Kielbasa & Sauerkraut

Kielbasa & Sauerkraut

This is not a Polish joke: What do you do when your husband asks you to make kielbasa? You make it. After five years of marriage, my better half, who is of Polish heritage, asked me for the first time in our relationship to recreate a dish his mother often made: Kielbasa with Sauerkraut.

I admit I was somewhat intimidated to attempt to replicate a childhood memory. But this was the first time he’s ever requested an eastern European meal.

When I agreed, he informed me, most enthusiastically, that he had already found a recipe that reminded him of the original. It was from a 1995 issue of “Bon Appetit” that had been published on the “Epicurious” website.

Although it takes almost two and a half hours to prepare, most of the dish’s cooking time is devoted to a long braise in the oven and the prep is relatively simple. I departed from the recipe only slightly by using chopped onions as opposed to sliced and substituting fennel seeds for the caraway. For the wine, I opted for a California Dry Riesling.

My husband’s only other request was to serve the dish with a boiled potato to which I added butter and dill.

Given that the evening weather was beautiful, we dined on the terrace just as the sun was setting. Maybe it was the lighting, but as I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face as he took his fist taste, he appeared to be aglow with contentment.

Prepped Ingredients

Ingredients

6 smoked bacon slices, cut into 2-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 2-pound jar sauerkraut, rinsed, drained well
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
4 juniper berries, crushed, or 1 tablespoon gin
1 1/2 pounds kielbasa sausage, cut into 3-inch lengths

Preparation

1- Preheat oven to 300°F. Place bacon, onion and carrot in heavy large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté until onion is tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.

Sauteed Bacon & Vegetables

2- Squeeze as much liquid as possible from sauerkraut. (I placed my drained sauerkraut in a clean dish towel and twisted until the sauerkraut gave up most of its liquid.) Add sauerkraut to Dutch oven. Add wine, stock, caraway seeds and juniper berries.

Adding the drained sauerkraut

 

3- Bring to simmer. Cover tightly, place in oven and bake 1 hour.

After the first hour

4. Add kielbasa to Dutch oven, pushing into sauerkraut.

Adding the kielbasa

6. Cover and bake 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring frequently.)

The Finished Dish

Wine Pairing: Dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc

Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine and Chile

Given the reluctance of spring to appear in New York City and finding a $6.00 off a pound sale on short ribs at my local market, I chose to make a braised dish more suitable for winter. The recipe is from the New York Times Cooking website and its blend of spices and prunes with fennel and leeks made it most appealing for a chilly weekday night supper.

I had also planned to photograph the preparation of this dish, but just as I started to cook, our cable repairman showed up. What I thought would be a twenty-minute service call wound up taking almost three hours, including assisting the repairman with un-mounting a wall-mounted 55” television, which given the disparity in our heights (he stood 6’ tall and I’m 5’3”), was not an easy task. As a result, I had to rush to get the ribs into the oven for a three-hour braise so that we could have supper on the table by 9PM.

Despite the gloomy cold day and the cable madness, our day ended well thanks to this truly delicious braise. Although the recipe calls for a pressure cooker, the website gave options for a Dutch oven as well as for a slow cooker. I chose to braise the ribs in a enameled-cast iron Dutch oven in a 325°F oven for 3 hours.

If you’re not a fan of highly spiced food, you may want to reduce the amount of chipotle chile powder. I also found that the amount of liquid called for (1 cup of wine) resulted in a rather thick sauce. This amount may work for a pressure cooker, but if you choose to oven braise, I’d recommend at least doubling the amount of liquid.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 to 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1 tablespoon olive oil or other fat (like bacon fat or duck fat), more as needed
3 leeks, whites only, chopped
2 large fennel bulbs, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup pitted prunes, diced
Fennel fronds or sliced scallions, or both, for serving

Preparation

  1. If time permits, rub salt, coriander and pepper all over beef and let marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, or, ideally, overnight.
  2. Set electric pressure cooker to sauté function and add oil (or use a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat). Sear beef until evenly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. You’ll probably have to do this in batches. Transfer to a plate as the pieces brown. Or if using a skillet, transfer them to pressure cooker
  3. Add leeks, fennel and pinch of salt to hot pan and cook until soft, about 8 minutes, then add garlic, chile powder and tomato paste; cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in wine. Add prunes and beef (or add prunes and fennel-wine mixture to the meat in the pot).
  4. Cover, then cook for 35 minutes on high pressure. Manually release pressure. If sauce seems thin, pull out beef pieces and reduce sauce using sauté function. Serve with fennel fronds or scallions, or both, for garnish.

