This is the kind of dish that requires a very long cooking time but holds great rewards for those with enough patience. I like to use brisket (beef from the lower breast or chest of the cow). It typically has a lot of sinew and–when cooked for many hours at a low temperature in some sort of braising liquid–comes out with an incredible depth of flavor. Here is how I like to put mine together:
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
-4 pounds of best quality brisket (I love Five Dot Ranch). Ask your butcher for the "first cut" which has less fat and is typically thinner and more uniform in thickness.
-1 large onion, chopped
-3 medium carrots, chopped
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-2 tablespoons tomato paste (I prefer the Sicilian Mutti brand, available in a tube)
-1/2 bottle of dry white wine, plus water (or beef stock) to cover
-2 sprigs of thyme
-2 bay leaves
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Take your meat out of refrigeration and place onto a platter. Salt the meat aggressively and allow to come to room temperature (1 hour). In a large Dutch oven heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Place your meat into the Dutch oven and sear until deep dark golden brown (approximately 6 minutes per side) on both sides. Remove your meat to rest. Discard any excess fat from the Dutch oven but do not wash.
Over medium-high heat add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and scrape up any brown bits using a wooden spoon. Add the carrots, onion, thyme and bay leaf.. Salt the aromatics so that they begin to break down. Add freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the carrots and onions are soft and translucent (not brown), approximately 3-4 minutes.
Use a wooden spoon to create a spot in the middle and add the tomato paste. Allow it to cook for 30 seconds undisturbed and then stir through the other ingredients. Add the meat back in. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Add enough water or hot beef stock to almost cover the meat. Boil for 4-5 minutes or until most of the alcohol has burned off. Cover and cook in the oven at 375 for one hour. Pull out the Dutch oven, Check the braise to ensure there is enough liquid (if not, add water), stir and flip the meat.
Continue cooking, covered for another hour. Remove from the oven and flip the meat once more. Turn off the oven and put the meat back in for an additional 30 minutes, uncovered, to reduce. Remove the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into fillets and serve with your favorite braised greens or vegetables. Spoon a bit of sauce over the meat and serve immediately.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com