Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentine's Day Peposo



During my career as a teacher, I used to make this dish every year on a wintery day in February when my colleagues and I were at the end of our rope: the snow, the cold, the noisy, restless boys in our classrooms. It was comforting to get together, relaxing around a blazing fire as we inevitably talked shop...those boys we taught were never far from our minds. The Peposo filled our bellies and the wine brought a lighthearted silliness difficult to attain (nor would it have been recommendable) in the seriousness of our regular school setting.

This snowy Saturday, I prepared it as our Valentine's dinner to share with our cousins.

Peposo's origins are associated with the building of Brunelleschi's Duomo. Whether it's true or not, the story goes that the tiles used for the Duomo came from nearby Impruneta, an area famous to this day for its terra cotta. In Impruneta, the tile makers were in the habit of cooking this peppery, wine drenched meat in their tile making kilns. When the Duomo was built, many of these same laborers, hired to build the Duomo, cooked their Peposo all morning long, while they worked in the dizzying heights above the ground. When it was ready, the Peposo was sent up by a pulley so they could avoid the dangerous trip down.

Peposo for 6 persons

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 3 to 4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper (you may want to adjust this to your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon pepper corns
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • dry red wine, enough to cover the meat when ready to start cooking (about two bottles)
  • 5 bay leaves (I used fresh bay leaves, but you can use dry)
  • Olive oil for browning the meat

Method:
  1. Chop the meat into large cubes, taking care to remove fat as much as you are able to.
  2. Brown the cubes of meat with the garlic cloves in the olive oil over a medium flame, but remove the garlic cloves before they start to burn. Do this a few pieces at a time so you don't crowd your pot while you're doing this.
  3. Replace all the pieces of meat in the pot, add the bay leaves, salt, pepper corns, ground pepper, and the wine.
  4. Turn up the heat until it begins to boil, and lower until it begins to simmer. Place a lid on the pot, but leave it cracked open a bit so there is some evaporation.
  5. Stir every so often to be sure all the meat is getting cooked in the wine. After 3 or 4 hours, it will be ready, with a velvety, peppery sauce and meat that is tender and edible with a fork but still maintaining its form.

Note: You may want to prepare it a day ahead, and separate the meat chunks from the liquid in the pot. After you refrigerate it overnight, you can separate the fat that may appear on the surface of the liquid and then recombine the meat with the liquid and reheat before you serve it. I prepared an herbed polenta to go with it.

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