First order of business: please forgive this picture. I took it at night and I realize the lighting is horrible. This, believe it or not, is the best of the bunch. I deemed it “just barely shareable.”
Moving on, we saw some beef on sale at the grocery stores — mock tenders — and bought them because they were so cheap. Sale or not, this is generally a cheap cut of beef. I’d never heard of them before, but it turns out they go by a bunch of other names, like shoulder tender, chuck fillet, petite fillet, chuck clod tender, tender medallions, and beef medallions. I like to think of them as baby steaks since they’re about 4″ across. They look like this:
And let me tell you, this cut is actually pretty tough if you don’t treat it right. It benefits from a long, slow cooking time and a wet cooking method like stewing or braising. I let it go for a little under 2 hours before it was tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
I am relieved that I didn’t accidentally set my kitchen on fire when I was making this dish. I had gotten everything simmering and and there was an hour of cooking time left when I needed to go pick Matt up from work. So I took a gamble; I set the gas stove on the lowest possible flame, I turned the exhaust fan up to the highest setting, and I ran out of the apartment quickly. I sped like a madwoman on the highway to and from his office and I made it back in record time. Thank god there was no billowing smoke or firetrucks parked outside when we got back. The tenders were happily simmering along as if nothing had happened. Whew! Crisis averted!
But anyway, about this dish. It is flavorful, savory, moist, and delicious. I loved the addition of white beans since I don’t often see them paired with steak. Their mild creaminess provides a nice contrast to the dominant beefy flavor. In fact, if it weren’t for the beans and spinach, I would almost call these mini pot roasts (in a good way). They have a lot of similarities – red wine, carrots, onions, thyme… But you don’t have to deal with one huge hunk of meat. And it’s a one-pot dish with barely any prep work! Who doesn’t love that?
adapted from Beef – It’s what’s for dinner
Braised Mock Tenders in Red Wine Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
6 beef mock tender steaks, about an inch thick (mine were 4 oz. each)
2 small yellow onions, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup red wine
1 and 1/2 cups beef or vegetable broth (for non-alcoholic version, sub 1-14 oz. can of diced tomatoes for wine and broth)
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (15 oz.) white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 package (5 oz.) frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh
- Pat steaks dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown steaks, about 3 minutes each side. Don’t crowd the pan — it’s best to do this in batches.
- Pour off drippings and add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to pan. Reduce heat to medium and add carrots, onions, and garlic. Saute, stirring constantly, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add red wine to pan and scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Add broth, thyme, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine, then add tenders back in to pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer. Tightly cover the pan and let it simmer 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours, until beef is tender.
- Remove steaks, set aside, and keep warm. Discard bay leaf and thyme stem. Add beans and frozen spinach to pan and simmer uncovered 10 minutes, until thickened. If mix doesn’t thicken, add a teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon water and let simmer another 3 minutes. Serve steak with bean sauce on the side.
Chop, chop, chop those carrots and onions! Besides these and the garlic, there is no other chopping or prep for the recipe. That’s what makes it an easy meal. Not necessarily quick, thanks to the 2 hour cooking time, but definitely easy. I don’t have a slow cooker, nor do I know the rules about them, but this seems like a recipe that would work really well with one. Let us know in the comments if you experiment with it!
Browning these babies up before simmering them creates an excellent flavor and delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan that become part of the red wine sauce. You don’t want to cook them through at that first pass – just create some color on both sides.