SERVES 4 TO 6
Beef stew with pears? Absolutely delicious when made by my friends Giovanni and Iris Lodovici. This antique Tuscan recipe is known as peposo (from the word pepe for "pepper") and its origins go back to tilemakers who prepared a calderone (big pot) of stew and placed it at the mouth of the fornace (oven) while they made tiles. They left the stew to cook for many hours, which resulted in deliciously tender meat in a beautiful sauce made with vin santo (holy wine).
In today's Tuscan kitchen pears have been replaced by tomatoes and the dish is more commonly referred to as peposo dell'Impruneta, taking its name from the town of Impruneta near Florence where the tiles that are famous all over the world (cotto dell'impruneta) are still made. In this dish the true worth of the four evangelists of Italian cooking is evident. Vin Santo is made in many areas of Italy and is a beautiful amber-colored, high-alcohol dessert wine. If it is not available, use a good moscato wine.
For quick work in the kitchen use a food processor to mince the vegetables and herbs. Make the dish several days ahead and refrigerate, to really meld the flavors.
1 carrot, scraped and cut into quarters
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 rib celery, cut in half
3 large sprigs parsley
4 cloves garlic
4 whole basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles
4 whole sage leaves
1/3 cup Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 pounds stew beef, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup vin santo or moscato wine
2 cups hot beef broth
1 tablespoon whole green peppercorns in vinegar, drained
Zest of 1 lemon
3 ripe William, Anjou, or Bartlett pears
In a food processor or with a chef's knife, mince together the carrot, onion, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, thyme, marjoram, mint, rosemary, and sage. Set it aside.
In an ovenproof 10 1/2x 2 1/2-inch sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and stir in the minced vegetables and herbs and sauté them, stirring occasionally, until they soften, but do not let them brown. Transfer the ingredients to a dish and set is aside.
Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
Dry the meat with paper towels; sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and when the oil begins to shimmer, add the bay leaf and meat and sauté, turning the meat frequently to brown it. When there is no more liquid in the pan, raise the heat to high, add the wine and allow it to reduce by half. Lower the heat and pour in the beef broth to cover the meat. Return the vegetable mixture to the pan and stir in the peppercorns and the lemon zest. Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
Peel and core the pears. Dice 2 of the pears, then cover and set them aside. Puree the remaining pear in a food processor or blender until it is smooth. Cover and set it aside.
Stir the pureed pear into the meat mixture. Cover the pan and bake for an additional 1 1/2 hours, adding more broth if necessary. Five minutes before the meat is done, remove the bay leaf and add the diced pears.
Serve immediately. This stew can also be refrigerated for several days.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.
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