Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, March 2009 (not yet available on-line as of this post).

Seventy-five pounds of cut-and-wrapped frozen pork, as I mentioned here, are arriving next weekend. The job of creating space in my freezer is proceeding apace. About 1 1/2 quarts of chicken broth, four pint-sized tubs of tomato sauce, four packages of lamb chops, two half-gallon bags of frozen cubes of Meyer lemon juice, and about four long slabs of chuck roast must give way before then to the bundles of pig. I’m working as fast as I can. Last night, I decided to take a rub for flank steak that I saw in the latest Gourmet and turn it into a braise.

Chocolate and chilies together have recently joined forces to form a culinary meme. One or two friends have mentioned to me that they now add cocoa powder to beef stews. Boutique chocolates often have the flavor of hot chilies. It’s as if everyone is trying to achieve the Mexican mole effect without the effort. I’m all for it. The combination of spices that the Gourmet recipes calls for struck me as a promising alternative to making a mole sauce from scratch.

Here’s what I did…

1/3 – 1/2 lb piece of chuck roast

1 Tblsp ancho chili powder (according to Diane Kennedy, ancho chilies are sometimes called pasillas, which is the name I found it under in a Latino supermarket)

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa (make sure it’s really dark, like Valrhona’s cocoa powder)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 cup red wine

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 300 F. I use a deep pyrex pie plate for my single serving braises. Mix together all the spices and rub the piece of chuck roast with most of the spice mixture, depending on how much beef your using.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper that is slightly smaller than the pyrex pie plate.

In a small saucepan, heat the wine until it comes to a full simmer. Immediately pour it around the meat, not on top of it. It should reach a little less than half way up the sides of the beef. Place the parchment circle on top. Put the pyrex in the oven.

Braise the beef for about 3 hours, depending on the amount of beef. Half way through the cooking, turn the beef over to expose the side that’s been touching the wine. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, add more hot wine.

The connective tissues in chuck roasts will dissolve and make the meat more tender. The beef should yield easily to a fork prying it apart when it’s ready.

After you’ve removed the pan from the oven, remove the meat and keep it warm. Spoon off most of the fat and pour into a small saucepan to reduce. I added more wine, a little butter, and reduced it for 5 mins.

What you serve the braised beef with is up to you. I was not happy with the orzo, Israeli coucous, baby garbanzo bean dish I served myself. Nor did polenta strike me as suitable. If you figure something else, let me know.

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