French-Style Pot Roast

November 21, 2015

I made this French pot roast for a group of my closest friends. While the original recipe called for a 4-to-5-pound roast, I bought a 6-1/2 pounder; following the general guideline of 1/2-pound per person. While the roast did stretch to feed all 13 people (a majority of whom where kids), I felt that I short-changed some of my guests. I assume I underestimated the loss and shrinkage during cooking.

Delicious, but slices came apart.

Delicious, but slices fell apart.

My biggest complaint was the texture was too “fall-apart-tender”. The picture on the Cooks Illustrated website made me think that I would get tender beef while still retaining enough cohesiveness to get nice, clean slices. The presentation suffered a bit.  Next time I will be careful to cook towards the shorter end of the cooking time; and make sure that I slice it with my sharpest knife. Fortunately, the flavor made up for the “pile of meat” presentation. The flavor of the beef and sauce was well-balanced, but the carrots were not very popular. While I thought enjoyed the carrots, it seemed most people didn’t appreciate them. Overall, 4-stars.

Rating: 4.
Cost: $40.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 boneless beef chuck (5-to-6 lbs)
1 Table kosher salt
1 bottle red wine (Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir)
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10 ounces white mushrooms
Table salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Pull apart the roast into 2 pieces and trim away fat. Season meat with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Set on wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. With 15 minutes to go, set a large sauce pan over medium-high burner and simmer the bottle of wine until it has reduced to 2 cups. Also tie your parsley sprigs and thyme sprigs together into a bundle using kitchen twine.
  3. Use paper towels to dry the beef and generously sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. Use 3 to 4 pieces of kitchen twine around each roast to prevent it from falling apart during the long cooking time.
  4. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  5. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4″-wide match-sticks. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lines with paper-towels and reserve until Step 7.
  6. Empty and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; and return pot to medium-high burner. When the fat begins to smoke, brown the roasts on all four sides for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. While the beef browns, finely chop your onion. Remove beef to large plate and set aside.
  7. Turn down burner to medium, add chopped onions to pot and allow to soften for 2 to 4 minutes; using the moisture the onions give off to begin to de-glaze the pot. Add mined garlic, flour, and crispy bacon from Step 5. After 30 seconds add the reduced wine, 2 cups beef broth, the herb bundle and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add browned roasts (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. Bring up to a simmer over high burner, then put a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with lid.
  9. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a fork easily slips into the meat. Use tongs to turn beef every hour, and add carrots to the pot after 2 hours.
  10. About the time you add the carrots, Put a large skillet over medium-high burner. Add pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water, Bring up to a boil, then cover and reduce burner to medium. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are tender, then uncover and increase burner to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid completely evaporates.
  11. While the pearl onions cook, wipe your mushrooms clean, trim away and discard the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half, and large mushrooms into quarters. After liquid evaporates and mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Continue cooking for 8 to 12 minutes until everything becomes browned and glazed. As the beef is ready to come out of the pot (in step 13) use a little of the braising liquid to de-glaze the skillet.
  12. Separately, place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top to allow it to soften.
  13. Remove beef to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil. Allow braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim and fat off the surface. Fish out and discard herb bundle and bay leaves.
  14. Add in onion-mushroom and bring up to a simmer over medium-high burner. Reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until it measures 3-1/4 cups. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in softened gelatin.
  15. Remove and discard kitchen twice. Carve into 1/2″-thick slices with a sharp, non-serrated knife. Serve beef slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.
Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks

October 27, 2015

I know I almost missed the boat (the S.S. grilling season). While this recipe came out at the beginning of summer (and despite its absolute simplicity), I was not able to make the recipe until now. I have always used wooden skewers, and this recipe requires metal skewers. I ordered the $7 Norpro 12″ skewers as recommended by Cook’s Illustrated.

Nice char on the outside; beautiful medium-rare on the inside

Nice char on the outside; beautiful medium-rare on the inside

The results were very-evenly-cooked, medium-rare steaks (in 2-1/2 hours). The intense heat from the chimney starter gave a beautiful char on the outside, and an even pink all the way through. No grey band. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the perfect evenness from top to bottom of the steak. Here are other people pictures of grey band, versus an even medium rare that you can expect with this recipe. 5-stars.


  1. My steaks took 2 full hours in the oven to come up to 120-degrees. Because the oven is so low, it is easy to perfectly cook the steaks. But if you want medium steaks; be prepared to wait up to an extra 30 minutes.
  2. Kosher salt is always recommended for when sprinkling on meat, because the flakes adhere better to the mean that the granules of regular granules of table salt. Also, because it is less dense it is easier to get an even coating of salt.
  3. As you can see from my photos; I made 3 sets of steaks instead of the 2 called for in the recipe. But because the grilling time is so quick; there are no adjustments necessary.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Compound Butter Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

  1. Remove 1/2 cube of butter from refrigerator and allow to soften on counter-top for an hour; or microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Mix together the ingredients for the compound butter and refrigerate.

