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Lesser red wines benefit braised beef

A recent blind wine-tasting proved a point to my partner.

With two bottles of red wine open on the kitchen counter, I convinced him I needed to open a third. The other two, simply put, were not good.

Fortunately, one was bestowed from a family member’s entire case with the caveat that she didn’t particularly care for it and wasn’t sure why she had purchased such quantity. On my palate, the California old vine zinfandel had the musty aroma of old books.

The other, unfortunately, was a waste of about $10, paid to a local winery via a locally owned grocery store. I felt sure I had tried the red blend in preceding months but this time tasted overripe — almost rotting— fruit. I theorized a mistake was made somewhere between the winemaking, bottling and storage process.

The wine that cleansed the plonk from my palate was Sokol Blosser’s Evolution 2020 Big Red, a nicely balanced, harmonious blend, or so I told my partner. Just to make sure I wasn’t influenced by labels or other aesthetics of the bottles and their contents, he set up a blind tasting for me. Correctly identifying each of the three, I asked him to give his verdict before I described what I tasted. We agreed the Big Red was the only truly drinkable option.

So, he asked, what to do with the other two? The old vine zinfandel, I said, would deepen the flavor of red sauce with our next spaghetti-and-meatballs meal. I’m more leery of the local red blend but figure the offending notes would soften during a long cooking time and be less detectable next to rich meat.

A classic beef Bourguignon would fill the bill nicely. Similarly braised, this flank steak is piled onto crunchy ciabatta rolls with melted Gruyere cheese for a gourmet cheesesteak perfectly paired with a well-rounded red wine.

Tribune News Service photo

Red Wine-Braised Flank Steak With Roasted Peppers, Onions and Gruyere

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound flank steak

1 medium carrot, cut into large dice

1/2 white onion, cut into large dice

2 garlic cloves, quartered

2 to 3 cups red wine

2 large sprigs fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 red bell pepper

1 large red onion, sliced crosswise into 3/4-inch wheels

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar

4 ciabatta rolls

8 slices Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Choose an ovenproof skillet (with a lid) or Dutch oven large enough to fit the meat in snugly but still lie flat. Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil to skillet over high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add meat and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until deep brown in color. Remove the meat and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the carrot, onion and garlic, and sauté until vegetables start to brown but are still firm. Return meat to pan, and add enough of the red wine to come 3/4 of the way up meat’s sides.

Add the thyme and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover and transfer to preheated oven. Braise meat for 2 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure liquid does not dry out (if it does, add more wine). Meat should be very tender and soft enough to pull apart with a fork. Transfer to a plate to rest and cool.

While meat cooks, roast the red pepper over a high flame, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred all over. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and rest for 20 minutes. Rub off charred parts with your fingers (some charred parts are fine) and slice pepper into strips. If you do not have a gas stove, place pepper on a foil-covered baking sheet and place in preheated oven, turning occasionally, until soft and wrinkled all over, for about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove and, when cool enough to touch, slice pepper into strips.

Brush the red onion with remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. In a skillet over high heat, grill onion — without separating into individual rings — until charred on outside and slightly cooked on inside. Place in a bowl and separate into rings. Add roasted peppers, the olive oil, sherry vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Strain meat’s cooking liquid in into a bowl. With 2 forks, separate meat into chunky strings and roughly cut them crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Combine meat with juices and coat well.

Slice the ciabatta rolls in half. Place 1 slice of the cheese on each bottom and top half. Arrange meat on bottom halves and peppers on top halves; place all roll pieces in preheated 350-degree oven. Cook until cheese is melted. Place top halves on bottom halves, cut each sandwich in half and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “’Wichcraft” by Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortúzar.