Tuscan-Style Beef Stew

March 6, 2015

It’s early March and I’m feeling that I’ve allowed circumstances to permit the stew-making season to slip by. So I used this “snow day” to cook today’s recipe as I work from home. Throughout the day the wonderful aromas filled my house and made everybody’s mode much better. While Chris Kimball calls this recipe for Peposo a “Tuscan-style beef stew”, the end result was not so much like a stew. A better description would be wine-braised beef (with lots of peppercorn and garlic). The sauce was too thin to be a stew, and there were no vegetables. Overall, the meal was very good. My sons and I enjoyed the beef. While it was delicious, still I feel it falls significantly short when compared to other stews. 4-stars.

More like braised beef than stew

More like braised beef than stew

Chris Kimball’s main trick in this recipe is; instead of adding all the wine at the beginning; to add it at 3 points during the cooking process. This is supposed to boost the fresh wine flavor. I am not sure if this was one of the contributing factor to the overly runny-sauce. The recipe calls for boneless beef short ribs, which add about $5 to the cost of the recipe when compared to a chuck roast. However, my butcher prepares all his boneless ribs from the chuck, so there is no difference in flavor. The main advantage is that it makes for easier preparation and more consistent cube size. But as I was looking for the specific pieces of meat to buy, I saw that the butcher just cut the meat into cubes regardless of the large veins of hardened fat running through the middle of the cubes. I knew that fat would never break down. I ended up with a 5-pound chuck roast with took an extra 15 minutes to cut into cubes.

Comments / Issues:

  1. As I mentioned above, the recipe calls for boneless short ribs. Chris Kimball also mentions my substitute of a 5-lb chuck roast. I am not sure if I cut away a full pound of fat and sinew; maybe more like half pound.
  2. Cook’s illustrated tried a variety of wine at various price points. They conclude that a $5 to $12 Chianti works best, but you could also substitute and inexpensive Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $35.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:45 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

4 pounds boneless beef short ribs
Table Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots
2 carrots
1 garlic head
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. Trimmed the short ribs, and cut into 2″-pieces. Add the beef to a bowl, and toss to combine with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven. Pre-heat oven to 300-degrees. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Brown the beef on all sides in two batches; a total of 8 minutes per batch. Adjust the burner as necessary to prevent the fond from burning. Remove first batch to a clean plate and repeat browning with second batch.
  3. While the beef cooks peel your 4 shallots and cut in half length-wise. Peel your 2 carrots, again cutting in half length-wise. Separate the cloves of your head of garlic (do not peel) and crush the cloves. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons peppercorns to a plastic bag and crush using bottom of a skillet (only 1 tablespoon of which is added to the pot in step 4).
  4. Add together 2 cups of wine, 1 cup water, shallots, carrots, garlic, 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns, 1 tablespoon gelatin, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon anchovy paste. Add back the beef from the first batch.
  5. Bring the pot up to a simmer, cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and the lid of Dutch oven. Move to 300-degree oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/4 hours, stirring after 1 hour. The beef will be ready when it is tender.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of beef to a serving bowl, and lightly cover with aluminum foil, setting aside until Step 9.
  7. Strain what remains in the pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow the liquid to settle for 5 minutes. Use paper towels to wipe of the pot, and return the de-fatted juices back to the Dutch oven.
  8. Turn on burner to medium-high, add 1 additional cup of wine and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Reduce burner to as to maintain a brisk simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.
  9. Reduce burner to medium-low. In a small bowl, combine the remaining wine and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, add to pot. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes so as to heat the beef. Adjust seasoning to salt according to taste.
  10. Serve, passing the extra cracked peppercorns separately.
Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven

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