Steak Ingredients:
2 boneless strip steak, 1-3/4″ thick (about 2-pounds total)
Kosher salt and pepper
Chimney starter

  1. Cut away the fat cap from the steaks; to prevent flare-ups. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 200-degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and set a wire rack on top.
  2. Cut each steak in half crosswise; creating four 8-ounce steaks. Cut 1/16″-deep slits on both sides of steaks every 1/4″; creating a crosshatch.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (2 teaspoons total). Lay steak halves flat on counter and pass two 12″ metal skewers horizontally through the steaks; spacing them 1-1/2″ apart, Be sure to leave 1/4″ space between steak halves. Set the steaks on the rack you prepared is Step 1. Repeat skewering process with the remaining steaks.
  4. Put steaks in 200-degree oven for between 1h30m and 2h until the center of the steaks register 120-degrees; flip steaks half-way through cooking. If one set of steaks comes up to temperature before the other; remove it (And tent with aluminum foil)
  5. Tent the skewered steaks with aluminum foil (still on wire rack); allowing to rest while you light to coals in the next step.
  6. Ignite a large chimney starter halfway filled with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). After about 15 minutes when the top-most coals are completely covered in fine grey ash. Reserve the foil and pat the steaks dry with paper towels.
  7. Use tongs to place one set of steaks directly over chimney; resting the skewers on rim of chimney; suspending the meat over the coals (see photo below). Cook for 1 minute per side until both sides are well browned. Return the first set of steaks to wire rack in sheet, season with pepper, and tent with reserved foil. Repeat the charring process with second set of skewered steaks.
  8. Remove skewers from steaks and serve with compound butter.

Best Ground Beef Chili

October 20, 2015

I never trust Chris Kimball when it comes to spicy food. His Yankee palate just doesn’t understand the flavors of southwestern cooking. True to form, today’s recipe is not nearly hot enough; zero-alarm chili. Also in the back of my mind is that Many of Chris Kimball’s chili recipes turn out to be very expensive (see this $26, 3-star chili). Plus my kids are just as happy with cheap, ground beef chili; So no reason to spend 3-times as much.

As unlikely as it seems; Chris Kimball reaches a happy medium with this recipe; rich flavor of freshly ground chiles, but easy to eat (just 1/4″-chunks ). Plus it uses $3/lb ground beef. Of course, while not hot enough (next time I will add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper), there is a lot of delicious complexity here. Definitely worth making; 4-stars, but I could easily see a hotter version almost reaching the maximum 5-stars.

Deliciously bold flavors, but easy peasy

Deliciously bold flavors, but easy peasy


  1. It can sometimes be hard to find whole chiles, so I recommend buying them beforehand so you don’t have to run to multiple supermarkets. This recipe calls for Ancho chiles (in California they are called Pasillo; which are dried poblano peppers), but you can substitute guajillo which are hotter.
  2. Chris Kimball says that this chili can be made up to 3 days in advance. I recommend re-heating on the stove-top rather than the microwave, for better flavor. Just add a little water to maintain the desired consistency.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $11. (not including garnishes).
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2-lbs 85% lean ground beef
2 cups + 2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
3/4-teaspoon baking soda
6 dried ancho chile
1 ounce tortilla chip, crushed (¼ cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
14-1/2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
15-oz-can pinto bean
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Lime, cut into wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion
Additional garnishes: diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice.

  1. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, add beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4-teaspoon baking soda. Toss until thoroughly combined, and set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the stems for the chiles and tear then into 1″-sized pieces. Set a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner; Add chiles and toast for 4 to 6 minutes until they become fragrant, stirring frequently. If the chiles begin to smoke, then reduce the burner. Allow to cool in the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, and 2 teaspoons pepper to bowl food processor. Process for 2 minutes until it becomes finely ground. Empty spices into a small bowl. Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor for 30 seconds until smooth.
  4. Dice your onion and peel your garlic.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven, set over medium-high burner. Add diced onion at cook for 4 to 6 minutes until softened; stir occasionally. Press garlic directly into pot and cook for just 1 minutes. Add beef mixture from Step 1. Cook beef for 12 to 14 minutes; breaking up meat into 1/4″-pieces as it cooks. The beef should begin to brown and a fond should begin to form on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add spice mixture from Step 3 and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes; to bloom the spices.
  6. Add 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons sugar, tomato puree, and pinto beans and their liquid. Bring up to a boil, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover with lid, move to pre-heated  oven. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and chili has slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking.
  7. Uncover chili and let it sit for 10-minutes. Meanwhile, prepare any of your garnishes.
  8. After 10 minutes stir to re-incorporate any fat that has risen to the top and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar.
  9. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, passing separately the lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and other garnishes.
A little extra effort; but big flavors

A little extra effort; but big flavors

Chimichurri Sauce and Grilled Flank Steak

July 14, 2015

I made a version of Chris Kimball’s Chimichurri sauce a few years ago, while delicious, it really felt more like just any old herb sauce; it was watered down and lacked zest. Today’s Chimichurri uses cilantro instead of parsley, adds some mint, and uses fresh oregano instead of dried. But the main difference in the outcome came from marinating the steak in the chimichurri sauce. The result was delicious; the steak had lots of flavor and the marinade added to the nice char of the steak. 4-1/2 stars.

