Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recipe - Spezzatino

The winter weather seems to have officially settled in throughout many parts of the world. I heard from my family in San Francisco about the unusually cold temperatures and the substantial amount of snow all up and down the West Coast. Here in Bologna we are still experiencing a very mild winter. We are starting to dip down to 0 Celsius at night but during the day the sun has been shining and the temperatures climb right back up to double digits – not that I am complaining.
For cold nights, there is nothing better than a recipe that requires the stove to be turned on for extended periods of time. I love knowing my dinner is bubbling away on the stove top and my apartment is becoming warmer and cozier by the minute – that is my kind of 2 for 1. Another great thing about those types of recipes is that usually there is only a small amount of active cooking time involved followed by a long period of passive cooking time which, for me, is the perfect time to kick up my feet and enjoy a glass of wine while unwinding from the day.
Here is exactly one of those kinds of recipes. It is easy to put together, will make your home warm and cozy plus it will make it smell delicious, and it is totally doable on a week night but it feels more like fancy, weekend food! That is a win, win, win!
If you translate the word Spezzatino using an Italian to English dictionary it will tell you it means stew – although that does not accurately describe the finished results. Instead, this dish consists of pieces of beef that are braised until they are tender and almost falling apart. I recommend serving it with potatoes – preferably mashed.
6 people
1 kg/2.2 lb Lean Beef, cut into slightly bigger than bite size pieces (I recommend having your butcher cut the meat – they have the good knives)
1 Yellow or White Onion, chopped
Olive Oil
1 glass of Red Wine (the recipe says Barolo is ideal – I say use whatever you are going to be drinking with the meal)
2 tsp of Tomato Concentrate diluted in a glass of water
Salt and Pepper
Onions sautéing in the pot and the potatoes getting ready in the back - the starchy potatoes really are necessary to soak up all the good sauce that will be created.

In a big pot, over medium low heat, pour a swirl of olive oil in the pot (enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pot) and sauté the onion.
As soon as the onion begins to color, add the meat and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir a few times and then leave the meat to cook until it loses its bright red color and just starts to brown.
Increase the heat to high and add the glass of red wine. Let all of the wine evaporate.
Turn the heat down to minimum and add the tomato concentrate and a ladle full of hot water. Leave the meat to cook for 1 hour, uncovered.
Check the salt and add more if necessary. Serve hot.

The finished product served with roasted potatoes and this wine.

*If the recipe seems vague that's because it is. In general, Italian recipes are very vague because they assume that you grew up cooking with your Italian mamma or nonna (grandma) and that you already have a lot of cooking knowledge. You can imagine my surprise the first time I made gnocchi and the recipe said Q.B. (which means quanto basta which translated to English means: enough) in regards to the quantity of flour. I remember thinking to myself, this is ridiculous, how am I supposed to know how much flour to use! The fact is that the cookbook authors assume you have already made these recipes before and that the written recipe is just serving as a guideline or a way to jog your memory. If something in the recipe is not clear or if you have a question, feel free to ask me in the comments.

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