Ragout and bread dumplings are two distinct recipes. They are described together here because one never appears on our table without the other. We first enjoyed this combination in a home in the Swiss Alps, in the little village of Sent. These versions of both the ragout and the dumplings, however, are refinements (worked out over the years in the diplomatickitchen) of ones described by the late food writer Lillian Langseth-Christensen which she enjoyed on holiday in Val Gardena in the Italian Alps. The nifty and exceedingly accurate method of slicing the dumplings using sewing thread, however, was first shown to me by our host in Sent.
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Timing Note: The bread dumplings may be formed in advance but should not be boiled until right before they will be cut and served. The bread for the dumplings should be stale and dry.
Part I: Making the Ragout (Closest metric equivalents are provided in parentheses.)
- 2 and 1/2 pounds of Boneless Beef Chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes (1 kilo, plus 200 grams)
- 2 slices of American Bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips or 2 ounces (60 grams) of Lardons
- 3 Tablespoons of Butter (45 grams)
- 1 and 1/2 cups of chopped Yellow Onion (170 grams)
- 3 cups Beef Boullion (700 milliliters) or 3 cups of Water (700 milliliters)and a Beef Bouillon Cube
- 2/3 cup of Dry Red Wine (150 milliliters)
- 2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
- the grated zest of half a Lemon
- 1 teaspoon of dried Thyme Leaves (not powdered)
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced
- 2 Bay Leaves
- a Beurre manié: This is simply a mixture of equal parts of butter and flour, in this case, 1 Tablespoon of softened Butter (15 grams) rubbed together with 1 Tablespoon of Flour.
- about 2 teaspoons of concentrated Demiglace, powdered or liquid form: Prepared versions of demiglace are of various sorts. The point of adding the demiglace is to intensify the beef flavour. No matter what type you use, add only a bit of the recommended amount, taste, and gradually add more until the beef flavour is a little pronounced.
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- a wide, flat-bottomed Skillet
- a Dutch Oven or other heavy, deep ovenproof Casserole with a Lid
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Sauté the bacon or lardons slowly in the skillet until they are golden. Transfer them from the pan to the Dutch oven or casserole.
3. Add the 3 Tablespoons of butter to drippings in the the skillet and brown the cubes of beef in it. Transfer them to the casserole.
4. Add the chopped onions to the skillet and cook them slowly, stirring occasionally until they begin to turn golden around the edges. Pour the red wine into the skillet and stir to deglaze the pan. Then pour the wine, onion, and juices into the Dutch oven.
5. Add the tomato paste and bouillon to the casserole, along with the lemon rind, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Bring the ragout to a simmer on top of the stove. Then, cover the casserole and braise the ragout in the oven until the meat is tender. (2 hours is a good approximation for the time this will take.) Check the meat occasionally as it braises and add a little more bouillon or wine to keep the meat covered.
6. When the meat is tender, remove it from the oven. Bring it to a simmer, uncovered, over low heat on top of the stove and stir in the beurre manié (the flour and butter mixture), 1 teaspoon at a time until the liquid of the ragout thickens. (It may not be necessary to use the entire amount of the beurre manié.)
7. Add a teaspoon of demiglace. Mix it in well and taste. Add a bit more, if necessary, so that the beef flavour of the sauce is slightly pronounced to the taste. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves.
8. Serve the ragout on sliced bread dumplings.
Part II: Making the Bread Dumplings (Closest metric equivalents are provided in parentheses.)
- about 8 cups of stale, dry Herb Bread, crumbled: The Herb Bread recipe is here in this diplomatickitchen post. It is a simple bread to make and makes a very good bread dumpling that will not fall apart when boiled, but an hard, stale rustic-style European bread may be substituted. (For metric measuring, fill a liquid measuring cup up to the 1 liter mark 2 times.)
- 3 Tablespoons of butter (45 grams)
- 1 small Onion, minced
- 1/3 cup of Parsley, chopped
- 1 cup of Milk (225 milliliters)
- 1 Egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup of White Unbleached Flour (35 grams)
- 1 teaspoon of Salt, plus some to salt the water for boiling the dumplings
- 1/2 teaspoon of Coarse Black Pepper
- a large Mixing Bowl
- a small Skillet
- a small Saucepan
- a Pastry or Cutter Board
- a large, deep non-stick Pan is ideal for boiling the dumplings…(It must be deep enough for the dumplings to float freely in the boiling water)…but a large Pot will be fine, too.
- a Lid for the Pan or Pot
- two Wooden Spoons for turning the dumplings as they simmer
- two Slotted Spoons or Spatulas for removing the dumplings from the water
- a 24-inch length of Sewing Thread for slicing the dumplings (about 60 cm long)
1. Pour the stale, crumbled bread into the mixing bowl.
2. In the small pan, sauté the minced onion in the butter until it is golden. Stir the parsley into the onion. Pour the onion mixture into the bread.
3. Heat the milk in the saucepan to the boiling point. Pour it into the bread mixture.
4. Stir in the egg, flour, salt and pepper. Wet your hands and mix everything together well.
5. Wet your hands again and shape the mixture into 2 cylinders, each about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Pack each cylinder firmly and roll them on the pastry board. They should be very firm and compact so that they will not loosen and come apart as they boil.
6. Bring enough salted water to a simmer in a deep pan or pot. (There must be enough water to allow the dumplings to float without touching the bottom of the pan as they cook.) Add the dumplings and simmer them, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Turn them with two wooden spoons and simmer them for 15 minutes more.
7. Using two slotted spoons or spatulas, remove the cylinders to a pastry or cutting board.
8. Slice the dumplings with a long piece of sewing thread: Hold an end of thread between each thumb and forefinger. Slip the length of thread under the cylinder, about 1/2-inch (2 cm) in from one end. Bring both ends of the thread up around the dumpling…
…Taking the left end of the thread between the thumb and finger of your right hand and the right end of the thread between the thumb and finger of the left, cross the ends of the thread over the top of the dumpling and pull outwards to either side. The thread will slice cleanly through the cylinder. Continue cutting with the thread until both cylinders are sliced:
A Note: Ragout of Beef Val Gardena and Bread Dumplings is the Main Course of the Alpine Dinner Menu.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2013