Saturday, February 24, 2007

Beef Braised with Onions

From Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking, which has become my favorite cook book of all time. The one cookbook I would take with me to a desert island. If I thought the island would have a reasonably good grocery store. This is super yummy, and great for leftovers.

1/4 lb pancetta
2 lbs boneless beef roast (ideally brisket or similar)
5 cloves
4 medium onions

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Find a heavy-bottomed pot that will go in the oven, has a tight cover and is big enough for the roast (but not too much bigger than the roast). I used an oval Le Creuset Dutch oven and it worked great. Slice (into slices, not dice) the onions very, very thin. Spread the onions on the bottom of the pot.

3 . Cut the pancetta into matchsticks. Distribute half of the pancetta over the onions in the pot. Then Marcella says to use a larding needle, or, failing that, a sturdy Chinese chopstick (not the pointed Japanese kind) to "lard" the meat with half of the pancetta. That is, stick the pancetta into the meat at various intervals. I guess I don't have any chopsticks, or a larding needle, and had some trouble finding an implement that would make this work as described. I finally ended up just making little incisions with a knife and sticking the pancetta in that way.

4. Insert the cloves in 5 of the "larding" holes. You might want to note where these are and remove them before serving.

5. Put the meat in the pot on top of the onions and pancetta. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover the pot (if it doesn't cover securly enough, cover the pot with foil first, and then put the cover on top) and put in the uppermost rack of the preheated oven.

6. Turn the meat every 30 minutes or so. Marcella says to cook it for 3 1/2 hours, and it needs the whole time. I tasted after about 2 because I was hungry and hadn't planned very well. It was good, but nothing like the delicious caramelized stuff in the pot after 3 1/2 hours. So be patient.


Nan said...

Thanks for vouching for this recipe. I had been planning to make it out of M Hazan's book, which we also love. But it was our first time with this recipe, and we were cooking for a dinner party. I felt a little hesitant but was encouraged by your endorsement. It came out wonderfully--guests said it was the most delicious brisket they had ever eaten.

Helen said...

Great! Glad to hear it turned out so well. This is ideal dinner party stuff, because it's not last-minute at all, it makes the house smell great, and once it's reached that magic 3-3 1/2 hour mark, you can serve it pretty much whenever.