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Brasato Al Barolo

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Mise en Place for Brasato al Barolo

Brasato al Barolo, a simple braise of beef and red wine, is one of Piemonte’s classic dishes. The traditional wine to use is, as the name indicates, Barolo, which is made from the nebbiolo grape, and is one of Italy’s most expensive wines. For most of us, cooking with Barolo is out of the question due to its cost, but Piero had old bottles of nebbiolo sitting in his wine cellar and was more than willing to let me use one to make the dish.

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Vanessa shares her birth-year with the 1979 Nebbiolo we used for the Brasato al Barolo

Start with a piece of beef top round, rump roast, or similar cut. If it is very lean you can lard it by inserting pieces of pork fat, such as fat back or pancetta, into holes cut in the roast. It helps to tie the roast with butcher’s twine so that it keep its shape. You can optionally marinate the roast overnight in the red wine before braising it.

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Sear the Roast

Season the roast with salt and pepper, then brown it on all sides in hot oil in a dutch oven or similar pot. (The pot in the photos is a little too large for the size of the roast, but it was the best option I had available.)

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Add the aromatics

Once all sides are brown, add your aromatics: mirepoix (roughly equal portions of diced onions, carrots, and celery…maybe a little heavier on the onions), along with a couple cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, and a few whole black peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon stick to the pot. I recommend placing the herbs and spices in a cheesecloth sachet to make them easier to remove later, and use your discretion on the amount of spices, following your taste, and omitting any you desire. Lower the heat, being careful not to burn anything, and allow the aromatics to caramelize slowly.

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Add the wine

Add enough wine to nearly cover the roast. If you are lucky the wine will be Barolo or some other nebbiolo-based wine, but any other big-bodied, tannic red wine will do. Allow the wine to slowly reduce, turning the roast from time to time, and when it is down to one quarter its original volume, add vegetable or chicken stock to nearly cover the roast. Cover with a parchment paper lid and cook over a low heat for at least two or three hours. The beef should be extremely tender when it is ready.

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Brasato al Barolo with pan-roasted potatoes

Remove the roast, remove the herbs and spices, and puree the sauce with the aromatic vegetables in a blender until very smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Slice the roast into rounds, and serve with the sauce.

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