braised beef Roman style
Italian lovers can also call this dish "bye-bye beef bourguignon."
Looking for a hearty braised-beef dish to properly usher in the fall season, we were treated to just what we wanted, thanks to Joyce Goldstein, the noted and properly celebrated cook book author (Italian Slow and Savory) and magazine and newspaper contributor.
The Italian name for this beef dish, actually a stew, is garofolato di manzo alla Romana. The key to its aromatic and taste success is the use of cloves, whose fragrance spreads out beautifully from the dish.
>Clove note: we got fresh whole cloves, and removed the pods or heads from the stem, and then smashed the pods into a powder with a small hammer. Whatever works to get the cloves in powder form.
>Key step: rather than chopping the onions, carrots, and celery by hand, we pulsed them through a food processor. This gave us very tiny pieces of vegetables -- not mush but just above that. We believe the fineness of the chopping made the final sauce richer and more of-a-piece than just hand chopping. However, if you wish to finely chop the vegetables by hand, go at it. It works fine.
In a large, deep pot, put in two tablespoons or as much to coat the bottom, of olive oil. Turn the heat to medium and add the pancetta. Cook for about four minutes, not allowing it to get too brown. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring regularly, until they are soft. In our case that was less than five minutes. Add the garlic, the thyme, the rosemary and the cloves, and cook for two more minutes.
Meanwhile, preferably in a cast iron skillet, coat the bottom with olive oil. Over medium-high heat, brown the meat. Turn the meat over in the skillet with a slotted spoon so that it is browned on all sides. Do this browning in batches: never crowd the pan. Remove the meat and set aside. Deglaze the skillet with one-half cup of beef stock, and add this liquid from the skillet to the pot.
Stir the tomato paste into the vegetable mix. Add the meat, the wine, and the rest of the beef stock.
Bring this mixture to a boil and then cut back to a low heat. Cover, and simmer until the beef is tender, about two hours. Add salt and a touch of pepper, taste and correct.
Variation one: serve on a bed of fettuccine which has been previously cooked to al dente.
Variation two: peel and halve four white potatoes, boil them until soft, and serve them with the stew. (this is our favorite).
Serve hot; bask in the fragrance, and enjoy!