Hello Everyone, and Happy Monday…..
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, it seems! Someone special came to visit all the way from Australia (hi Alex!) this past week and a half, so I was quite busy. However, we ate at a lot of really great restaurants, so hopefully within the next few days I’ll give you some updates on our food experiences.
I told Alex that I would make him something good for dinner the first night he got here. After about a week of agonizing over what to make, I decided on making Brasato al Barolo. Essentially, beef braised in red wine. This recipe calls for a Barolo wine, but it’s not exactly cheap. Really any full-bodied red wine can be used.
(I apologize in advance for the crappy photo quality that is about to be shown, but the lighting in my apartment really, really sucks.)
Beef Braised in Red Wine adapted from here
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck roast (I used a smaller top round roast)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound sliced pancetta, finely chopped (I used proscuitto)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, or Côtes du Rhône
2 cups water
*You can use a heavy-bottomed pot for this, or just a roasting pan. I only had a roasting pan on hand, so I covered it with foil once the meat and everything was in.*
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat oil in pot 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. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.
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 about 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 1/2 to 3 hours.
Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.
Although I thought the meat came out a little dry (my oven doesn’t really cook things evenly or maintain its temperature), it was really, really good. It fell apart when you stuck your fork in it, and the sauce was intensely savory. Red wine adds an awesome richness to food – I love cooking with it.
So, what did we have with the meat? I took some inspiration from the movie Julie & Julia and made bruschetta. If you have never seen the movie, Julia makes this AMAZING looking bruschetta in one early scene.
She fries slices of bread in some oil, and then places these succulent-looking tomatoes on top of the bread slices. Unfortunately, I didn’t have heirloom tomatoes on hand as it’s not tomato season, so grape tomatoes had to suffice. I diced them, and tossed them in a little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I bought this loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread. I thought the rosemary in the bread would tie in well with the rosemary used with the beef.
And finally, as if that wasn’t enough, I made some green beans. They are in season right now, and I wanted a nice springy side dish to offset the ultra-savory beef. I blanched the beans in boiling water until I saw their green color intensify, then I threw them into some ice water to stop the cooking. I sauteed them in some olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 3-4 minutes. I tossed them with some crumbled manchego cheese, which tasted really good against the beans. Delicious.
So, that was dinner. It was delicious, and there were lots of leftovers (which is always good). That is the last thing I cooked in this apartment, as we either went out for dinner or got takeout every night the following week. I’ll update on the awesome Easter dinner we had, along with all the restaurants we hit in Boston, later this week.