This wonderfully simple Tuscan stew can be made a day ahead of time, cooled and stored in the fridge. It will allow you to easily remove the fat that has solidified on the top. If you do not feel like making polenta, this is also wonderful with creamy mashed potatoes.
For the peposo:
- 3 pounds boneless beef stew meat (i.e., chuck, round)
- Olive oil
- 1 bottle of strong Tuscan dry wine (i.e. Chianti, Sangiovese)
- 10 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 teaspoons black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
For the polenta:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta (there are a lot of ground corn products available so look for one labeled “polenta”)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons butter
Make the peposo:
- If not already done so, dice the stew meat into 1-2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt.
- In a heavy bottom deep pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Working in batches as not to crowd, deeply brown the stew meat all over. More oil should release from the meat but add more if needed.
- Remove the batches to a bowl so the juices can collect.
- In the same pot over medium heat, add the browned meat back in. Lightly crush the peppercorns. Add in the wine, garlic, the peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt. If the wine does not cover the meat, add a bit water to the wine to cover.
- Bring the stew to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart.
- Taste and adjust salt if needed.
Make the polenta:
Start the polenta about 30-40 minutes ahead when you plan to serve the stew.
- Bring 4 cups of water and salt to a boil over medium heat. Add in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to stir until occasionally. Adjust the heat so you have big bubbles coming to the surface every 10-30 seconds. It will take about 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken and become creamy. If the mixture becomes to dry, add more hot water.
- When it thickens to your taste, remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter.
- Spoon polenta into a serving bowl and top with Peposo stew. (Place any unused polenta in a small glass dish and chill to firm up. Fry pieces in a plan with a little olive oil for a quick snack.)