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Stracotto al Vino Rosso: An Excerpt from In Late Winter We Ate Pears

The following is an excerpt from In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber. It has been adapted for the Web.

Stracotto al Vino Rosso

Beef Braised in Red Wine

The beauty of this dish lies in its preparation. It will require only about 30 minutes of your attention, and the rest of the time the meat just talks to itself in the privacy of the braising pot. You will need a heavy casserole with a tightfitting lid, or that old cast-iron Dutch oven your mother gave you (either should be suitable for the stovetop), or you can just use a roasting pan and tin foil and do the braising in the oven. Which means you can also bake a cake and roast some potatoes while the meat is cooking. Serves 4 to 6 people.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves
  • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 top or bottom round roast (about 3 to 4 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red wine (choose something that you would want to drink with the finished dish)

If you are braising in the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees.

Put all the cut vegetables into your braising pot or roasting pan along with the herbs and mix them together. This is the bed on which the meat will braise. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet until a haze forms over the pan, put in the meat, and brown it well over high heat for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Keep the heat high. Use tongs or a pair of forks to turn the meat and get all its surfaces browned.

Remove the meat and transfer it to the braising pan, resting it on the vegetables, and season it all over with large pinches of salt and pepper. Add the wine to the pan, enough to cover the vegetables and some of the meat. Nestle the meat down into the vegetables and cover the pot.

If you are braising on the stovetop, bring the covered pot to a very gentle simmer and keep it there. If you are braising in the oven, cover the dish with aluminum foil, pushing the foil down around the inside of the pan so that as the juices steam onto the foil they end up dripping back down into the pan and not outside.

Braise the meat for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid and replace it askew (or loosen an edge of the tin foil if using the oven) so that the juices can reduce and thicken a little bit, and cook for 30 minutes longer. Remove the meat from the pot to a cutting board and let it rest. Remove the bay leaves from the dish. Transfer all the braising liquid and vegetables to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste the sauce and correct for salt and pepper. Slice the meat across the grain and arrange it on a serving platter. Pour over the sauce and serve.

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