A recipe for braised beef with red wine and rum

Some pandemic days are harder than others. Today is one of those days. It feels like I have been home forever and that time itself may well have stopped. Are we underwater? I can’t hear anything outside. It’s so still.

I’m also no longer going to work at the office as numbers continue to rise in Italy and they will soon start drive-by COVID-19 testing at our offices instead.

But the sun was out today and we live in a yellow pandemic zone in Italy which means that while we have a curfew and must wear masks and dine at strange hours, we can still breathe and get in the car and go to the grocery store. Still here but still good.

The eating is still good too. I made Brasato al Barolo over the weekend or rather Brasato al ‘cheap grocery store red wine blend from northern Italy’. Brasato means braised in Italian and Brasato al Barolo is basically beef cooked in Barolo red wine, sort of an Italian Beef Bourguignon.

I bought a fancy Barbera wine the other day (more on that in another post) that deserved a proper northern Italian dish and as something seemed twisted about drinking a Barbera and cooking with a Barolo, we mixed it up and went with a Langhe red blend for the cooking instead of a Barolo.

I adapted a recipe from a cookbook I bought in the city of Alba a few years ago, “Nonna Genia by Luciano De Giacomi and Beppe Lodi” which included rum!

The rum surprised me until my brother mentioned he was cooking Beef Bourguignon in Vermont on the very same night and I realized that it is similar to adding cognac to the French version. Rum also shows up in Italian cooking, especially in desserts, as is the case with rum babà, the rum-soaked dessert often associated with Naples.

Seasoned with rosemary, cloves, and cinnamon, the beef smelled like Christmas and mulled wine as it simmered and bubbled away on the stovetop, for almost five hours! It took me almost five hours to make the recipe below. It was delicious but maybe it’s best enjoyed in a restaurant when we return to the post-pandemic world.

I served it with roast potatoes and sautéed swiss chard. The wine pairing worked well, although the wine was a bit of a beast clocking in at 16% alcohol. Which just meant that after five hours of cooking, I passed out cold on the couch.

Braised beef with red wine and rum

Serves 4

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kilogram) of veal shoulder roast
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/4 of a cup of rum
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of lardo, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, needles only, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 quart (1 liter) of beef broth
  1. Melt the butter with the lardo in a large heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and pepper to the pot and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the meat and brown.
  4. Add the entire bottle of wine and lower the heat.
  5. When the wine has almost completely evaporated, add 1/2 of a cup of water and cook until it has almost completely evaporated.
  6. Add 1/2 of a cup of water 3 more times, letting the water almost completely evaporate each time before adding more.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the beef broth.
  8. Add the beef broth to the pot with the meat and cover and cook over medium heat for an hour.
  9. Remove the meat and purée the liquid with a hand-held mixer.
  10. Return the meat and the purée to the pot and cook over medium heat until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
  11. Add the rum and cook for another 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the meat and thinly slice.
  13. Plate and top with the sauce and serve.

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