I made this last week, and my husband has already asked me to make it again soon–so I guess the decision to blog about this dish is a good one.
As you know I am a big fan of Marcella Hazan, who I see as something like the Julia Child of Northern Italian cuisine–in the sense that she “translated” Italian recipes for the US cook. Like Julia Child, she also came to cooking later in life, only after she got married. Her recipes have (nearly always) worked out beautifully, and while she has some that require true skill (boning an entire chicken while leaving it in one piece to stuff later comes to mind) the majority of her recipes are easy to execute, straightforward, and invariably delicious. This same no nonsense (and slightly opinionated) attitude comes through in her writing style, as well as being reflected in her choice of recipes themselves.
I own two “Marcellas” as I call them, but have not explored Marcella’s Italian Kitchen as thoroughly as her magnum opus, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My parents-in-law have this book (in fact, I think they introduced me to Marcella more generally) and had it not been for the suggestion of my father-in-law I’d probably never have tried a recipe that had “Hashed Beef” in the title (even if it did also have “Red Wine” right after that). The Italian, Il Tapulon di Borgomanero, while more glamorous a name, is not particularly elucidating (and is quite a mouthful even for me, an undeniable language geek).
But what a perfect meal, especially to make on a weeknight in winter. I like to buy savoy cabbage as it keeps fairly well, is inexpensive, and healthy, and perfectly seasonal for this time of year. I always have plenty of ground beef in the freezer thanks to our Meat CSA. Everything else you’d need (except maybe the pancetta) is in your pantry.
You simply brown the beef in a mixture of butter, olive oil, and pancetta, and then add the cabbage, spices, and red wine, and simmer for about a half to three-quarters of an hour.
It must be the use of cloves and fennel, but there’s something about the resulting aroma that recalls a medieval feast. The heady mixture of spices is something unusual in most food these days. Also, you add QUITE a bit of wine, but fear not, it has plenty of time to boil off.
While I ate it “straight,” Marcella recommends serving over polenta (yum) or rice (which sounds less appealing, personally). In either case, I think mine would have been a little dry–not having pancetta, I only used butter and olive oil without increasing their respective quantities to compensate (though in my defense, it hardly seems this dish could be accused of lacking in fat). The extra oil, however, would have made for a nice sauce that could melt into a warm mound of polenta…(Really, I should just keep pancetta on hand–If you cook out of Marcella regularly enough, you’ll find plenty of use for it!)
I only made a half recipe, as follows.
Il Tapulon di Borgomanero (adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen)
- 2T extra virgin olive oil
- 2T butter
- 2T garlic
- 1lb ground beef
- 1lb Savoy cabbage, sliced as thinly as possible or shredded
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cloves
- 1/4t fennel seeds
- 3/4c red wine
- salt and pepper
Use a large deep pan with a lid. Heat the oil and butter and with the garlic until the garlic turns gold. Add the meat and brown over high heat. Add the cabbage and spices and cook for a few minutes. Add the wine, stir and reduce the heat to medium low; cook for 45 minutes. Stir from time to time, serve.