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Italian Braised Beef in Red Wine
By Charlie Burke

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One of the best ways to concentrate and layer flavors is braising at low
temperatures, and it has become a favorite method for me, as regular readers
know.

Cooking at or slightly above the temperature at which the meat is served over
many hours requires little attention and provides a wide margin for error.
I usually finish the braise at the meat’s temperature when done (155 – 165), so
the meat can be held for several hours.

Cooking time can range from twelve to as much as twenty-four hours, as was
the case in the dish appearing in the accompanying photo. I now start the
braise approximately sixteen hours before planning to serve it and hold it at its
“done” temperature until serving time.

I usually choose French, Italian or Spanish seasonings which become intense
and concentrated over time. Attention to detail at the start, especially properly
browning the meat, ensures success, and the meat then cooks unattended
overnight. I always sauté aromatic vegetables, including onions, carrots and
celery, often with garlic, after browning the meat. The liquid can be stock, wine
or even water.

In the Piedmonte region of Italy, beef is often braised in Barolo, an excellent
wine from the region. Here, a good Shiraz was used because it combines
excellent full flavor and value. I’ve found it pays to boil off the alcohol, which
can toughen meat, and a small volume of meat stock or broth adds depth to the
liquid.

To serve the meat, all that is required is the skimming of the fat and boiling
down the liquid until it has thickened slightly. This can all be done a day
before serving, making this a great dish for entertaining. Choose a cut with a
bone and significant marbling and collagen, not a lean expensive piece. My
favorite is bone in chuck roast, which I cook whole because it retains moisture
and flavor better than pieces.

Here, Italian flavors include pancetta, rosemary and garlic, along with the
aromatics and red wine. Take time to brown the meat thoroughly, and it will
not only result in great flavor from the fond in the pan, but it will also produce
very dark, rich appearing meat, a combination of the browning and long
exposure to the pigments in the wine.

A great way to entertain is to follow Italian tradition and serve the liquid with
thick pasta as the first course, followed by the meat and a vegetable. Finish
with a green salad, and you will have served an authentic northern Italian meal.

Four to Six Servings:

5 – 6 pound bone in chuck roast, at least 3 inches thick
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, whole or sliced
2 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle dry red wine, such as Chianti or Shiraz
2 cups meat or chicken stock
1 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy enameled pot, such as Le Creuset, over medium
high heat and film the bottom with olive oil. Generously salt and pepper both
sides of the beef and brown well on both sides. The color should be mahogany,
which will take 10 – 15 minutes.

Remove the meat from the pot and sauté the pancetta over medium heat until
it begins to brown. Add the aromatics, cooking until softened and beginning to
color. Add the wine and boil for several minutes until the alcohol has
evaporated. Add the tomato paste and rosemary.

Return the meat to the pot and add stock to bring the liquid ¾ to the top of the
meat. Cover the meat with moistened parchment paper or foil and place the
pot cover securely.

If planning to cook for 16 hours or more, place into a 175 degree oven.* Turn
the meat every 4 – 6 hours, adding more stock if the liquid is getting low
(which is unlikely if the pot is well sealed).

Once the meat is pulling from the bone and tender, lower the oven to 155 – 160,
at which temperature the meat can be held for several hours. If serving the next
day, let the meat and liquid cool and then refrigerate overnight.

To serve, remove the meat from the liquid, cover and keep warm. Skim the fat
from the surface and reduce the liquid until it thickens slightly. Add salt and
pepper to taste, and return the meat to the liquid.

Serve the meat with some of the sauce and vegetables, or do as the Italians do
and serve pasta with the reduced liquid as a sauce, mixing the liquid with the
cooked pasta until some is absorbed and the pasta is lightly coated. A small
amount of pecorino Romano or Pariciano cheese and freshly ground pepper
finishes the pasta. The meat is then served as the second course with
vegetables, such as spinach or chard, followed by a green salad.

Use a good wine to make this dish and serve the same wine with dinner to
complement its intense flavor. This technique works with lamb and Italian or
Provencal herbs, as well as with pork and your favorite flavorings.

Cooking times are very flexible, so become familiar with slow cooking at low
temperatures. After cooking this way over the past year, it is clear to me that
slower cooking at lower temperatures result in more moist and tender meat
with dense flavors penetrating through the entire cut.

*To finish in conventional times, cook at 325 – 350 degrees for approximately 3
hours. The meat is done when tender and pulling away from the bone.

About the author:
An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer'sMarket Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.
 
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