Casseroles are meant for winter eating and one of the classic casserole's that comes to mind in describing this method of cooking is a Tuscan dish, now almost lost to time, called peposa, a hearty stew of wild boar meat with lots of pepper (from where the dish derives its name), pungent spices, and aromatic vegetables. It became the signature casserole of the town of Impruneta, an important tile making center in Tuscany and while the tile makers worked all day firing clay tiles, they stewed tough cuts of meat in earthenware pots, and buried them directly in the hot embers of wood burning ovens that were also used to bake bread. By the end of the work day, peposo was ready to eat.
Tilemakers Stew - Peposo dei Fornaciai
1-1/2 pounds of veal stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cloves of whole peeled garlic
Sangiovese or Chianti wine to cover meat
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
Salt to taste
4 whole sage leaves tied with string
1 large sprig rosemary
2 whole bay leaves.
Season the meat with salt and crushed black pepper and transfer the meat to a Dutch oven type pot. Add the garlic. Pour wine along sides of the pan and scatter the whole black peppercorns around the meat. Add sage and bay leaves. Cover the pan and cook the peposo for 3 to 4 hours over low heat. At the end of cooking the meat must be very soft.
Serve with toasted Tuscan bread or over polenta
**Note some peposo recipes call for carrots, potatoes and even pears