Beef Braised in Beer
Brasato alla Birra

serves: 6 servings

Beef chuck, or shoulder, offers excellent cuts for stews and braises, because the meat is extremely tasty and, over long cooking, all the connective tissue adds flavor and body to the dish. For this braise, I especially like the compact chunk of meat cut off the top of the shoulder blade, which is known by many names, including "top blade" or "top chuck shoulder" or "flat iron." This piece is usually sliced and packaged as steaks, but ask your butcher to give you a whole top blade, as a roast. The more common beef chuck or shoulder roast, which comes from the underside of the shoulder, would be fine in this recipe, too.

4 ounces thick-sliced slab bacon, cut in chunks
3 medium onions, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 to 5-pound boneless beef shoulder roast
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
3 cups flavorful beer or ale, (teo 12-ounce bottles)
6 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Arrange a rack in the center of the oven with room for an covered braising pan, and heat to 375 degrees. Put the chunks of bacon and onion and a teaspoon of the salt in a food processor, and mince together into a fine-textured pestata.

Trim the beef of fat, and sprinkle all over with salt, using another teaspoon in all. Spread the flour on a plate and dredge the roast thoroughly, coating all surfaces, then shake off any excess.

Pour the olive oil into a big pan, and set it over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, then lay the roast in the hot oil. Brown the beef well, turning it every few minutes to sear another surface, until nicely colored all over, about 10 minutes.

Push the meat to one side of the pan, drop the pestata into the pan, and stir and cook it on the pan bottom until it has dried out and just begins to stick, about 5 minutes. Move the meat back to the center of the pan, drop in the bundle of thyme sprigs, and pour the beer in around the roast.

Bring the beer to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the pan bottom. Pour in enough stock so the braising liquid comes halfway up the sides of the roast, and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon salt all over.

Cover the pan, and bring the liquid quickly to a boil, then set it into the heated oven. After 2 hours, lift the cover, drop the 3 tablespoons mustard into the braising liquid, stir carefully, cover again, and braise another hour.

Remove the cover, and continue the oven-braising, stirring the bottom of the pan occasionally, as the sauce reduces and concentrates.

When it has thickened to a good consistency-it should take another 30 minutes or so-carefully take the pan out of the oven.

Lift the meat onto a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Fan the slices on a warm platter, skim off any fat from the surface of the pan sauce, and ladle some of it over the meat. Serve right away, passing more sauce at the table.