The other night I made braised beef. It was an experiment actually. My wife had a company dinner so I was left to fend for myself. In the fridge was about 2 lbs. of beef shank originally intended for osso bucco. However, I felt adventurous and decided to experiment, i.e., I didn't want to go through the hassles of a fancy Milanese recipe.
Being a lazy bum, I braised the shanks using a simple Vietnamese recipe that's intended for pork.
2 lbs. beef shank
3 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups boiling water
Add the sugar to a pot on medium heat (I used a clay pot but any will do). Let sugar become a dark caramel, somewhere between the point of caramelizing and burning. Add the water and fish sauce, stir and bring to a boil. Add the beef shanks and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for at least an hour, periodically checking liquid levels. Add as much pepper as you'd like and serve. That's it; nice and simple, like me.
With my first bite, it was obvious this recipe was meant for pork. The beef flavor overpowered the sauce. Now don't get me wrong, I loved the tender beef as much as I loved the fatty sauce it simmered in, but I just loved them separately. After living my whole life with this dish made only with pork, it took a some time to acclimate.
I had it with some boiled spinach. This dish is an example of the heart of most Vietnamese meals. Stewed protein served with boiled veggies on top of a bed of rice. This maybe the origin of my love for well-balanced dishes. The earthy veggies checks against the salty, fatty beef all balanced with the bland rice resulting in a ménage à trois for your taste buds.
All in all, though it wasn't a combination I was used to, I'd make it again. Especially since I got to enjoy some delicious marrow, AKA butter of the gods.
Update: My wife and I had the leftovers the following night and she said she loved it. Though I'd like to believe her, I can't help to think what she really meant was that she loved me for trying. =D