A recipe from Piemonte: Brasato al Barolo . . . A Perfect Holiday dish!

Holiday Dinner

I haven’t been very active on my blog lately and apologize for that. Many things have kept me occupied, however, I could not let the Holidays go by without thanking all of you for your support through my first year of blogging.

I shall also thank two very special bloggers, Meg at Meg Travels and Letizia at Dutch goes Italian for awarding me with the Blog of the Year 2012 Award. I am humbled and honored to be in such a great company . . . GRAZIE, GRAZIE, GRAZIE!!!

To celebrate my 1 year Anniversary, my Award, and the Holiday Season I want to share a recipe that I think you will love: Brasato al Barolo. A dish typical of the Piemonte region and perfect for a special occasion such as Christmas.

The beef is marinated in Italian Barolo wine for almost 24 hours then slow cooked in the same marinade for 3 more hours, the result is a rich dish full of flavor, elegant and earthy, comforting and intense all at the same time.

Barolo is a full-bodied Italian wine from the Nebbiolo grapes. It is quite expensive (especially in the US) so I often substitute Barolo with Nebbiolo, You will still have to pay around $20 for a bottle of Nebbiolo, however, for a special occasion, it is wort the expense.

You can read about my visit to the Marchesi di Barolo ‘s winery in the town of Barolo clicking on this link: A day in Barolo

I prepared Brasato al Barolo last week for a Holiday dinner with some dear friends, but the first time I cooked Brasato al Barolo was in 1982 when I invited my boyfriend to meet my parents. Although it was not my intention to – as they say in Italy –  “prendere l’uomo per la gola” (literally: take a man through his throat; meaning: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach), that man is today my husband of 26 years . . . I think he was impressed!

The Brasato al Barolo is typically served with a side of polenta, mashed potatoes or stewed pearl onions. For my Holiday dinner I served my Brasato with my mom’s version of mashed potatoes (simply boiled and mashed and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a lot of extra-virgin olive oil), sautéed broccoli rapini and cipolline all’aceto balsamico (pearl onions stewed in balsamic vinegar). My Holiday dinner turned into a two days cooking affair as I also served a primo piatto (first course) of rondelle (fresh pasta roll ups) spinach and ricotta with bechamel sauce. I also prepared pears cooked in red wine served with Sabayon sauce as dessert. And since I LOVE desserts, I made mini Panettone cakes covered in chocolate ganache and lastly chocolate-chestnut truffles!

Rondelle spinach and ricottaPere cotte al vinoTruffles and mini cakes

I promised that I will share all these recipes soon.

I would like to encourage you to read my previous posts on Italian Christmas’s  culture and traditions. You can learn about the fascinating Neapolitan Presepe (Crèche), the truth about the Feast of Seven Fish, and New Year’s Eve Italian traditions.  You can also add some traditional Neapolitan desserts to your table with my recipe for struffoli and mostaccioli.

Lastly, I would like to nominate three bloggers that I have being enjoying following, for the Blog of the Year 2012 Award:

Two Black Dogs

Our Italian Table

Writingfeemail’s Blog

Congratulations and thank you for such enjoyable blogs!

Please read the rules of the award at the bottom of this post.

Happy Holidays to all and don’t forget to keep the little angels of Sandy Hook Elementary School in your hearts throughout this Holiday Season.

Ricetta

Brasato al Barolo

Cosa serve (What you need)

2 pounds beef (shoulder, chuck or boneless short ribs)

1 bottle of Barolo or Nebbiolo

1  onion quartered

1 large carrot chopped

1 celery stalk chopped

1 bay leaf

4 tablespoon of unsalted butter

3 cloves

1 small cinnamon stick

8-10 peppercorns

4-5 juniper berries

1 sprig rosemary, 1 small bunch of sage, 1 small bunch thyme – tied together

1/2 cup cognac – optional

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 oz. prosciutto fat – minced

Cosa fare (What to do)

Pat dry the meat and place it in an earthenware pot. Add the chopped  vegetable, the herbs, and all the spices.

Prepping the BrasatoHerbsSpices

Sprinkle with salt and then pour the wine.

Barolo wineBarolo marinade

Cover with the pot and let marinade in the refrigerator for at  least 12 hours (24 hours would be ideal). Turn the meat over few times during the marinade period.

When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Also remove the vegetables and herbs. Strain the marinade and discard any remaining solids, including the spices (I did not remove the spices which resulted in a too intense flavor).

In the same pot, heat the oil and butter. Add the vegetables and let them browned.  Also add the bunch of herbs.

Browning vegetables

Add the meat and brown on all sides. At this point if you decide to use the optional cognac, you should splash the liquor over the meat and light it and let the flames go out. I am still not comfortable with this step so I simply splashed the meat with cognac, raise the heat to high and let evaporate.

Season the meat with salt, pour the wine from the marinade over it.

Slow cooking the Brasato

Cover and cook on very low heat for 2 hours.

Spoon out the vegetables and remove the bunch of herbs. Discard the herbs and puree the vegetables in a food processor.

Add the puree to the pot and continue cooking for 30 minutes. At this point the meat should be cooked. Remove it from the pot and keep it warm.

If the sauce appears too liquid, add 1 teaspoon of potato starch, bring to boil and let thicken.

