Braised beef that has been marinated in red wine is a classic dish from the Piedmont region of Italy. The complex flavors of the wine add a unique taste and aroma to the beef. Along with aromatics such as carrot, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, juniper berries, lemon zest, and fresh time this dish really sings.
There are many red wines you can choose from. A deeply-concentrated, rich, full-bodied red wine with a degree of acidity and tannins make a perfect wine for marinating the beef.
Try using a full-bodied mid-priced Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruffino Chianti, Merlot, or on the higher end try a classic Barolo or Barbaresco wine. In Piedmonte traditionally a Barolo would be used to create the region’s famous brasato al Barolo. I had a nice bottle of Francis Ford Coppola’s Claret Cabernet Sauvignon so that’s what I used and the dish turned out to be absolutely delicious.
Now that you picked your wine let’s get to cooking! First, start by buying the correct cut of beef. You can purchase beef chuck (shoulder) already cut into cubes for stewing at your local supermarket. These cuts are best for braising and also they continue to hold their shape from the marination process all the way to the final dish. Ready? Let’s go!
Braised Red Wine Beef with Gorgonzola Pearl Couscous
(serves 4-5 people)
- 1 bottle of red wine (To marinate the beef and mushrooms. Serve the remainder with the finished dish.)
- 2 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock
- 4 pounds beef chuck cut into two-inch pieces.
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 medium-sized onion large chunks
- 2 medium-sized peeled carrots, large chunks
- 2 washed celery sticks, large chunks
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed with a back of a knife
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 lemon, zested, pith removed
- 5 juniper berries
Tomato paste roux
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 4 ounces pancetta cut into ¼ inch pieces (optional)
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 20 baby portobello mushrooms thickly sliced
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Pearl Couscous Ingredients
- 3 cups pearl couscous
- Vegetable, chicken, or beef stock to barely cover the couscous.
- 1 cup Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Step 1: Marinade for the Beef
- Add the large onion large chunks, carrots, celery, smashed garlic cloves, thyme, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, lemon zest, and juniper berries to a bowl. Add the beef douse with enough wine to cover all and mix all the ingredients well.
Tip: You can place the bay leaves, juniper berries, and zest in a tied cheesecloth to more easily remove them.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate for 24 hours in your refrigerator. Periodically mix the meat to ensure all is getting marinated evenly.
Baby Portobello Mushrooms
- Brush off any dirt on the mushrooms.
- Make thick slices of the mushrooms and place them in a bowl.
- Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and just barely cover with the red wine.
- Let marinate in the refrigerator along with the beef for 24 hours.
Step 2: Braising the Beef
- Preheat your oven to 325°F and adjust the oven rack to the bottom-third position.
- Strain the beef and vegetables from the marinade. Place the beef on a large plate or kitchen tray lined with absorbent paper. Save the spices for the cooking of the beef later on.
- Strain the mushrooms and reserve the wine for braising the beef.
Tip: You can save the marinated vegetables for making stocks and soups.
- Use paper towels to pat dry the beef, and then season using salt and black pepper.
- Now heat the vegetable oil in a large-sized saute pan oven on medium-high flame until it’s hot.
- Add the pad of butter and swirl it through the oil. Add the beef and nicely brown off on all sides. Once the beef is browned, transfer it to a large-sized plate.
- Pour off nearly all the fat and then add the pancetta (if using) and cook on medium flame. Make sure to stir frequently until crisp and lightly brown.
- Now add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook until the onions become translucent about 4-5 minutes. Then add in the chopped thyme.
- Cook until you smell a nice fragrant odor.
Tip: Mix the tomato paste and flour together to create a quick thickening agent.
- Add the tomato paste mixture to the saute pan and mix well. Let this cook over medium heat for five minutes.
- Slowly pour in the reserved marinated wine a little at a time whisking after each addition of wine to avoid clumps.
- Once all the tomato paste is incorporated into the wine reserve it aside from the heat.
- Place the beef, and spices in a braising dish. Cover all with the reserved wine from the beef and mushroom marinade. Then stir in the honey. The beef should be covered by 1/2 an inch. Top off with more wine, water, or stock if necessary.
Tip: Remember to add any juices that accumulated on the plater that you held the beef on.
- Now, bring all to a simmer. Then cover the pot, place it inside the oven and cook until the beef gets very tender. This should take 40 minutes to an hour.
- Halfway (30 minutes) through the cooking time stir in the mushrooms cover and continue to cook until done.
Tip: Remember you are using stew cuts of beef so they will be absolutely delicious once tender and juicy. One way to check the tenderness of the meat is to insert a fork into it. If the fork meets only little resistance, you’re good to go. However, if the fork meets resistance, you have to cook the meat for a longer time. Just remember to begin to check after 40 minutes. Then judge accordingly.
Step 3: Gorgonzola Pearl Couscous
- Rinse off the couscous and add it to a pot
- Just barely cover it with whatever liquid you decide to use and bring it to a rapid boil.
- Let it remain at a medium boil for 3-5 minutes (stir frequently) and then remove it from the heat, and cover it with a tight-fitting lid or tin foil.
- Allow the couscous to steam and cook the rest of the way for about 20 minutes.
Tip: The couscous should absorb all the liquid and be light and somewhat puffy.
- Now stir in with a wooden spoon the butter and 1/2 cup of the Gorgonzola cheese. It’s okay to leave some chunks of the Gorgonzola still visible. Reserve the other 1/2 cup of Gorgonzola for garnish.
- Add in the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.