A rare cool, rainy Sunday afforded us the opportunity to cook a slow braised dish for a summer dinner. While thumbing through several favorite cookbooks, I happened upon this Roman Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Cloves in Milk Streets “The New Rules” by Courtney Hill.
The “new rule: don’t sear your meat” goes against something we typically do, brown our meat beforehand. But because you cook it uncovered for the last hour or so, the meat will brown at the end of the process.
Pot roast comes to mind with this meal, and in Rome, cloves are used to flavor the dish known as “Garofolato di Manzo alla Romana” because cloves are called chiodi di garofano. Here, the earthy, subtly smoky and slightly bitter flavor of cloves complements the natural sweetness of onion, fennel and tomatoes.
Milk Street advises not to use ground cloves that have gone stale, as they won’t add much flavor or fragrance to the braise. If your cloves have been in the pantry for more than a few months, uncap and take a whiff. The aroma should be sharp and strong. If not, pony up and get a new jar.
Unlike pot roast where you cook the large piece of meat whole, the beef is cut into chunks and simmered as a stew resulting in succulent meat throughout. Polenta is an excellent accompaniment for absorbing the flavorful sauce. In a unique pairing, we wedded the meat with another Milk Street recipe Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika.
This recipe is an adaptation of the remarkably delicious green beans from Extremadura, Spain, home of pimentón, aka Spanish smoked paprika. For perfectly crisp and tender beans, cooking techniques are combined. You start by searing the veggies in a hot pan to develop browning and flavor. Then add water and a tight fitting lid to steam them until tender. Voila!
Roman Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Cloves
- 6-7 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
- ¾ tsp. ground cloves
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 oz. pancetta, roughly chopped
- 6 med. garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 med. yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 med. fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
- Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Place the beef in a large bowl and season with the cloves, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
- In a large Dutch oven over low, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until sizzling and the fat has begun to render, about 5 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces begin to brown, another 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic, onion and fennel, then increase to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 6 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Stir in the beef, then cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.
- Remove the pot from the oven. Stir, then return to the oven uncovered. Cook until a skewer inserted into a piece of beef meets no resistance, another 1 to 1½ hours.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a medium bowl. With a wide spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid, then bring to a boil over medium-high, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until the liquid has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Stir in the thyme, then return the beef to the pot. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika
First, the almonds. Begin by toasting them in olive oil to deepen their nutty flavor, then add the garlic and thinly sliced serrano ham, cooking the mixture until the meat crisps and the garlic is fragrant. Then remove that mixture from the pan and add the green beans and char them in the flavorful fond left behind.
For the final flourish of smoked paprika, first deglaze the pan with another 1⁄4 cup water, scraping up any remaining flavorful bits, then remove the pan from the burner and stir the spice in off heat. This preserves the paprika’s smoky aroma, resulting in a pan sauce that is as quick as it is deeply smoky-savory.
Don’t stir the beans too often after adding them to the pan. Stirring only a few times allows the beans to take on some char that adds flavor the finished dish. If you’re entertaining more than four people with the braised beef dinner, you’ll want to double this bean recipe.
My mistake here was using a nonstick skillet so the beans didn’t get as good a sear as I wanted. But in the end since there were no browned bits left in the pan, there was no reason to perform Step 5. Instead, I just sprinkled the smoked paprika right onto the finished beans, stirred and served. OMG, so friggin’ good!!
Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 2 oz. thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto, sliced into ¼-inch-wide ribbons
- 2 med. garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- In a 12-inch skillet (don’t use nonstick) over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the almonds and cook, stirring often, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
- Add the ham and garlic and cook, stirring, until the ham crisps and the garlic is fragrant, another 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside.
- To the same skillet over medium-high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat until smoking. Add the beans and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only a few times, until the beans are lightly charred, about 4 minutes.
- Return the ham-almond mixture to the pan and add ¼ cup water. Cover, reduce to low and cook, occasionally shaking the pan, until the beans are tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving dish.
- Set the skillet over medium-high and add ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika. Drizzle the sauce over the beans and serve.