What would I rather do with that $40 bottle of Barolo, drink it or dump it into a pot so my Barolo Braised Beef tastes more "authentic"? I have to admit the last time I made this dish, I used a $15 nebbiolo, but just so you know, the next time I make it I'm reaching for the $5 Spanish red and saving the Barolo for the table.
All this new knowledge was brought about by a great article in today's NYT about the value of cooking with the best wine possible versus using something cheap, perhaps even Two Buck Chuck-ish. All of us passionate, amateur home cooks have always believed the rap that the better the wine, the better the dish. Well, it turns out we can keep more of our hard earned jack in our wallets because as this article by Julia Moskin seems to prove, the cheap juice works just fine. Maybe some of the best cooking news I've heard in a long time, and answers the question that I get asked all the time at VINO.
When you click on the link for the article, there are also three great recipes you can link to. You can bet your bellies I'll be trying them soon and reporting the results. Here's the recipe for Barolo Braised Beef that I got off Epicurious...it rocked the dinnner table!
BAROLO BRAISED BEEF
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) boneless beef chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 lb sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red (and if you read the NYT article, you can go all Mario Batali and use the cheap merlot- bb)
2 cups water
*Special equipment: a 4- to 5-qt heavy ovenproof pot with lid
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs. Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.
*Cooks' note: Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, then chill in sauce, covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat. (I made it same day and it tasted just fine, but next time I'll plan ahead and see if it does matter- bb)
*Accompaniment: creamy polenta