Stracotto di Manzo al Ginepro
(Slow-Cooked Beef with Juniper)
This is a traditional northern Italian holiday dish. It’s usually served over slices of basic polenta (cornmeal, salt, water) or as is my preference, over the wider variety of egg noodles. It is usually accompanied with winter vegetables; squashes, and/or some members of the cabbage family.
Besides being a wonderful new taste, it's easy! Just throw together the five main ingredients. Cover and turn on the heat. Sit back and let it go. Two hours later, everything will have been transformed into an extraordinary dish that gets better with the passage of a day or two.
Serves: 4 to 6 people
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
3-cups onions, thinly sliced crosswise
3-1/2 pounds beef chuck
2-teaspoons juniper berries, crushed (or 2-Tbs Gin)
1/4-cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Put the olive oil and sliced onions into a heavy-bottomed pot, and set the meat on top. Add the juniper berries and vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat on, to medium low, and cover.
When it starts cooking, adjust the heat down, so that the meat cooks at a very gentle simmer. Simmer for about two hours, or until the meat is extremely tender when prodded with a fork. When done, the sauce should be rich and thick, and substantial enough to coat a spoon. If it’s too thin, remove the meat and raise the heat a bit until it has thickened by reduction.
1) Juniper berries – crush them with the flat-side of a large knife; a heavy pot; or put them into a Ziploc bag and gently crush them with a mace or something similar. You can replace these with 2-tablespoons of Gin if you wish.
2) This dish is best if prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and reheated over gentle heat with a few tablespoons of water or red wine.
3) Variations - Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or crushed tomatoes after removing the meat, stirring it into the pan liquids; a few sliced, sautéed mushrooms go well; this is an ideal method of cooking any meat from leg of lamb to game meat.
4) Crock-pot – this recipe is a good candidate for crock-pot cookery. Select a temperature that will let the juices very gently simmer.