"Brasato al Barolo over polenta."

Brasato al Barolo over polenta.

I read someplace recently that "spring is around the corner" and it's time to think about light food.  With this in mind, I promise this will be my last post about comfort food...for a while.  In the meantime, I really, really had to publish this recipe because it's just so tasty.

For starters, this recipe uses simple ingredients with minimal preparation.  The only thing you need a little of is time (and yes, thyme, the herb, too!)  However, make this on a weekend and then plan to dine on it during the week.  Braised beef is one of those dishes which gets better as it sits in your fridge (anywhere from 3-5 days) if you can wait that long to eat it!   In short, the recipe is FANTASTIC.   I've made this twice and the eaters couldn't stop raving about the flavor (ok I admit, one of those diners was ME.)

Finally, I served the braised beef over quick-cooking polenta which is always a crowd pleaser.   And I will admit to using a standard, off the shelf bottle of red wine which didn't seem to affect or detract from the flavor.

Brasato (braised) al Barolo

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (3 – 3 ½ lb) boneless chuck roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ lb sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 (4-6 inch) sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 (6-8 inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups Barolo or other full bodied red wine (Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas or Cotes du Rhone)
  • 2 cups water

Equipment:  4-5 quart heavy ovenproof pot with lid.   Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  

Heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.  Meanwhile pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total.  Transfer to a plate with fork and tongs.  Note:  if your boneless chuck comes wrapped in butcher’s twine, remove it so that your meat is browned and cooks evenly. 

Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes.  Add onion, carrot and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  

Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot.  Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven.  Braise until meat is very tender, 2 ½ - 3 hours.

Transfer meat to a cutting board.  Skim fat from surface of sauce.  Boil until sauce is reduced by about one third.  Season with salt and serve with the meat. 

Cook's note:

I often run an immersion blender (the Braun version is my personal fave - although difficult to come by these days) through the reduced sauce to smooth it out.  This is a preference but not a requirement.  Also, while polenta is a great base, egg noodles would work well too.

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.

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