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Slow-Braised Chuck With Bay Leaf And Cloves

Slow-Braised Chuck With Bay Leaf And Cloves
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

Anita Boswinkel, who was my stepmother for many years, taught me this recipe. Her family made it in the Netherlands in the days of scarcity after the war, when they couldn't always get much beef. She usually made it with potatoes, boiled with salt pork and mashed with carrots and onions. But I prefer it with kale potatoes. Saute the kale with some garlic, whiz it in a blender with some yogurt, and mash it into the potatoes. When you're ready to serve, make a well in a great dollop of potatoes to hold the meat and gravy. It's unreconstructed comfort food for a cold night.

Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 to 3 pounds chuck steaks (3/4-inch thick), or chuck roast cut into steaks

Salt and pepper

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3 bay leaves, fresh or dried

3 whole cloves

2 to 3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 quart beef broth (optional)


Season the beef on both sides with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet just large enough to accommodate the meat in one layer (cast-iron works well), melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the meat, raise the heat, and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.

When the meat is browned, scatter the bay leaves and cloves into the crevices and give the cloves a minute or two to give off their fragrance and swell. Reduce the heat to low, add the vinegar and deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (hold the meat out of the way with a fork if you need to).

Add enough beef broth or water to halfway cover the meat, cover tightly and bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least 2 hours, checking the level of liquid every 20 minutes or so and adding more beef broth or water as necessary to keep the meat at least halfway submerged. Turn the meat a couple of times during cooking.

When the meat is tender and falling apart, remove it to a platter. Reduce the remaining liquid to a thick sauce, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon. If you have trouble getting all of the browned bits, add a little more vinegar. Return the beef to the pan and serve hot, with mashed potatoes.

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