05 Dec 2020
- 10 lbs mixed red meat on the bone, ideally including: beef shank (sliced like osso bucco), lamb shoulder arm chops, ox tail, veal shank or tail, and if you feel like it, maybe some lamb neck bones or beef short ribs – whatever you can find!)
- Safflower or other neutral oil
- 3 heads garlic (yes, HEADS, not cloves)
- 3/8-1/2 C coarsely ground black pepper (no, that’s not a typo)
- 2-3 bottles red wine (ideally a young Chianti, supposedly, though we’ve used all sorts of inexpensive reds to good result)
- Salt to taste
Salt the meat a bit. Possibly the day before. You can always add more salt later, of course, but it’s nice to start early.
Get a big pan (or two at once, is what I do) nice and hot, grease it up a bit with safflower or some other neutral oil, and brown your meat nice and good, tossing each piece into a big bowl once it’s good and dark on all sides.
For this much meat, I use three heavy-bottomed pots to cook a batch of peposo – a nice big cazuela (a Spanish clay pot), the bottom of my tagine (a Moroccan clay pot), and a big cast iron pan. Use whatever you’ve got, this is just what happens to be in my kitchen. Relax, it’ll all work out in the end.
Lay out your meat in a single layer, tightly packed into the pots or pans you’re using to cook it. (Note: If you use short ribs, I find that they come out better when packed on their side, rather than bone up or bone down.)
Take the garlic heads apart, discarding the outer skin but not peeling the individual cloves. Tuck the garlic cloves in the various crevices between the meats.
Sprinkle the black pepper over everything, then pour in enough wine to mostly (but not completely!) cover the meat. This usually turns out to be the first 2 bottles, for me.
Cover the pots with tin foil (I don’t actually have lids that fit the pots I tend to use for this dish – your mileage may vary, just make sure they’re covered!) and put them on your stove at its lowest possible setting. If your stove is super intense, you may want to use a diffuser.
Now you just have to be patient. Some cuts start feeling tender and wonderful and done after about 3 hours, while others take closer to 4 or 5. After about two hours, if you got that 3rd bottle of wine, you can check in and pour some more in to make up for whatever may have cooked off. If not, don’t worry, it’ll still be delicious.
Start checking the meat after about 3 hours. Poke every piece with a fork, and take out whichever ones feel done. I like to shred the meat off the bone and connective tissue while the rest of the meat cooks further, then do another check, and so on.
As the meat comes off the bone, make sure to push the marrow out of the bones and into a small bowl you’ve set aside for that purpose. As each pot finishes up, take out the garlic cloves and squish them from their skins into that same little bowl. Discard the garlic skins, emptied bones, and [if you’re picky like me] bits of connective tissue. Stir the marrow and garlic together with a fork until it’s a nice squishy tasty mess.
Once everything is out of the remaining braising wine, stir the garlic/marrow into the wine to create the sauce. Turn the heat back on and reduce the sauce until it’s nice and thick – it doesn’t have to be super dense, but you want it thick enough to really coat every bite and stick to it.
That’s it. Stir the meat back into the sauce, and salt to taste. Eat approximately forever, with enough bread to sop up the sauce and something green and vivid and crunchy on the side to contrast with the deep rich ultimate winy meatiness of the peposo.
Adapted from Piano, Piano, Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant.
Yes, this recipe makes tons. Feel free to scale it down. We like making a lot and freezing some, though.