Each year in late October, when the weather is just about perfect, our neighborhood throws a block party. The streets are partitioned off, tables are set up and it’s BYOC (bring your own chair), with plenty of room left for dancing in the street. We’ve enjoyed everything from October Fest fare (German sausages, kraut and beer), Cowboy Grub, including the country-western singer to entertain all us dudes and dudettes, to a unique dish I’ve never had, Cincinnati Chili (chili with allspice, cinnamon and clove, topped with spaghetti, a mound of cheddar cheese, onions and beans). The year I co-chaired the event, we had an Italian Festa, with food booths offering different Italian street foods (I made dozens and dozens of cannoli for the dolce (dessert) booth). The much anticipated raffle included bottles of wine, dinners for two at local restaurants and a home-cooked meal in the winner’s home. The lucky winner had only to invite the guests, set the table for eight and enjoy the evening, because all of the preparation, shopping, cooking, serving, even the clean-up was included. I was so excited, not because I was the recipient … I was the cook! The Stracoto, the Secondi Piatti of the five course meal (listed below), is great for dinner parties because you can prepare it in advance and tastes even better the next day. I called upon my trusted Sous Chef, Joe (my son, a very talented cook, server and bartender extraordinaire) to take time off from his studies at the University of Arizona to help his mamma. The evening was a great success (thanks Joe) and my son and I had fun cooking together!
- 4 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 3/4 cups beef broth
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- Pat beef dry with paper towels, season generously with salt and pepper.
- In a large, heavy roasting pan, warm the oil on medium-high, add the beef, cook until brown on all sides.
- Transfer meat to a plate, add onions to roasting pan, saute until tender and lightly caramelized.
- Add garlic, saute a minute or two.
- Measure out the beef broth then put in the dried mushrooms. (Dried mushrooms usually come in 1-ounce packages and can be a bit pricey, but the rich flavor they add is worth it, not to mention you’ll get two uses out of the package)
- Add wine to pan, boil a minute or so, then add broth with mushrooms.
- Return the beef to the pan, bring liquids to a boil, then cover and cook in a preheated 350* oven for 3 hours
- When the beef is done, transfer to a cutting board.
- In a blender, puree the remaining onions, mushrooms and all of the pan juices until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (See note below).
- Slice beef, arrange on platter (or individual plates), spoon on sauce and enjoy a home cooked meal fit for company and winners of raffles.
*Note: This is when I wrap the beef (after it’s cool) in foil and refrigerate. I place the sauce in a covered container and stick it in the frig too. The next day when I am ready to serve, I cut the meat across the grain in 1/2-inch slices, place in a skillet (on the stove or in an ovenproof dish in the oven), top with some of the porcini mushroom sauce and warm. Extra sauce can be warmed and served on the side. The verdure (vegetables) on the plate are green beans and grape tomatoes I put on a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and stuck in the oven with the pot roast the last 30 minutes of cooking. Orzo with Roasted Shallots or Risi e Bisi are also good Primi Piatti choices
The stracoto recipe for the raffle dinner was from the cookbook, Everyday Italian, by Giada De Laurentiis