Marinade on sauce makes a huge difference

Using the sauce as a marinade makes a huge difference

While I used the same base for both the marinade and as a sauce, I added the vinegar to the sauce at the last-minute to avoid denaturing the meat.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 6:00 PM.  Ready:  6:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Chimichurri Sauce Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves (1 bunch)
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
8 medium garlic cloves
1 shallot
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Tomorrow: 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

  1. If you are using dried oregano or mint, allow to soak in 1 tablespoon of water for 5 minutes to soften.
  2. To make the chimichurri, roughly chop the cilantro, oregano, mint, garlic cloves
    and shallot; adding to the food processor or blender. Ass kosher salt, red pepper flakes and 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Process for 1 minutes until smooth.
  3. Do not add vinegar to the marinade; add only to sauce just prior to serving.

Steak Ingredients:
1 flank steak, about 3 lb.
1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt

  1. Use paper towels to pat the steak dry and put in a large baking dish. Sprinkle steak with 1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt, and evenly coat steak with 1/2 cup of chimichurri sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate overnight (a minimum of 4 hours).  Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.
  2. With about 45 minutes until dinner, remove the sauce from refrigerator to allow to come up to room temperature.
  3. Completely open up the top and bottom vents of your charcoal grill, and ignite a chimney starter filled with 6 quarts of charcoal. Allow to ignite for 20 minutes until the top-most coals are partially covered with fine gray ash. Create a 2-level fire, by emptying all the coals over one half of the grill, and the other side of the grill will remain without any coals.
  4. Put the cooking grate in place, cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean the grill, and dip paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe.
  5. Cook steak over the hot part of the grill for 5 minutes without moving, until the meat has. Flip the meat and grill for 5 to 6 minutes for medium rare.  After both sides are nicely charred, move the steak to the cool side of the grill (with the fat part towards the coals), cover, and cook until it reaches the desired level of doneness.
  6. Put steak on a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir in the 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar into the sauce. Also warm the individual serving plates.
  7. Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into 1/4″-thick slices. Divide the meat onto individual places and spoon chimichurri over steak. Pass the rest of the sauce at the table.

My 500th recipe: Pot-Au-Feu

May 20, 2015

Wow, my 500th recipe; five years in the making. For such a momentous occasion I wanted to make something special;  so I picked Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) from the May/June issue. Chris Kimball calls this recipe “Simple Pot-Au-Feu“, because it uses only one cut of meat, plus it’s made entirely in one day. Instead of cooling overnight and peeling the hardened fat, this recipe calls for skimming the fat using a ladle. I used a fat separator; as there was a lot of fat. As with many of Chris Kimball’s recent recipes, instead of brown meat on the stove-top, this recipe uses his technique of “browning” in the oven.

Best meal of the year; so far.

Best meal of the year; so far.

The dinner was fantastic; my first 5-star meal of 2015. The flavors were well-balanced; the bone-marrow infused parsley sauce was powerful, and the soup bones made for the most delicious broth I’ve ever tried. The staggered cooking time for the vegetables in the final steps meant that everything was perfectly tender, without anything being overcooked. Next time I might try to brown the beef on the stove-top, because I think the “caramelization” is a little muted as written in today’s recipe. I would also recommend serving with crusty bread; a little crunch was the only thing this meal was lacking.

Additional Comments:

  1. One traditional suggestion for the extra bone marrow is to spread it on toasted bread as an accompaniment.
  2. Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) refers to the traditional cooking method of putting inexpensive cuts of meat and root vegetable into a pot and into the fire.
  3. I have three kinds of salt, but didn’t buy flake sea salt. My regular sea salt was in grains, so I used flaky kosher salt in lieu of sea salt for the final dish (in step 14)

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $38.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: 1:00 PM. End time: 6:00 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Meat Ingredients:
3-1/2 to 4-lbs beef chuck-eye roast, boneless
1-1/2-lbs marrow bones
Kosher salt
1 onion
1 celery rib
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Parsley Sauce Ingredients:
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
10 cornichons, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1-lb small red potatoes, between 1″-to-2″.
6 carrots
1-lb asparagus
Kosher salt and pepper
Flake sea salt