Wine Pairing: Zinfandel

Pot Roast

img_7374

Last night we entertained several friends and decided to keep things simple. It was going to be a busy day for me and the forecast was for a chilly night. So I turned to my slow cooker to free me from the kitchen. I thought a pot roast would be perfect. For a recipe, I turned to Martha Stewart’s collection of one-pot recipes, one of which called for beef chuck roast that didn’t need to be browned before braising. Even better–more free time. The recipe along with a video is also available here online.

I particularly like this recipe because, without any herbs and a minimum of seasoning, it really lets the flavor of meat shine. My only changes to the recipe were the addition of a bay leaf, a few more carrots and potatoes as well as a slightly larger roast than called for. I also opted for 8 hours on low rather than 5 on high since I think it makes for a more tender roast.

I served the meat with egg noodles tossed with chopped flat leaf parsley and olive oil.

Our guests must have enjoyed this dish as much as we do as there were no leftovers whatsoever.

img_7352

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste (I recommend the Italian imported paste in a tube.)
1.5 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and halved
3 large carrots, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 beef roast (3 pounds), preferably chuck, trimmed of excess fat and well tied
4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste

Directions

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons broth until smooth.(I prefer to make this slurry in a small dish and then add it to the cooker.) Add remaining broth, tomato paste, potatoes, carrots, onion, bay leaf, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper and toss.

img_7356

Season roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and rub with garlic.

img_7358

Place on top of vegetables. Cover and cook on high until roast is fork-tender, 5 hours (or 8 hours on low).

img_7364img_7368

Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice against the grain. Place vegetables in a serving dish; skim fat from pan juices, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Serve roast and vegetables drizzled with juices.

Wine Pairing: Cotes du Rhone, Syrah

Beef Barley Soup with Oxtails

img_7191

With the first chill of autumn came a desire for a rich soup. My better half asked for beef barley, a childhood favorite. So after searching my cookbooks and the internet, I came upon a great recipe from Food Network star, Ina Garten. Served along with the recipe’s oxtails, the soup makes a complete meal that will satisfy even the most ardent carnivore.

It’s a relatively simple recipe, but I modified it slightly. The original recipe called for 10 cups of beef broth, but my local grocery only had two 32-ounce boxes available. Originally, I thought I would simple add some chicken stock to make up the difference. But then I thought that making up the difference with a broth made from soaking dried porcini would provide even more flavor with the added benefit of adding some mushrooms to the soup. I made my broth with a half cup of porcini, but regretted afterwards that I didn’t use more. So, as you will see in the recipe, I’ve upped the dried porcini to 1 cup.

As you may have noticed, this posting has far fewer photographs than is my norm. This is because I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe until I first tasted the soup for seasoning about mid-way through.

Rich Beef Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten recipe on foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 pounds beef oxtails
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
8 cups canned beef broth
2 cups wild porcini broth (made from soaking 1 cup of dried porcini in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes)
1 cup pearled barley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves. Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, the soaked porcini,1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.

Oxtails returned to the soup
Oxtails returned to the soup

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.

When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper.

The finished soup
The finished, skimmed soup

Serve the soup hot together with the oxtails in heated bowls.

Wine Pairing: Zinfandel

Slow-Cooked Beef with Juniper Berries

IMG_4998sm

As a child, I often accompanied my mother or my aunt when they went food shopping, which they did on an almost daily basis. Much to my chagrin, however, these excursions took considerable time since they opted to shop at small mom-and-pop stores rather than at the supermarket. Typically, we’d start at the salumeria for cold cuts and cheese, move on to the greengrocer for vegetables, and then end up at either the butcher or fishmonger. At each stop, they seemed to have a warm relationship with the proprietors, asking after their children, listening to their stories, offering them advice, or lending a sympathetic ear.

On one of these trips, it seemed to me that my mother was having a rather long talk with the butcher. She kept smiling and laughing, just a little too much I thought. After we left, I told her that I was going to tell dad that she was flirting with Tony. She grinned at me and said winking, “Maybe I do, just a little, but that’s how I get the best cuts.”