Slice the meat, pour the sauce over and serve with the side dish of your choice.

Buon Appetito!!!

Brasato al Barolo

What are you serving at your Holiday dinner?

BUON NATALE!!!!

Rules for the Blog of the Year 2012 Award

  • Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award
  • Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.
  • Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/our-awards/blog-of-the-year-2012-award/   and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)
  • Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them
  • As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

Struffoli and Mostaccioli My favorite Christmas desserts

Yesterday was December 21, the shortest day of the year. That means brighter days are ahead and Christmas is only 4 days away.

Time to start My holiday desserts and to share two of My favorite Christmas recipes .

You probably all know about the Panettone from Milano and the Pandoro from Verona, both delicious holiday cakes and today easily available in many gourmet grocery stores.

But, how many of you know about two delicious specialties of the Neapolitan region, the Struffoli and the Mostaccioli?

The Struffoli and the Mostaccioli are nowhere to be found in the States (or at least around my area) so I had no choice that to make My own.

The Struffoli are a true Neapolitan dolce (dessert). It appears that the Greeks brought this specialty to Naples. From there it has widespread throughout Central and Southern Italy; however, with some variations from region to region.

The Struffoli are little balls of dough fried and then coated in honey. Their flavor improves after a couple of days. That’s why it is important to prepare them a few days before the event.  I use a traditional recipe without baking powder because I like My Struffoli a little crunchy. If you prefer a softer consistency add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and let the dough rest for 60 minutes. Also, the original recipe includes the Italian liqueur Strega or Anisette but, since just few weeks ago I bottled My Limoncello (you should know this if you have been following My blog!), I am using that in my recipe.

The Mostaccioli, also called Mustaccioli are sort of large biscotti (cookies) shaped like a diamond and covered with a chocolate glaze or ganache. The name Mostaccioli comes from the peasant’s habit to use the wine must in order to develop a more  intense and sweet flavor. 

The list of traditional Christmas desserts from the Neapolitan area also include other delicacies like the Susamielli, honey based biscotti shaped like the letter S. The Roccoco`, very hard biscotti, shaped like donuts with an intense flavor of almond and citrus. The Divinoamore, prepared for the first time by the nuns of the convent Divino Amore. The almonds and lemons along with the light pink glaze give these small bites a unique Mediterranean flavor.

I have yet to experiment with these recipes, may be next Christmas I will but for now, I hope you will enjoy My Struffloli and Mostaccioli.

My Mostaccioli

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nut meg

2 finely crushed cloves

the zest from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

juice from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pinch of salt

Warm water as necessary

For the glaze

1/4 pound semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cram

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift together the flower, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda and the cocoa powder. Add the sugar and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Add the orange and tangerine zest and the spices and process until combined.

In a measuring cup pour the required amount of  honey , add the orange juice and tangerine juice and then add to the dry ingredients (do not rinse the cup, add  ¼ cup of warm water and keep it aside).  Mix the dough at medium speed allowing all the ingredients to come together.

Add the Grand Marnier and keep processing the dough. Add the warm water as necessary to obtain a compact dough.

Mix the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl. It should be smooth with no lumps.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 360 degree F.

Remove the dough form the refrigerator and on a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a ½ inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath to make sure it is not sticking.

Cut the dough into diamond shape, large and/or small and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack to completely cool.

Prepare the chocolate ganache.

In a pan combine chocolate chips and the heavy cram in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts.

With a brush cover the bottom of the Mostaccioli with a thin layer of chocolate and let them dry completely. Once they are dry, flip the Mostaccioli and pour the chocolate over the top. Work on a wire rack with a pan underneath because you will have to allow the chocolate to drizzle down the sides. The Mostaccioli need several hours to dry completely.

My Struffoli

Ingredients

4 – ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

5- 2/3 tablespoon unsalted butter

zest from ½ lemon

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoon of Limoncello (options are Strega liqueur or Anisette or Rum)

Vegetable oil for frying (I use Peanut oil)

1 cup of honey

Multicolor nonpareils

Mixed candied fruit chopped into small pieces.

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift the flower, add the salt, the sugar, the lemon zest and the butter and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Slowly add the eggs and lastly the liqueur and process the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl (add a little bit of cold water if necessary).

The dough should be smooth.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

On a surface well dusted with flour knead the dough for few minutes and then divide into small balls, the size of oranges.

Working with one ball of dough at the time, roll the dough into ½ inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into ½ inch long pieces. As you cut the pieces placed them on a surface dusted with flour.

Right before frying transfer  the pieces of dough (one batch at the time) into a sieve and shake to remove excess flour.

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil to 175 degree and fry the pieces of dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan.

As soon as they became light gold, remove from the oil, drain and transfer into a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

Place a large pan on top of a pot with simmering water. Pour the honey in the pan and let melt. Remove from heat and add the fried Struffoli, add the candied fruit and stir until all the Struffoli are completely coated with honey.

To plate the Struffoli, place a glass or a round jar in the center of a serving plate and then place the Struffoli all around to form a ring. Sprinkle with nonpareils and let sit few hours before removing the glass/jar.

You still have time to make these two wonderful desserts, follow the recipes and remember I will be around if you have questions.

Don’t forget to check My blog tomorrow for My Christmas Eve Menu`!