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Manzo Brasato alla Lombarda

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 September 2010 at 21:18
Manzo Brasato alla Lombarda
Beef Braised in Stock and Red Wine
 
From Time/Life - Foods of the World - Italy - 1968:
 
Quote "The prevailing usage is slow cooking over a low steady fire," Ottorina Perna Bozzi counsels in Vecchia Milano in Cucina (The Cooking of Old Milan). "Only fried dishes, scaloppine, and soups are ordinarily cooked over a high flame. Boiled dishes should be simmered; roasts should not be cooked rapidly, but you should wait until, at the end of its cooking, the meat takes on a golden-brown colour. How else can you achieve that magnificent thick meat gravy? The principle basis of Milanese cooking is that everything should be cooked slowly, in a covered dish, for a long time." She could have been talking about manzo brasato alla lombarda, beef lovingly braised in stock and red wine. It spends three hours acquiring its special, spicy juciness.
 
Time/Life goes on to recount that manzo brasata alla lombarda is a very old and popular meal, particularly suited for a night on the town:
 
Quote at La Canobbiana, another opera house that opened in Milan in 1779, the management served whole dinners, including steaming plates of soup and manzo brasata alla lombarda, or steaks, while the opera was in progress. The 19th century French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz complained in his memoirs that he could not hear the opera against the noise of the clattering...only during a popular aria was the rattle of knives and forks stilled; then a reverent silence was absolute."
 
Here is the recipe:
 
Quote To serve 6
  • 1 tsp. finely-chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresly-ground black pepper
  • 8 to 10 half-inch pieces of lean bacon
  • 3 lbs. beef rump or bottom round, securely tied
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup coarsely-chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup coarsely-chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock, fresh or canned
  • 1-and-1/2 cups drained canned whole-pack tomatoes, coarsley chopped
  • 1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the finely chopped garlic, oregano, salt and pepper together and roll the pieces of bacon in the mixture. Then, with a small sharp knife make deep incisions in the beef and insert the pieces of lean bacon in the openings.

In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter with the olive oil over moderate heat and brown the beef, turning it from time to time so that it browns on all sides.
 
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a heavy casserole that is just alrge enough to hold the beef comfortably. Combine he coarsely chopped onions, carrots and celery on a cutting board and chop them together into very small pieces (the resulting mixture is called a battuto; when cooked, it is called a soffritto). Stir this mixture into the butter in the casserole and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the soffritto is soft and lightly coloured. Place the beef on top of the soffritto.
 
Discard most of the fat from the skillet, pour in the red wine and boil it briskly over high heat, stirring and scraping in the browned fragments that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. When the wine has been reduced to 1/4 cup, add it to the casserole with the beef stock, chopped tomatoes and bay leaf. The liquid should come about a third of the way up the side of the beef; if it doesn't, add more stock. Bring the casserole to a boil over high heat, cover it tightly and braise in the middle of the oven for about two hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
 
To serve, transfer the beef to a carving board, cut off the strings, and slice the meat. arrange the slices, slightly ovelapping, in a row on a heated platter. Strain the braising sauce from the casserole through a fine sieve into a serving bowl, pressing the vegetables dry with the heel of a wooden spoon before discarding them. Skim as much fat as possible from the surface of the sauce, taste and season it with more salt and pepper, if needed. Moisten the slices of beef with a little of the braising sauce before serving them. Serve the rest of the sauce separately in a sauceboat.
 
alright, here's how to prepare this beautiful and very delicious milanese specialty! when taking these photos, i tried to use some of the tips and pointers given by rivet, and i think we met with quite a bit of success, although there were also some obvious duds.

first, as always, is a shot of the goods and the book that provided the source for this outstanding meal:

since the roast was 4.8 lbs, i doubled all other ingredients used in this recipe.
 
the foundation of the savory and complex flavour here is the battuto, known in france as the mire poix, this simple combination aromatics always will provide flavour, aroma and depth that must be experienced to be appreciated.

although battuto is found in a lot of italian cooking, the thing that makes this dish extraordinary and unique another simple combination: finely-diced garlic, mediterranean sea salt, italian oregano and black pepper. i would have preferred freshly-cracked black pepper, but sometimes you get what you get. the other aspect is the bacon, which provides flavour, depth and moisture. i will not mention the smokiness as i am pretty sure the bacon called for in the recipe is a substitute for italian pancetta, which is similar to bacon but is seasoned with these very same flavours and not smoked.

after combining the spices, the bacon is rolled into the mixture to get it well-coated with explosive flavours.

and then the flavour-coated pieces of bacon are stuffed into deep slits to act as lardons.

i used the handle of a normal spoon to shove them in as far as possible.

once the roast was ready, i heated some butter with some olive oil in a cast-iron pan:

and seared the roast on all sides to brown the outside and provide a wonderful flavour punch known as the maillard reaction.

here's the roast after having been browned on all sides:

then i heated some more butter in the dutch oven:

and tossed the battuto in to begin its transformation into soffritto.

after much stirring and some plain, old-fashioned passage of time, the soffritto began to look like this:

so i hollowed out a bit of a well for the roast and set it in the center of the dutch oven.

