Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tuscan Beef and Pepper Stew

This recipe is from Simply Tuscan, by Pino Luongo. Also known as Peposo (from the large amount of black pepper), this stew is worth the effort.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds beef stewing meat
2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
salt to taste
2 cups red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
2 T crushed black peppercorns

In a heavy casserole over high heat, warm half of the oil. Add the beef and sear it on all sides until dark brown. Keep some spacing between the cubes to prevent them from steaming. You won't be able to sear all the beef at once, so do it in batches. Set the beef aside when done.

Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining oil to the casserole. Add the carrot, onion, and celery, and some salt. Mix the seared beef with the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the red wine and scrape the browned beef from the bottom of the pan. This is critical for developing the flavor. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until some of the liquid appears to have evaporated. Add the stock and the tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes more. Add half of the squash and all the peppercorns. The original recipe calls for 4 T peppercorns, which seemed overpowering. You may even want to use less than 2 T. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least an hour. Keep the lid slightly open if you want some of the water to evaporate. When the meat is tender, add the rest of the squash and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Add salt if you wish.

This stew is excellent served over creamy polenta!

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