The Brasato al Barolo is a rightly celebrated main dish of Italy's Piedmont region, traditionally made using the local Barolo wine. That can become very expensive in this country, but driving through the Piedmont I was astonished to see €10 bottles of Barolo on endcap displays in highway rest areas! The best Barolos can fetch $1,000 and more; that's not what you braise a chuck roast in!
- If you cannot get the Cappello del Prete, then lard the beef with 2-4 oz uncured bacon.
- Marinate the beef overnight in the wine with the vegetables, cloves, bay leaf, and nutmeg.
- Remove the beef and dry it, save the marinade.
- Melt the butter and saute the sliced onion until translucent.
- Sear the beef in the onion-butter on all sides and add the bay leaf.
- Move the beef to a braising pan, casserole, daubiere, or slow-cooker. Strain the marinade and pour the flavored wine over the beef. You can include some or all of the vegetables, and plan to blend them into the sauce at serving time.
- Braise the beef on low heat for at least 5 hours. Turn it from time to time so the top does not dry out. Use a thermometer and watch for it to reach 170 F. Once it reaches that temperature, you want to hold it there for another hour or more. The longer it goes, the more of that connective tissue breaks down. It's hard to overcook it, but you can do it, when it's all melted and just drains away into the cooking juices.
- Cool the roast in the pot. It can stay this way for a few days, refrigerated.
- An hour or more before serving time, reheat the meat in its liquid, then remove it and carve it into thick slices while reducing the cooking juices to a sauce. If you cooked the vegetables with the beef, then blend them in a food processor and stir it into the sauce.
- Serve the sliced beef hot over soft polenta.
What's a Cappello del Prete?
In the photo you can see a coupe of toasted slices of firm polenta. This was served at a wine tasting (with Barolo, of course) and people could not sit to the table with knife and fork, so we served it chopped with sliced of toasted polenta that could be used like crackers.