Friday, March 30, 2012

Beef Stracotto

In a nutshell, cotto means cooked and stracotto just means extra cooked. I like to make things sound a little more complicated, don't I? :)

This dish was a nice remedy for the spring chill we had in Los Angeles last week.  I suppose it is an Italian version of beef stew, which is adopted from a new cookbook purchase, Italian Home Cooking by Julia della Croce.

The sauce is divine!  I specially liked the light flavor of lemon and cinnamon, and how it has just a tad of sweetness.  Make sure to eat it with mashed potatoes.  The photo above does not show much of the sauce because I took the picture after the sauce was gone.  Talk about food photography fail!

I used what I think is a decent bottle of Chianti from Trader Joes.   Choose a wine you like, something you'd want to drink with it.

The cooking process takes a long time so make enough for plenty of leftovers to have the next day.  Also, do not make this on a weeknight.  I repeat, do not make this on a weeknight.  Don't be like me and make your poor starving husband wait for dinner until 8PM.  The beef needs its sweet time to cook.  That's how you get that melt in your mouth tenderness.  If you speed up the process by increasing the heat, the beef will get cooked but you'll give your jaw a real work out. So plan to make this dish on the weekends.  Let it simmer while you do the chores, do laundry or watch a movie on the couch. Hey, that last one sounds like a great idea ;)

Beef Stracotto

3 pounds stewing beef, cubed
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cinnamon stick
3 carrots, diced
3-inch strip of lemon peel
sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¾ cup good quality, full-bodied dry red wine, such as Chianti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 325F.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat on stove top.  Add the bacon and saute until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon transfer it to a dish and set aside.

Using the rendered fat from the bacon, brown beef on all sides about 2 minutes each side.  Cook in batches, do not over crowd the pan! Add olive oil if there is not enough oil in the pan to brown the meat.  Transfer browned beef to the dish with the bacon.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil then stir in the onion, carrots, garlic, lemon peel, bay leaves, marjoram and cinnamon stick.  Saute until vegetables are soft and aromatic , about 5 minutes.

Return beef and bacon back to the pan, then season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle flour over the meat and stir to combine, coating all of the ingredients.  Add tomato paste and smear on the ingredients.

Add the wine and enough water to barely cover the meat.  Cover and bring to a simmer then transfer it to the oven to cook for about 2-3 hours.  Check and stir occasionally.  Check for seasoning as you go along.  Add water as needed maintaining a liquid level half the height of the meat.  

When meat is tender to your liking, remove from heat.  Omit bay leaves, cinnamon stick and lemon peel.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

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