It’s then that I realized one of the reasons why my mother and aunt were always so pleasant with all the shop owners: they were sure to get the best ingredients for our family.

In Italian cooking, it’s essential that the basic ingredients, the prima materia, be of the highest quality because the cuisine is so minimalist. This was a continuing theme of Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks and it seems to have influenced her son, Giuliano. An example is his recipe from Every Night Italianfor beef slowly simmered with onions and juniper berries, which I prepared recently for a weekday supper and served with garlic-roasted potatoes and peas.

Slow-Cooked Beef with Juniper Berries adapted from Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups onions, thinly sliced crosswise
2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 2 or 3 pieces so as to comfortably fit in the pot
1 teaspoon juniper berries, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients
Ingredients
  1. Choose a heavy-bottomed braising pot with a tight-fitting lid, preferably enameled cast iron, just large enough to accommodate the meat.
  2. Put the olive oil and the onions in the pot and place the meat on top. Add the crushed juniper berries, the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. When you hear the contents of the pot bubbling, remove the lid and adjust the heat so that meat cooks at a very gentle simmer. Replace the lid and simmer until the meat is extremely tender when prodded with a fork, about 2 hours. You can begin checking it after 1 hour. If all the liquid evaporates before the meat is tender, add a little water.

    The seasoned beef
    The seasoned beef
  4. When the meat is done the sauce should be thick enough to cling to a spoon. If it is too thin, remove the meat and raise the heat until it has reduced.

    Beef after cooking
    Beef after cooking
  5. Slice the meat, return it to the pot to coat with the sauce, and serve.

Note: This dish may be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and reheated over gentle heat with a 2 tablespoons of water.

Wine Pairing: Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon

Meatballs

meatballssm

One of my fondest childhood memories is how my Neapolitan aunt Carlotta used to sneak me a meatball before I went to Sunday mass. She would start her sauce early in the day and the aroma would always wake me up—always earlier than I wanted. I would go downstairs to the kitchen, where she would be enjoying her morning espresso while her sauce simmered away. While I had breakfast, she’d let me taste the sauce on a crust of Italian bread and I would start longing for our Sunday afternoon dinner, which wouldn’t be served for at least another 7 hours.

After breakfast, I’d watch some television or read the Sunday comics and then return upstairs to get dressed for church. During this time, my aunt would still be in the kitchen cooking, often joined by mother, and they would work on the dinner until they would leave for a later mass than mine. Children’s mass was always at 9.

When I got back downstairs with only minutes to spare before I had to go—no run—to church, my aunt would whisper: “Roland, have a meatball.”

“But I can’t, I’m taking communion this morning.” (Church law had us fasting for at least an hour before the sacrament.)

“Nonsense,” she would say. “How could God mind just a taste? It’s our secret.”

And so I tasted and enjoyed. (Eve’s apple couldn’t have been more tempting.) And with my aunt’s wink of absolution, I’d run off to mass.

It was this remembrance that inspired me to make my aunt’s meatballs for supper yesterday. As she never used or wrote a recipe for them, I have to rely on my memory of watching her make them. There were just a few ingredients, but they were always so flavorful and so unlike those “spicy meatballs” made famous by the Alka-Seltzer commercial.

Zia Carlotta’s Meatballs
Ingredients
2 slices high-quality white bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup milk
1 pound ground chuck beef (20% fat)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 clove garlic, minced fine
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
Homemade tomato sauce (I use Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter)

Directions
Soak the bread in milk for 10 to 15 minutes.

Using you hands, thoroughly squeeze the milk out of the bread. Discard the milk and reserve the bread.

In a large bowl, gently combine the beef, egg, cheese, raisins, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the bread and, using your hands, combine with the other ingredients until evenly distributed. Be gentle and do not overwork the mixture. Overworking the mixture will make your meatballs heavy.

Using wet hands, shape the mixture using your palms to create balls that are approximately 1.5 inches in size. You should have about 12 meatballs from this recipe.

In a skillet large enough to accommodate all of the meatballs in a single layer, add olive oil to approximately a 1/4 inch depth. Heat over medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs and fry turning occasionally until browned all over. About 10 to 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a platter layered with paper towels to drain excess fat.

