Friday, February 21, 2014

Peppery Tuscan Beef

This recipe was fantastic! Some how all of the pepper (and red wine) really mellows the heaviness of the beef. My husband could not get enough of it! It was also fun to use new ingredients like pancetta,and expand my Italian cuisine repertoire. As a heads-up you need at least 8-12 hours to marinate the meat. I found this out half way through! I also did not realize how sage is so hard to come by in this area or that pancetta is a specialty item. Call your grocery ahead of time to double check that they carry it, and save yourself the extra trip. But every extra hour is worth.the.wait. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did! 

Serves 6 Very important to not skip any steps on this one!

Ingredients

5-6 sage sprigs 
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
3 lb beef stew meat
4.5 oz  pancetta cubed
1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Bay leaves 
1 cup beef stock or more as needed
2 cups red wine (use a full-bodied one like Chianti)
Salt
Large loaf crusty Italian peasant-style bread

Prepare the Sage oil AND marinate the meat

1. Chop the leaves from 2 of the sage sprigs, and put them in a small bowl. Don't be tempted to add more sage, as it is a strong flavor and easily overpower a dish. In a large bowl, combine half the black pepper with all but 3 tbsp of the oil. Ladle one- quarter of this into the bowl with the chopped sage, and set it aside for the fettunta. This dish contains an awful lot of black pepper, but it is all necessary for this recipe. So don't be too timid and add less pepper, you will find it mellows and lends an incredible depth of flavor to the beef once marinated and braised. 

2. Add the beef to the bowl with the black pepper and oil mixture. Stir until every piece of the beef is well coated, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate, stirring occasionally to redistribute the marinade, for 8-12 hours. Do not skip this step. It will help to tenderize the meat and absorb all of the pepper. 

Cook the Stew

3. Chop the remaining sage leaves. Remove the meat from the marinade with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Pat dry. Heat half the remaining oil in a large pan over high heat, add half the meat, and brown well on all sides for 3-5 minutes. 

4. Transfer the meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining oil to the pan, and brown the rest of the beef in the same way. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until the fat has rendered.

5. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes longer, until softened. Return the beef with 5 of the garlic cloves, finely chopped, the tomatoes, bay leaves, sage, remaining black pepper, stock and wine. Bring to a boil, stirring. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 3/4- 2 hours, until very tender stirring occasionally. 

6. During the cooking, add more stock or water if the stew seems dry ( it wasn't the case for me). The beef is ready when it is tender enough to crush with your fingers. Discard the bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Of the sauce is thin, increase the heat and boil uncovered, until it has reduced and concentrated. 

Make the Sage Fettunta (do this close to serving)

7. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 F. Cut the bread fairly even ( I bought it pre-cut in the bakery section). Brush generously on both sides, with the sage-flavored oil, then sprinkle the sides evenly with salt.

8. Bake the bread in the oven until toasted; it should take about 8- 10 minutes. Turn it once during this time, so both sides become evenly golden brown. Cut the reserved garlic clove, and transfer to a wire rack. Ypu will find the toasted surface of the bread acts like a "grater" for the garlic, and that almost all of the clove disappears on the bread. Spoon the beef into a warm serving dish. Serve the delicious crispy fettunta alongside. 








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