I apologize for having dropped off the planet. I got strep throat and an ear infection for the second time in 2 weeks (both!!), and between that and last minute holiday stuff, the blog just took a backseat for a while.
So suffice to say this post will be short and sweet.
Now about this dish. I found the original recipe in Diane Kochilas’s The Country Cooking of Greece, a big, beautiful coffe table style cookbook exploring Greek cuisine. This particular recipe comes from Kozani, in central Macedonia. It is a stew, and it calls for stew meat in chunks. I confess whenever I see a recipe like that, I prefer to slowly braise an entire chuck roast, complete with bone. So my method differs a bit. The recipe also calls for prunes, and I was out, so I subbed raisins. And rather than remove the carrot and celery, I added them chopped and left them in the stew. I also added extra onions just because we love them with braised beef. We especially enjoyed this dish with homemade bread, provided by my mother.
A note about the grape molasses: Kochilas calls it “grape must syrup,” but after some research this revealed itself to be the same thing as grape molasses. This is not the same thing as regular molasses, but rather grape juice that has been boiled down to a syrupy consistency. You should be able to find it any grocery store with a Mediterranean import section.
Kozani Braised Beef with Grape Molasses
Adapted from Diane Kochilas, The Country Cooking of Greece
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
3-4 lbs bone-in beef chuck, patted dry and salted and peppered on each side
2 large onions, finely chopped
salt to taste
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
2 allspice berries
1 T sweet paprika
2 large onions, sliced into wedges
1/2 cup dark raisins (or equivalent prunes)
1/3 cup grape must syrup (grape molasses)
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven. When it is hot, add the beef chuck and brown it on both sides. When it is brown, remove it to a large bowl.
If more oil is needed, add a little more. Add the onions, carrots and celery with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the whole spices, bay leaves and paprika to the pot with another pinch of salt and mix them into the mirepoix. Then add the beef chuck, with any juices, back into the pot. Add water to come 3/4 of the way up the beef.
Place a heavy lid onto the pot, and place it in the preheated oven. Let braise for 3 hours. Then remove and stir in the grape molasses, the raisins and the onions wedges. Return to the oven and turn the heat up to 325 F. Cook for another hour. Taste for additional salt. Remove the bay leaves and warn your guests about the whole spices.
Serve chunks of the tender beef with the gravy it has cooked in, along with fresh parsley. We chose to serve it with bread, but you could also serve it on mashed potatoes, noodles or rice.