This is a very simple, no nonsense, quick to prepare dish you can make easily in your wood-fired oven. It’s a big, satisfying meal that’s especially welcome in fall and winter. It’s very flexible, too, so experiment with different ingredients, especially vegetables. All you need with it is a green salad, good bread for dipping, and red wine, of course. You can double it for a crowd. Freezes well, but remove the potatoes first. One of the good things about this recipe is that you end up with exactly one pan and one pot to wash.
- 3 lbs bottom round roast, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 lb sausages cut in rounds (Italian, Chorizo, your choice)
- 1 large sweet, Vidalia or red onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs firm-fleshed potatoes cut in quarters, skin on
- 1 red pepper cut in strips
- 2-3 large unpeeled garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 cups fresh tomatoes, unpeeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 1 tsp oregano or thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 8-10 strips lean bacon (optional)
If you decide to use the bacon, render it in a large frying pan on the stove or in your oven, until it’s very crunchy. Reserve the fat to brown the meat and vegetables. Crumble the bacon once it’s drained and cooled.
Put about a cup of flour into a plastic bag. Spice the flour to your liking with sea salt, fresh pepper, paprika, oregano, etc. Toss the beef chunks in the bag about ten pieces at a time, shake off excess flour, and then brown well in a pan using either the bacon fat or olive oil. (Flouring the beef thickens the finished sauce during cooking, so you don’t have to.) Don’t crowd the pan to make sure the beef browns, not steams.
Place the browned meat in a large, enameled cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid. Brown the sausage rounds in the same frying pan; add to pot. Then brown the onions, celery, carrots and pepper in the same pan, adding olive oil if necessary. Add to the pot. Brown the potatoes. Add them, too.
Stir in the tomatoes, spices, and bacon. Bury the garlic among the ingredients.
If there’s more than a tablespoon of fat in the frying pan, discard it. Deglaze the pan with about a cup of beef stock or wine, scraping up the brown bits as the liquid comes to the boil. Pour into pot.
Pour enough beef stock and red wine (half and half works well) into the pot to almost cover the meat. Sprinkle the salt over the liquid.
Cook, covered, in a low and slow oven with no fire for about two hours. Timing will depend on the heat of the hearth. Take it out after 2 hours and uncover to see if the sauce is thickened to your liking and the beef is very tender. If you want a thicker sauce, return it to the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
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