Brasato al Barolo
Beef Braised in Barolo Wine
This is the pièce de resistance of Piemontese cooking, and especially of the Monferrato, the area round Asti where the best red wine is produced. If you feel you cannot spare a bottle of expensive Barolo for the cooking, use a good Barbera Dolcetto or Gattinara which are cheaper. But please, use a good wine – plonk won’t do. The recipe is for 8 people because Brasato, like roast beef, cannot be made successfully in small quantities. However, it freezes very well or, if you have only a little left, chop the meat up and use to dress potato gnocchi, a dish of penne or a mound of golden butter polenta.
The classic accompaniment to Brasato is polenta, potato purée or boiled potatoes dressed with melted butter and a few drops of lemon juice to counter the richness of this classic dish.
1.5kg/3lb 5 ox chuck steak in a single piece
6 tbsp olive oil
30g/1oz unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 salted anchovy, cleaned and washed, or 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped celery leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 bottle of Barolo, Barbera or other good Piemontese red wine
For the marinade
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions cut into pieces
2 carrots cut into pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into pieces
the juice of 1 lemon
2 bay leaves
sprigs of fresh sage and fresh thyme
small piece of cinnamon
5 or 6 black peppercorns
10 juniper berries
First prepare the marinade. Mix all the ingredients in an earthenware pot or a bowl, add half the bottle of red wine and place the meat in it. Leave to marinate for 24 hours, turning the meat over as often as you can remember. Unless the weather is hot, do not put the bowl in the refrigerator. A larder or a garden shed is the ideal place.
Heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3
Take the meat out of the marinade, dry it very thoroughly and tie it into a neat oblong shape.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy frying pan and, when the oil is hot, slip in the meat and brown very well on all sides, and the two ends, over high heat. Transfer the meat to a side plate.
Strain the marinade and add to the frying pan. Deglaze for a minute or two, scraping the bottom of the pan with a metal spoon to release all the delicious bits.
Put the onion, garlic, parsley, sage, celery, remaining oil and half the butter into an oval casserole large enough to hold the meat comfortably but snugly. Put the casserole on the heat and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Place the meat on the bed of vegetables; add the strained wine of the marinade plus the remaining half bottle of wine and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring slowly to the boil. Cover the pan with a tight lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours. Keep a watch on the meat: it should cook at a steady low simmer. Turn the meat over 3 or 4 times.
Sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking, always tightly covered, for a further 1 ½ hours until the meat is very tender.
Transfer the meat to a chopping board and allow to cool a little, while you make the sauce.
Scoop the cooking vegetables and juices into the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a smooth soft purée. Pour this into a small saucepan and place on a low heat. Add the butter, bit by bit, shaking the pan after each addition. When all the butter has been added and has melted into the sauce, taste and check seasoning.
Carve the meat into thick slices (no less than 1 cm/1/2in) and surround the slices with the velvety winey sauce.
©Anna Del Conte