Friday, February 6, 2015

Tuscan Beef Stew with Polenta

I haven't been to Italy yet, but I imagine this dish from America's Test Kitchen brings me as close to the tastes and scents as I will get. Usually, I love stews that are chock full of vegetables, so I was a little leary of this being just beef. I was pleasantly surprised by the final product! The flavor pairings and the aroma filling your house as it simmers are incredible. Enjoy!

Tuscan Beef Stew
From Cooks Illustrated Magazine: January & February 2015 issue


4 lbs. boneless beef short ribs (or a 5 lb chuck roast), trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 T. vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 T. cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
1 T. unflavored gelatin
1 T. tomato paste
1 tsp. anchovy paste (I left this out and I think it turned out just fine!)
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. cornstarch


Toss beef and 1 1/2 tsp. salt together in a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

Hear oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the beef in a single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, gelatin, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and remaining beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.

Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 12 to 15 minutes.

Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. reduce heat to medium-low, return beef to pot, and stir in cornstarch-wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve with polenta or crusty bread.

Creamy Polenta
From America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

4 c. water
Salt and Pepper
1 c. coarse-ground polenta
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese


Bring the water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Following the photo, slowly add the polenta while stirring constantly in a circular motion to prevent clumping. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring often and vigorously (make sure to scrape the corners of the pot), until the polenta becomes soft and smooth, 10 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the butter and 6 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan before serving.