Slow-Cooked Beef with Juniper Berries

Slow-Cooked Beef with Juniper Berries
Stracotto di Manzo al Ginepro, from Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan

Alchemists may not have succeeded in converting common metals to gold but with this recipe you will see what the magic of simple cooking can accomplish. Five ingredients are put in a pot, it is covered, the heat is turned on and all you have to do is sit back and have faith. After two hours you look inside and those five ingredients will have transformed into an extraordinary dish.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time from start to finish: about 2 hours
Serves 4 to 6 people

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups onions, thinly sliced crosswise
2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 2 or 3 pieces so as to comfortably fit in the pot
1 teaspoon juniper berries
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the olive oil and the sliced onions in a heavy-bottomed pot and place the meat on top.
2. Lightly crush the juniper berries (this can be done easily by placing them in a ziplock bag and mashing them with a meat pounder) and add them to the pot. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover the pot tightly by placing a double or triple thickness of wet paper towels under the lid. Turn the heat onto medium low.
4. When you hear the contents of the pot bubbling, remove the lid and adjust the heat so that meat cooks at a very gentle simmer. Replace the lid and simmer for about two hours, or until the meat is extremely tender when prodded with a fork. You can begin checking it after an hour and after an hour and a half.
5. When the meat is done the sauce should be thick enough to cling to a spoon. If it is too thin, remove the meat and raise the heat until it has reduced.
This dish may be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and reheated over gentle heat with a couple of tablespoons of water.

Note: I recommend increasing the amount of onions and braising in a 275 oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Cover the meat with parchment paper before braising, omit the paper towels.