Just a few days ago I wrote that I would take a break from my blog, that I didn't know when I would come back, but that I hoped it would be soon. You might be surprised to see me again after such a short period, but in these days I understood some things. I understood, thanks to a lot of kind messages and comments from many of you, that in these blogging months I gave to you more than I imagined, and I couldn't be happier about it. I understood that food and cooking are soul (and not only body) nourishment, and that sometimes you have to rediscover those nourishment by abandoning yourself to slowness, calm and patience … so that we can find that lost (or maybe just forgotten) taste.

For my personal quest I chose to rediscover an elaborated dish, a slowly cooked one, enriched by a thousand flavors and smells … I indulged in a pot roast, a dish that you can find in many places, but that I made ​​mine using a Piedmontese wine, a rich and full-bodied Barbera. I learned to prepare this dish in a recent cooking class about meat preparations, so I hope the procedure I followed is very meticulous. This is a slow preparation, so it will allow you to spend some time at home and dedicate yourself to something else, because you won't be sucked into the preparation, but in the end you'll have a great final dish, a dish that gives off the scent of the imminent holidays.

BEEF BRAISED IN BARBERA

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

* 1,2 kg beef (some piece suitable to roast)

* a large celery stick

* a large carrot

* an onion

* sage

* bay leaves

* rosemary

* thyme

* a clove

* 5 juniper berries

* 10 peppercorns (for me black pepper)

* non medicated gauze

* sewing thread

* 1,2 l full-bodied red wine (for me Barbera d'Asti)

* extra-virgin olive oil

* 20 g dried mushrooms (I avoided them, 'cause my mom is allergic)

* half a tablespoon of tomato concentrate

* meat or vegetable stock (you could need it)

* corn starch (you could need it)

Procedure

Peel carrot and onion, wash the celery and cut all in not too small pieces; put all the spices and herbs (clove, juniper berries, pepper, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and thyme) in a gauze and make bundle, closing it with sewing thread. Put in a large pot (or a container) the meat, then add the vegetables and the bundle of spices and cover them with red wine. It is absolutely essential that the meat is completely covered by the wine (otherwise it'll marinade unevenly). Let the meat marinate for at least 24 hours in the fridge.

Drain vegetables and meat from the wine, keeping the marinade aside; separate vegetables from meat. Soak the dried mushrooms in water (I avoided this step for allergy problems, as mentioned above) and, in the meantime, let the vegetables soften up in a pan with a drizzle of oil.

In a large saucepan (it must contain meat, vegetables and the marinade) heat some oil up and then seal the meat over high heat; season with salt. Remove the meat fats, add the sauteed vegetables and deglaze with wine from the marinade, and then add all the wine to the meat. Then add the mushrooms with their liquid, the tomato concentrate and the spices/herbs bundle.

Cover with a lid and cook slowly for about 2 ½ hours, or until the meat is very tender (time will depend on the piece of meat you choose and on its size). Flip over the meat from time to time and check that there's always enough liquid; if the wine isn't enough, add some broth (for me a vegetable one) or water.

When the meat is tender, separate it from the rest; remove the spices/herbs bundle (you can throw it away) and blend the vegetables (plus the liquid). If the mixture is too liquid, add some cornstarch. Cut the meat into not too thin slices (I cut it with an electric knife) and let them cook for a few minutes with the sauce. Serve the slices piping hot, with their sauce and maybe some polenta.

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