. Basically any firm fruit that is naturally sour or tart when underripe.
For the advieh it is important that you use true cinnamon, often labeled as Ceylon cinnamon. Do not use common (American) supermarket cinnamon or any cinnamon labeled as cassia. Delicious as those may be, they are not the right flavor for this (and will overwhelm it in the required quantities). Also, I have listed the rose petals and golpar as optional, because I could not find the latter and the former is harder to find as well as too perfume-y for some of us, i.e., me. When food or drinks have too much rose in them I feel like I am eating scented lotion!
Persian Beef Khoresh with Tart Peaches
Adapted from New Food of Life, Najmieh Batmanglij
4 large onions, thinly sliced, divided
3-4 lbs beef chuck, preferably bone-in
4 T grapeseed oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 T advieh (see recipe below), divided
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
hefty pinch of saffron
8 firm, underripe peaches, washed well to remove fuzz but not skin, pitted and sliced
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Pat the beef chuck dry. Salt and pepper it and leave it to stand for 20 minutes.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat with 2-3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in it. Add the beef chuck and sear it on each side, getting it nice and brown. Remove it to a wide bowl or platter.
Dump about 1 onion, thinly sliced, into the pot with a pinch of salt. The water in the onion will help deglaze the pan, but if help is needed throw in a splash of water. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the advieh spice mix and stir to roast the spices for about 30 seconds.
Add the lime juice and sugar with the pinch of saffron. Bring to a boil, stirring. Add the beef chuck with the rest of the sliced onions into the pot. Cover with a tight, heavy lid and place in the oven. Leave it to cook for 2 hours.
In the meantime, heat a nonstick skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil over medium high heat. When it is shimmering, add the peaches and brown them. The pictures above give you a good idea of what they should look like. When they are golden brown, and when the beef has been cooking for about 2 hours, add the peaches and the last 2 teaspoons of advieh to the Dutch oven. Stir the spice mixture in before adding the peaches.
Check the meat. At this point things are pretty flexible–it is more a matter of when you want the dish to be ready and how far along the meat is. If it is already pretty tender, the timing of things is up to you. Leave it at 300 F for another hour, 325 F for 30-45 minutes, or turn it down to 275 F for longer than an hour. If the meat is not tender, return to the 300 F oven and check it again in 45-60 minutes. Then proceed as previously directed.
Serve the Khoresh over rice–I have yet to master any traditional Persian rice dishes, so I just used plain Basmati.
Advieh (Advieh-ye Khoresh or Advieh for khoresh)
Closely adapted from New Food of Life, Najmieh Batmanglij
Makes 1/3 cup.
2 T ground dried rose petals (optional, see note above)
2 T Ceylon cinnamon
1 t ground cardamom
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t golpar (ground angelica seeds) (I had to leave out as I could not find it)
1/2 t ground coriander
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried Persian lime powder (I could not find) or dried lime juice powder
1/2 t cherry tart powder (optional, not traditional, but I had and it sounded good)
Once all of the spices are ground to a fine powder, whisk them together. Store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.