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Beef in Barbera

This classic would traditionally be made with Barolo wine. However, Italians themselves love Barolo, which they don't make a whole lot of, meaning that an exported Barolo is costly. A fine substitute is Barbera. We had excellent results with a Thornton Barbera at $6.99. A better wine would be elegant. The sauce is rich and unctuous. Serve with a soft polenta made with chicken broth and flavored with thyme and Parmesan or a potato-carrot puree.

3 to 4 pounds trimmed beef brisket
3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 bottle (750 ml) Barbera wine

Make 1/2-inch-deep slits all over the brisket. Push a strip of bacon into each.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, rosemary and sage; set aside. On a plate, mix 1/3 cup of the flour with the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dredge the brisket in the flour, then shake off excess.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Raise heat to moderately high and push the onion to one side. Add brisket and cook until well browned on the bottom. Turn brisket over and scatter the herb mixture and carrots around it. Cook until well browned on the second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the meat to a platter.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Return the casserole to the heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine and boil over high heat until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining wine and bring to a simmer. Return brisket to the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Tightly cover the casserole and braise the meat in the oven until very tender, about 4 hours.

Turn the meat every 45 minutes, and add a little water to the pot if the sauce looks very thick. Let the brisket cool, then cover and refrigerate in its sauce for up to 2 days. Remove fat and re-warm the brisket. Remove from pot, slice across the grain, return to pot and heat until hot.

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine

Thursday, February 18, 1999

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