MAKES 3 QUARTS
How do you make a good beef vegetable soup? Use meaty bones such as neck bones, steak bones, or shin bones; they lend great flavor to the broth. I like to use center-cut shin bone for this homey soup. And I follow the same traditions handed down at home, with one exception: I like to add slices of cooked polenta just before serving. Make the soup a day ahead and refrigerate it. This makes it easy to remove the fat that has collected and congealed on the surface of the soup.
FOR THE SOUP
1 tablespoon Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 3/4 pounds meaty beef shin, center cut with bone, trimmed of any fat
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 cups diced fresh plum tomatoes
2 stalks celery, washed and quartered
2 large carrots, scraped and quartered
2 1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
Grinding of coarse black pepper
12 whole cloves tied in a small piece of cheesecloth
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large bunch basil
10 cups hot water
FOR THE POLENTA
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
3 cups cold water
To make the polenta, pour the cornmeal into a 1 1/2-quart saucepan and stir in the water with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the cornmeal starts to thicken and leave the sides of the pan. Cook for about 15 minutes, always stirring in one direction to keep the mixture smooth.
Pour the polenta out onto a cutting board, spread it evenly, and let cool. Cut the polenta into 8 pieces, cover with a piece of wax paper, set aside, and keep warm.
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and brown the beef shin slowly on all sides. Add the onion, tomatoes, celery, carrots, salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaf, oregano, basil, and the water. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the beef shin is tender when pierced with a knife.
With a slotted spoon remove the beef bones, carrots, and celery and place on a cutting board. Remove the cloves and discard. Pour the remaining liquid and ingredients through a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Press on the solids to extract the juices, then discard the solids. Pour the liquid into a large bowl and set aside.
Trim the meat from the bones and shred it into small pieces. Add the meat to the liquid in the bowl. Cut the carrots and celery into thin slices and add them to the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to use, remove the plastic wrap; scoop off the fat that has congealed at the top of the bowl and discard it. Pour the soup back into a soup pot and heat on low until hot.
Place a slice of polenta in each individual soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the polenta and serve immediately.
Refrigerate the remaining soup for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Tip: You can make the polenta ahead of time. Cool, cover, and refrigerate it. When needed, cut it into pieces and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until hot in a preheated 350ºF oven.
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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