Fall has definitely arrived and I feel the compulsion to begin to cook in ways that just seem to be expected with the brisk weather. Conjuring up images of the rolling hills of Piemonte covered with vines, in particular Langhe home to noble wine, Barolo; a full bodied Piemontese wine produced from the Nebbiolo grape. Brasato al Barolo or Beef Braised in Red Wine is a classic Piemontese dish prominently featuring Barolo; a contradiction in a way as Barolo can be a rather expensive wine, yet it is the basis for a dish which features less expensive cut of meat, often chuck.
Beef Braised in Red Wine or Brasato al Barolo involves nothing more than a pot roast or brisket style preparation. Historically, a less expensive cut of meat is marinated, browned and slowly cooked as to tenderize and flavor the meat. Marinating the chuck roast in Barolo and aromatics is the essential step for any recipe featuring this classic dish.
Isn’t it interesting how meat once considered economy cuts are now desirable which naturally translates to expensive? Chuck roast is still on the less expensive side, but I decided to use a grass-fed roast, which still had wonderful marbling but no gargantuan fatty deposits. I guess that a vegetarian diet does pay off, even for our bovine friends.
Speaking of cost, if you are feeling a bit pinched budget wise use a less expensive wine from Piemonte featuring the Nebbiolo grape – a Nebbiolo d’Alba for example. Otherwise, a Dolcetto or Barbera could be a respectable substitute for a Barolo in this case.
Some time back the extended La Bella Sorella family was able to travel together to Italy (can you hear the Italian theme music?). It was time for the obligatory roots trip along with a bit of bonding with our Italian cousins; the two family units had never before been together in one location. Mia Cugina, who makes her winter home in Piemonte, hosted a wonderful dinner at her summer home in the idyllic hamlet of Davoli on the eastern coast of Calabria. She often uses a bicycle for local shopping while there and the day prior to our dinner did so to personally select a piece of beef for the brasato that would be served as a secondi, doesn’t that sound quintessentially Italian?
Looking back at the time together, it was one of those rare special days; as if we were making up for years of holidays, parties, joys and sorrows never able to shared. The day was full of love, laughter, and food. After multiple tramezzino, a substantial pasta course, and endless wine – the secondi was served. Everyone was rightfully taken with the tender slices of beef bathed in an aromatic Barolo sauce, the same beef that Mia Cugina had made a special effort to personally select in bici (by bicycle). In making every effort to show her gratitude Mia Sorella, bound by her rather basic Italian skills was able to ask if this was an old family recipe, perhaps handed down from our Nonna; my cousin let out a laugh as only she is able to do and responded – “ Internet“. So you see, family tradition sometimes needs a little nudge from our online friends.
You need to start the preparations a few days before you are ready to serve, this is not only necessary but makes life so much easier (by the way this is exactly the same process I use when preparing a brisket). Day 1 – marinate; Day 2 – brown & refrigerate; Day 3 – remove the fat, slice the chilled beef, & emulsify the braising liquid. At this point, the entire pot can be placed in the freezer to be used in the future. Braised Beef in Red Wine could not be more straightforward than that.
A fall chill is a reminder that it is time for the comfort of a dish like Beef Braised in Red Wine or Brasato al Barolo with some creamy polenta, roasted carrots and of course, a bottle of your favorite Barolo.
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- 1 -
3 poundchuck roast
- 1 bottle of Barolo
- 4 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters
- 3 stalks of celery including the leafy
section,cut into 3-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 10 juniper berries, crushed with the back of a heavy skillet
- 8 black peppercorns
- 6 cloves
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Combine the chuck roast, bottle of Barolo, garlic, onions, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, juniper berries, peppercorn and cloves in an enameled cast iron pot and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours. During that time turn the meat over midway to ensure that both sides have been evenly marinated.
- The next day, remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry; the marinade should be reserved in another container. Add the 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and heat on medium high. Once the oil is hot, add the chuck roast and brown evenly on the top, bottom and sides. Be patient and try not to turn the meat before it has developed a brown crust, this is what will help give the finished dish a rich flavor. As the meat is browning the room will be filled with the wonderful aroma of the wine. Once the meat is browned, remove it to a platter and add the carrots, celery and onion (which was part of the original marinade). Saute the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring several times.
- Return the browned chuck roast to the pan along with the contents of the original marinade, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the contents to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to achieve a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 2½ hours, turning the meat every 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool and once cool place in the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day
removethe pot from the refrigerator, discard any fat that has accumulated at the top of the pot and place the meat on a cutting board.
- Cut away and discard any butcher's twine from the roast, and begin to slice into slices, no thinner than ¼ inch each. Set aside.
- Remove the bay leaves, black peppercorns, cloves from the cooking liquid (the crushed juniper berries will be more or less dissolved or soft). I find the easiest way to do this is by using a strainer. Place the rest of the cooking liquid and vegetables back into the pot and using an immersion blender, puree the contents until uniformly smooth.
- Arrange the sliced chuck roast back into the pot, submerging it under the sauce. At this point, the pot may be covered and refrigerated for a day or place into the freezer to be finished at a later date.
- Continue the cooking process, if you have frozen the
brasatoremove from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator the day before you plan to finish the dish. Remove the pot from the refrigerator and place it on a burner over medium heat. Bring to a slow simmer and continue to cook, partially covered until the sliced beef is fork tender. The time will vary depending upon the meat you have used, generally takes a minimum of ½ hour to 1½ hours. You do not want the meat to fall apart, but the slices should be tender. Check the tenderness every 30 minutes.
brasatomay be served with creamy polenta and roasted carrots.
- The leftover gravy from the
brasatomakes an excellent sauce for fettucini or tagliatelle.