As we step into the cooler months, hearty braised dishes take pride of place. Brasato, meaning braised, is a delicious method of cooking more fibrous or tougher cuts of meat. The slow and low cooking method makes for tender fare. Barolo, one of Italy’s great red wines, is a classic foil for this dish, and its robust flavours stand up well.
The best meat for this is shoulder meat, a sottopaletta (under the shoulder blade). But you can just as easily make it with beef chuck…a little fat and connective tissue help it along.
Donkey is a surprisingly lean and mild meat, and one which is perfect in this preparation.
- 1 kg of donkey shoulder
- 2 tbsps butter
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 carrot, chopped fine
- 1 stick of celery, chopped fine
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- Light grating of nutmeg
- 1 onion, minced
- A dozen juniper berries, crushed
- A few pinches of cinnamon
- Trinity of herbs: sage, rosemary and thyme…a sprig each
- 1 bottle of Barolo or other Nebbiolo wine
- Beef stock or water if needed to cover the meat
Brown the meat all over in a heavy-botttomed casserole in the olive oil over medium heat. Remove and set aside. Turn the heat down and sauté the vegetables until thoroughly sweated.
Return the meat to the pot, add the wine, herbs, and cover. Turn the heat up enough to bring it almost to a boil, and then reduce it to find a temperature which is only very just bubbling—you want to cook it slowly. The meat should be fully submerged, so add liquid to make it so.
Simmer gently for 2 hours and then turn off the heat and let cool overnight. Remove the meat, slice, and set aside. Remove cloves, bay leaf, and herbs, and then using an immersion blender, turn the liquid and vegetables into a thick sauce. Heat until just about to boil, add in the butter, stir to blend, turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the meat in the sauce to warm up, then remove and arrange on a platter. Nap the meat with the sauce and serve.
This is best served accompanied with polenta or potatoes. Divine.