In a pot large enough to accommodate the meatballs, bring your sauce to a gentle simmer. Transfer the drained meatballs to the sauce and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes or so until cooked through.

Serve with spaghetti tossed with the sauce from the meatballs and sprinkled with grated Romano.

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico

Beef Stew

stew3sm

It was a blustery Sunday afternoon when we went to our local market to shop for dinner. Seeing boneless chuck roast on sale for $2.00 off per pound made my choice easy. I wasn’t quite sure how I would prepare it, but thought I would buy the ingredients for a braise: onions, carrots, celery, cremini mushrooms, some fresh rosemary. The rest would depend on what I had at home in the pantry.

After returning home, I paged through my cookbooks looking for a beef-stew recipe. I found quite a few, but they almost all had one element in common: browning the beef. Typically I wouldn’t have let this step stop me from making a dish. But we had just finished a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, which albeit a small one, took more than 3 hours. I was not going to start cleaning again after dinner.

I went online and within minutes found a recipe for an easy 2-step beef stew from Martha Stewart, which to my surprise required no browning. I read the recipe several times just to make sure and indeed no browning of the meat was called for.

Because I wasn’t sure how this dish would turn out, we didn’t take photos during the prep or cooking. After tasting it however, I sincerely regretted not having done so. This stew was superb, one of the best I’ve ever made. Granted, I modified the original recipe but the meat was perfectly cooked, thoroughly browned, and the stew, comfortingly delicious.

stew2sm
Right from the oven

Beef Stew Adapted from Martha Stewart.com

Ingredients

5 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1/3 cup tomato paste; I recommend the concentrated Italian paste from a tube

4 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound medium onions (about 2), cut into 1-inch chunks

1 pound small white or red new potatoes (about 6), well scrubbed, halved if large

1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

6 garlic cloves, smashed

3 bay leaves

1 bottle dry red wine; I used a Sangiovese blend

8 ounces cremini mushrooms

Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, vinegar, and flour to form a paste.

In a Dutch oven (5-quart) with a tight-fitting lid, rub the beef with the paste; season with salt and pepper.

Add onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and 1 bottle of dry red wine. Bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and place a sheet of parchment paper the size and shape of your Dutch oven over the stew.

Cover the pot with the lid, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

After the first 2 hours add the mushrooms to the stew.

Remove bay leaves and, if desired, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Zinfandel

Pressure Cooker Meat Sauce with Rigatoni

pcpasta2sm

As some of you may know, I’m a fan of the pressure cooker for weeknight suppers—especially when getting home after 7. It allows me to prepare comfort food quickly and with minimal effort. Nevertheless, I have shied away from using it for pasta dishes, until I came across a recipe titled “Weeknight Meat Sauce with Rigatoni” in America’s Test Kitchen’s Pressure Cooker Perfection with a cooking-under-pressure time of 5 minutes.

What appealed to me most about the recipe was that, unlike so many that abound for pressure cooker pasta, it wasn’t loaded with cheese and seemed to allow for an al dente pasta by finishing its cooking without the lid after the steam was released.

I’m sure that my purist friends will balk at this recipe and may question my loyalty to authentic Italian cooking.To them, I must concede that the end product of the recipe has far too much sauce for my liking. Indeed, it calls for 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, a 14.5 ounce of can diced tomatoes drained, and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.  Moreover, I was disappointed that it uses oregano and red-pepper flakes while its introduction claims its goal was a “sauce with the flavors of a Bolognese” is misleading.

pcpasta1sm
The ingredients

Despite these weak points, I was pleased with how this dish turned out. Cremini  mushrooms, which were browned along with chopped onion, were a nice complement to the ground beef, adding to the meatiness of the sauce. I also added some ground nutmeg to the browned meat as I do when preparing a traditional ragù Bolognese.

Although I know I will never achieve the heights of a true ragù, I plan to experiment with this recipe after the holidays, using more traditional ingredients and definitely far less tomato.

An  adaptation of the original recipe can be found here: http://www.comfycook.com/2014/05/weeknight-meat-sauce-with-rigatoni.html

Wine Pairing: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Sliced Beef with Tomatoes and Arugula

straplatedsmall

For me, one of the best times to visit Venice is the winter. Although it can get cold, and even albeit rarely snow, during this period, this unique city seems to shed the facade it puts on for spring and summer tourists and shows its true colors. You stroll through the city’s narrow alleys and passageways and through the silence you can hear its citizens going through their daily routines. Somehow, you feel at one with them and are woven into the fabric of La Serenissima.

