Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beef Braised in Red Wine

What a strange winter we are having in North Carolina this year. Usually we are lucky to have one snowfall over the winter, but so far it has snowed 4 times (including 6 inches on Christmas Day!).

The Tiki Lounge blanketed in snow on Christmas Day 2010

We had snow flurries off and on yesterday afternoon, and we are anticipating another snow storm for tomorrow afternoon that is likely to last into the next day. Growing up in northern Michigan, snow was a common, nearly everday occurence and we had to get at least 2 or 3 feet for school to be cancelled. Here in the south however, a 1/2 inch of snow will delay schools 2 hours and an inch will close everything completely, not only schools, but banks and businesses too.

So with an impending major snow storm on the horizon, I went to the store to pick up supplies for the storm. Usually it is eggs, milk, bread and toilet paper that are the first to go (apparently everyone sits on the toilet eating french toast when it snows). Not me. I picked up some potatoes, some bacon, a beautiful beef chuck roast and some red wine. I'd rather enjoy this delicious Italian-style beef pot roast.

I first saw this recipe for Beef Braised in Red Wine (Brasato al Barolo) in the February 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine (have I mentioned lately how much I miss Gourmet magazine?). I love pot roast, but this is by far the best one we have ever made. The original recipe calls for Pancetta and Barolo wine, but I have modified it to use more readily available (and significantly less expensive ingredients). It is excellent with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, or as Gourmet magazine suggested, creamy polenta.

I usually prepare this dish using a pressure cooker (see recommended equipment tab), but will present two methods of preparation in the event that you do not have a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is a decidedly low-tech invention that shaves literally hours off the cooking time without sacrificing any of the texture or flavor. My mother used hers all the time when I was a kid and taught me to cook with this "old school microwave".

I hope you try this recipe, I think you will love it, especially if you're sitting back with a plate of it watching the snow fall, knowing there will be no school (or work) tomorrow and therefore not feeling guilty about finishing off that second bottle of wine!

Beef Braised in Red Wine
serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 3lb boneless beef chuck roast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 cups water

Heat olive oil in pressure cooker (or 4-5 quart heavy oven-proof pot with lid) over medium high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper and brown well on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.

Add bacon to pressure cooker and fry, stirring frequently until fat is rendered. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until vegetables are tender and browned (about 10 minutes). Add thyme, rosemary and garlic and saute 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook briefly for 1 minute.

Add red wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about 1/2 (about 5 minutes). Add water and bring to a simmer. Return beef to pan.

For pressure cooker method: Close pot and fasten lid tightly. Once pressure is achieved (the cooker will begin hissing), reduce heat to medium (or lowest temperature that will maintain adequate pressure; you can tell you have adequate pressure because the cooker will continue to hiss softly). Cook 45 minutes, then remove from heat, and place in sink with cold water running on the lid to release pressure before opening. Meat should be fork tender. If not, return to heat and bring back up to pressure and cook additional 15 - 30 minutes (however long you think you need to get it tender...kinda depends on the quality of the beef).

For non-pressure cooker method: Cover pot with lid and place in a preheated 325 F oven. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until meat is very tender.

For both methods, remove cooked beef from pan and place on a serving platter, tent with foil to keep warm. Over high heat, boil sauce until reduced by one third (5-10 minutes). Season sauce with salt. Slice beef across the grain and return to sauce, tossing to coat beef. Return to serving platter. Serve with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or creamy polenta.


  1. Thank you for including pressure cooking instructions! Bacon is a totally acceptable substitute for pancetta. Great job, and the pic looks delicious!


    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cookers hip again, one recipe at a time!

  2. 'Lil Suze is here and we are going to dish this one up and out... will let you know if it is a hit! (tho I am already guessing it is!)