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Pull your chuck roast into two pieces, which should naturally come (mostly) apart at the seam. Trim away any large knobs of fat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, then use 3 pieces of kitchen twine per piece to tie into two separate loaf shapes.
  3. Peel and quarter onion and thinly slice celery stalk crosswise (not lengthwise).
  4. Put tied beef, bones, onion, celery, bay leaves, and peppercorns into Dutch oven. Add cold water until it comes up halfway the sides of roasts; about 4 cups. Set over high burner until simmering. Partially cover the Dutch oven and put into 300-degree oven for 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours, flipping beef over halfway through cooking time.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the parsley sauce, by combining all ingredients into small bowl, cover and set aside at room temperature.
  6. Towards the end of cooking time; prepare your vegetables. Cut your potatoes in half (or quarter any potatoes that are larger than 2″). Cut carrots in half cross-wise; then quarter the thick halves length-wise, and cut the thin halves into two lengthwise (sounds confusing; each carrot should yield 6 pieces).  Trim asparagus by snapping off the cut end; wherever the asparagus naturally breaks is where each individual stalk needs to be trimmed (as if the asparagus knows).
  7. When the meat is fully tender, a sharp knife can easily slips into meat, but it should not be shreddable, remove the pot and turn off oven. Use tongs to remove beef loaves and set on large platter and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Return to turned-off oven to keep the meat warm while you finish cooking.
  8. Set bones on cutting board and use the end of a spoon to remove the marrow. Mince marrow until it is paste-like and add 2 tablespoons to parsley sauce.  Save any remaining marrow for another day.
  9. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl. Use a ladle to skim and discard the fat from the broth (I used a fat separator). Measure out broth (I had just under 2 cups), and augment with cold water to make 6 cups; adding back to Dutch Oven.
  10. With the Dutch oven over high burner, add potatoes and bring up to a simmer. Reduce burner and continue to simmer for 6 more minutes. Add carrot sticks and cook for 10 minutes. Finally, ass asparagus and continue to cook all vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes; until everything is tender.
  11. Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables to large bowl, and toss them with 3 tablespoons of the parsley sauce; sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  12. Taste broth and adjust salt; leaving in pot.
  13. Remove beef from oven and set of cutting board. Cut away twine and slice against the grain into 1/2″ thick pieces.
  14. Arrange large, shallow bowls into individual servings. Arrange vegetables, slices of beef, and drizzle with 1/3 cup broth. Top with a dollop of parsley sauce, and sprinkle meat with flaky sea salt. Serve, passing the extra parsley sauce separately.

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Shredded Beef)

March 28, 2015

I’ve made one of Chris Kimball’s older recipe for Ropa Vieja which used a slow-cooker, but today’s recipe uses a more traditional technique of browning the beef and cooking for 2 hours in the oven. It was much more flavorful and is a definite improvement over the older recipe. The recipe calls for brisket, which naturally has a very distinctive grain that lends itself perfectly towards shredding. The recipe was very well seasoned, though not at all “hot”. Next time I may add a Jalapeno or two. Overall, a delicious recipe; 4-stars.

Traditional cooking method is best

Traditional cooking method is best

In my experience Ropa Vieja is always served with white rice, but Chris Kimball has a recipe for beans and rice here.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $26.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 2:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

2-pound beef brisket
Table salt and pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers
2 anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped coarse
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

  1. Set a rack to lower/middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Trim the fat on your brisket down to 1/4-inch. Slice the brisket against the grain into 2″-wide strips. The precise length isn’t that important, but cut any strips that are longer than 5″ in half to reduce their length. Pat beef dry using paper towels and season all sides with salt and pepper. Set a Dutch Oven over medium-high burner and pre-heat 4 tablespoons (1/4-cup) vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Brown all sides of the beef for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a large plate at set aside until Step 7.
  3. While the meat browns, prepare the vegetables by slicing the onions in half, peel and sliced thin. Remove the stem and seeds from your bell peppers, and slice into 1/4″-wide strips.
  4. When the pot is empty, add the onions and bell peppers and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the pan bottom develops a fond. Empty the vegetables to bowl and set aside.
  5. While the onions and peppers cook, rinse your anchovies, pat them dry using paper towels and mince. Also peel and mince your garlic.
  6. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to now-empty pot, Add minced anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Stir in wine, and de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute until mostly evaporated. Add broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves.
  7. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring up to a simmer over high burner. Move pot to 300-degree oven and cook, covered, for 2 to 2-1/4 hours until the beef is just tender; flipping meat after 1 hour.
  8. Remove beef to cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Pull apart into 1/4″-thick pieces.
  9. Fish out bay leaves from pot and discard. Chop olives and add to pot along with the onions/peppers reserved in Step 4. Bring up to a boil over medium-high burner and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. Mix in the shredded beef and add vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste.

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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