On one of my visits, I chanced upon a small restaurant, whose name escapes me now, at lunch hour. There were only a few patrons, one table of businessmen, another table with a family of five celebrating a nonna’s birthday. It didn’t take long before I was seated and handed a menu with many familiar dishes typical of the region. One of them, however, stood out, as I had never seen it before: straccetti di manzo con rucola, or “rags of beef with arugula.” I had to try it.

When it appeared on the table, I was struck by how much beef was on the plate, interlaced with wilted leaves of baby arugula and shavings of parmigiano-reggiano. But when I brought my fork to the beef, I saw how thinly sliced it was and realized that my serving, although more than adequate, was not as large as it had appeared at first.

I’ve been wanting to make this dish for some time now, and a recent conversation with a friend who had just been to Italy reminded me about it. So yesterday, I went to one of my butchers and told him I needed some beef for straccetti. To my surprise, he was familiar with the dish and suggested a few cuts. “It’s cooked quickly,” he said “and the meat needs to be tender. I suggest Bohemian steak.” He explained that this cut comes from the tail of the porterhouse, is well marbled, and very flavorful.”

I’m glad I followed his advice, for the dish l prepared last night could not have been better. The beef was cooked in a matter of minutes and, although no more than an eighth of an inch thick, was juicy and tender.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy dish, I highly recommend this one. A Google search yielded a plethora of recipes for straccetti and mine is an amalgam of at least four.

Straccetti di Manzo con Rucola e Pomodorini

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic peeled and smashed
5 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1 pound Bohemian steak, sliced into 1/8-inch strips
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon good quality Balsamic vinegar
1 large handful of wild arugula, washed and dried
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano shaved

The ingredients
The ingredients

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to eventually accommodate the meat in a single layer, place the olive-oil and smashed garlic and over medium-low heat poach the garlic until it becomes fragrant and a light gold.

Discard the garlic and add the sliced tomatoes with a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes just start to break down. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.

The tomatoes just breaking down
The tomatoes just breaking down

Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the remaining oil in the pan and raise the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, add the meat separating the slices so they form a single layer. Season the meat with salt and pepper and cook the meat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the strips are cooked through with no trace of blood. Add the balsamic and cook for about another minute until the vinegar has reduced slightly. Then add the reserved tomatoes with all of their juices. (Be careful not to overcook or the meat will be dry.)

stratomabalsmall
Beef with the tomatoes and balsamic

Turn off the heat, add the arugula and toss with the beef. The arugula will start to wilt. Add the shavings of cheese and toss once.

Tossed with the arugula and the cheese
Tossed with the arugula and the cheese

Serve immediately on heated plates accompanied with crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Wine Pairing: Valpolicella, Merlot

Beef in Barolo

beefbaroloplatedsmall

As summer draws near to its end, I’m anticipating the richer dishes of fall and winter.: the hearty stews, the rich braises, the luxurious roasts—all make it easy for me to bid farewell to summer and its light cuisine. So maybe it was serendipity that led me into my local Whole Foods on Saturday to find chuck roast discounted 25%. How could I resist?

We had a full schedule on Sunday, so I turned to my trusty slow cooker to cook the roast and to Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker for a recipe. (This author’s slow-cooker books (Italian, French, and Mediterranean) are a great resource for this appliance, offering fool-proof, authentic recipes.) I turned to the book’s “Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb” section and, once again, was pleasantly surprised to discover that its first recipe was for the cut of meat I had purchased: “Beef in Barolo.”

As my savings at Whole Foods could not justify the expense of a Barolo for cooking, I thought I could more than get by with a younger version of this wine made from the same grape, Nebbiolo. And one more time luck led me to a local merchant where I found a bottle of Langhe from a reputable producer at a very good price.

Here’s a link to the recipe online. If you like your carrots and celery in the braise to have some chew, you may opt, as I did, to slice them on the thick side. However, any way you choose to slice your vegetables, this recipe yields an aromatic and deliciously succulent roast that holds its shape even after six hours of cooking.

The roast before slicing
The roast before slicing

Wine Pairing: Langhe, Cabernet Sauvignon