Here’s a recipe that will warm you to the core by our favorite braising author, Molly Stevens. Her Stracotto with Garlic and Pancetta from All About Braising, is so chockfull of flavor that you won’t mind the effort put into making the meal. The marinating time for this dish is 24 to 36 hours and braising time is about 3 hours, so you must plan accordingly.
If you want an early Sunday supper, I suggest you start the marinating process Friday evening or Saturday morning, if at all possible. I didn’t get the meat in the fridge until 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, but luckily we gained an hour that weekend due to the roll back of Daylight Savings Time. Sunday dinner wasn’t until 7:30, so the roast marinated at the minimum of 24 hours.
The word stracotto literally translates to “overcooked,” which is not necessarily appetizing terminology, but don’t let it fool you. It is a Tuscan-inspired cooking method with a beef roast in a sauce made from good dry red wine and vegetables over low heat for an extended period and creates a mouth-watering dish that is both fork tender and full of flavor.
I had to tie two 2-pound roasts together because the supermarket didn’t have a 4-pounder available. The only drawback there is the meat didn’t get browned on one flat side. Did it matter? Not in the least. Next time however, I’ll try to remember to contact the butcher ahead of time to reserve a 4-pounder.
Browning the meat in a separate skillet seemed unnecessary so I used our cast-iron dutch oven, Big Red, to do all of the steps, thus preventing another pan to clean and containing all the browned bits directly in the braising pot. Then as a finish, we thickened the sauce with a corn starch slurry. The sauce was heaven-on-earth, and we’re darn glad we had leftovers for another meal.
- 1 3 1/2 to 4 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, tied together
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 medium onions
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 large head garlic, cut crosswise
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 750-ml bottle dry red wine such as Valpolicella, Chianti or Montepulciano
- 1/4 cup grappa or brandy
- 1 cup beef or veal stock, preferably homemade
- 1/2 lb. pancetta in one piece, about 1″ thick
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Getting the brandy, broth and pancetta ready. We had to laugh that the store labeled this extra-lean pancetta!
Marinade: Marinade for at least 24 to 36 hours. Coarsely chop celery, onion, carrot and mince garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large pan. Add celery, carrot and onion and sautée until soft about 8 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in entire bottle of red wine and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes to infuse wine and vegetables. Set aside to cool.
Using kitchen string, tie beef into a neat snug shape. Season with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and place in a gallon zip-lock bag or in a deep baking dish. Pour cooled marinade over and refrigerate. Turn the meat a couple of times while it marinates.
Braise: Heat oven to 300. Keep the liquid, but remove meat from marinade and place it on a rack over a platter to drain. Wipe the meat dry with a paper towel.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan. When hot, add meat and sear it on all sides, using tongs to turn, about 20-25 minutes total until deep mahogany brown. Note: Because of the wine marinade, the meat will turn a much darker color of brown. Transfer to a dutch oven or heavy lidded casserole. (We used only the dutch oven for all of these steps.)
Pour off fat from pan. Place back on the burner and turn to medium-high. Add grappa or brandy (stand back because it may ignite.) Bring to a boil and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 3-4 minutes.
Strain reserved marinade into the pan, keeping all vegetables and bring to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes, until reduced down by half. Add beef stock and boil again to reduce by half another 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Tuck pancetta under and alongside roast. Scatter over reserved vegetables and seasonings, pour over reduced braising liquid and cover pot with a sheet of parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the meat and extends about 1 inch over pot. Cover tightly and braise gently until the roast is fork-tender about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Turn once halfway through braising.
The meat is turned halfway through the braising process.
Finish: Lift beef from liquid and transfer to a platter. Strain liquid into a sauce pan, reserving only pancetta and garlic (some cloves may have been lost.) Skim any fat from the liquid and bring to a boil and let simmer vigorously for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Tear pancetta into small shreds and add to sauce.
Meanwhile make the garlic paste. Squeeze the garlic from the open cloves into a small bowl. Smash to a paste using the tines of a table fork.
The smashed roasted garlic doesn’t look all that appealing, but boy is it good!
Snip strings from roast, cut on a angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon sauce over each serving and top with a small spoonful of garlic paste.
You will want to serve this dish with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, or on a bed of soft polenta to enjoy the flavorful sauce.