i then poured the burgundy into the pan that i used for searing the roast (after removing nearly all of the fat) and deglazed the pan, boiling the burgundy briskly while scraping all the flavour-filled brown bits off the bottom.

my goal was to reduce the burgundy down to an amount that was in the neighbourhood of half a cup.

when the burgundy had reached this point, i poured a large can of diced tomatoes onto the roast:

and drizzled in the burgundy reduction.

i then added the beef broth (would have preferred homemade beef stock, but i do believe that the soffritto made up for this lack) and crushed bay leaf:

here's a close-up showing many of the elements of this dish in detail - looking good!

the recipe called for roasting at 350 degrees for two hours. i did have misgivings about this temperature and time, but decided to follow the recipe this first time and make any adjustments in subsequent preparations.

after two hours, i opened the dutch oven and was treated to a beautiful sight:
 

i placed the roast on a platter to rest and then made my decision as to what to do with the stuff in the pan. the recipe calls for it to be strained and then ladeled over the meat after discarding the vegetables; however, since i prefer thicker sauces for things like this, i elected to deviate from the recipe a bit. there wasn't much fat in the pan due to the lean nature of the roast, but there was some, so after carefully skimming the fat, i got out the trusty old wand blender and pureed the juices and vegetables (soffritto and tomatoes) together into a rich, thick gravy-like sauce:

in reality, it was a bit darker than shown here, but i never have much luck with this camera, so that's what we get.

the roast carved easily, but the knife i had wasn't the easiest to work with. the outside inch or so was extremely tender, almost to the point of falling apart (possibly due to the moisture provided by the bacon?). from that point to the center, it was very tender but it also seemed a little dry and over-done, in spite of being nearly twice the weight called for in the recipe. with these two facts in mind, i will be sure to cook at a lower temperature next time for a longer period of time, perhaps 275 or 300 degrees.
 
here's a bad picture of a very good roast:
 

and here it is on the plate with some roasted diced potatoes and some cheese toast:

as this next picture shows, everything came together really well and i have no complaints about flavour at all. my only gripe is the slight dryness mentioned above, and i am certain that more careful cooking in the future as mentioned will remedy that situation.

altogether, a success! the family enjoyed it and didn't seem to care about the dryness. i will admit that even a little dry, it was much more moist and tender than most rosts we cook, so kudos for that, and the flavour more than made up for it. i am at a loss as to how it came to be dry while braising in so much liquid, but at the high temperature it was cooked at, i am sure anything is possible.
 
in conclusion, i highly recommend this dish as a very unique and flavourful alternative to pot roast. as you can see, it is easy to prepare and uses very common ingredients, but at this same time, it manages to capture the essence of italy in a way that one would not expect from a roast of beef. i definitely recommend that you reduce the temperature to something around 300-325 and extend the cooking time appropriately. 
 
this one is a keeper for sure! i invite you to give it a try and let me know what you think of it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Exploreralpha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 September 2010 at 22:06
Looks absolutely wonderful Ron, keep up the awesome food.

Aaron

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 September 2010 at 05:57
Finally get to see the pics, and what a wonderful Italian roast! Very nice set of pictures capturing the process beautifully. The final gravey looks just perfect and I can only imagine how good it tasted. Don't sweat the roast, that's just the nature of the cut. In this case I think its the better cut 'cause not only can you slice the big thing fairly evenly (as opposed to a chuck that would just fall apart and you'd end up serving a ladelful of beef shreds to each person) you have the wonderful gravy sauce to put over it and moisten each bite. All around a winner! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 September 2010 at 09:35
thanks guys - this one is definitely a good one and the flavours are ALL italy! i'd love to try it again with an eye of round or similar roast .
 
another thing to do, and a chuck roast would be perfect for this, would be to cut the roast into chunks and do it in the manner of a belgian carbonade. rather than stuff the roast with the seasoning-coated bacon, a person could jsut add the bacon pieces and seasonings to the battuto. i have a feeling that preparation this way would indeed result in a very good meal.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 December 2010 at 20:04
Ron, as I look at this post again, I am impressed at the way you made it, taking the time perform each step as the recipe instructs, and the details you provided.
 
I had not mentioned the lardons before. I love them, they are a secret Julia Child taught me decades ago which you made with sublime skill and deisre for good food. perhaps they may have been the reason for your Manzo's soft exterior~ who knows? I do know that the cut of meat determines what the end result will be and perhaps you might want to try a different roast next time....but as for us, that is exactly what we like, a  firm, sliceable mountain of meat, delicious in the flavor and sauce yet not disintegrating into strands of stringy (yet soft) meat as a chuck will. This firm meat will after a short rest, will slice up thinly and heavenly, making a wonderful plate. Later on, the leftovers will slice up just as nicely when cold and turn into "just-right" sandwich filling for a beefy, swiss-cheesey broiled sandwich, or a cold one when there is no time for the oven.
 
I know you've mentioned recently the plan to make one again soon. Please don't forget us here in the forum and share your pictures and process and opinions on your next one~!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 January 2011 at 19:43
anyone interested can click here to take a look at a deconstruction project i did with this recipe.
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