Stracotto di Manzo al Latte

Beef Braised in Milk

A Fixture of my cooking courses is a dish that consistently surprises and gladdens my students: pork braised in milk, a masterpiece of Bolognese cooking. (The recipe is given in The Classic Italian Cook Book on page 284.) It is the model on which I based this recipe for beef. In working with the beef, I have had to deviate slightly from the astonishing simplicity of the original, which contains, aside from the shortening, only pork and milk; Beef being less tasty than pork, I have studded it with pancetta and added the flavor foundation of a basic soffritto—sautéed chopped onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta. Aside from those additions, the procedure is the same: The meat braises slowly to a tender end in the milk, which is eventually transformed into delicious, nut-colored clusters of sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds bottom round of beef
  • ¼ pound pancetta, or salt pork, or prosciutto fat
  • A larding needle or a meat probe or other narrow, long, cylindrical tool
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup onion cut up coarse
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Method

  1. Lard the meat in several places with 1 ounce of pancetta, or other pork fat, using a larding needle or any satisfactory substitute.
  2. Choose a solid, heavy-bottomed pot with a close-fitting lid. Put in the butter, carrot, celery, and onion. Chop the remaining pancetta fine and put that in. Turn on the heat to medium, leaving the pot uncovered, and sauté the vegetables, turning them from time to time, until they are browned lightly.
  3. Add the beef and brown it on all sides. When well browned, add salt and pepper, turn the meat once or twice, then add the milk. Turn down the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and slowly bring the milk to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours, turning the meat from time to time. If the liquid in the pot is boiling too fast, turn down the heat a little.
  4. After 2 hours, set the pot’s cover slightly askew and raise the heat a little. Cook for 15 minutes longer, letting some of the liquid evaporate.
  5. Remove the meat to a cutting board, uncover the pot, turn up the heat, and further reduce the liquid, stirring steadily. Then strain all the cooking juices through a food mill fitted with a small-holed disk. Into this strained sauce stir the lemon juice.
  6. Slice the meat very thin and return it to the pot, spreading some of the sauce over each slice. Pour any remaining sauce over the meat, cover the pot, and turn on the heat to low.
  7. Reheat gently for 3 to 4 minutes, taking care that the sauce does not simmer.
  8. Transfer the meat with all its sauce to a warm serving platter, sprinkle the parsley over it, and serve at once.

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