Alcatra, a classic and simple Portuguese beef stew, features tender chunks of beef braised with onions, garlic, warm spices, and wine. Unlike beef stews that require either searing the beef to build savory flavor or adding flavor boosters like tomato paste and anchovies, this recipe favors a simpler approach that highlights the warm and bright flavors of the spices and wine as much as it does the meatiness of the beef. We use beef shank because it is lean (which means the cooking liquid doesn’t need to be skimmed) and full of collagen, which breaks down into gelatin and gives the sauce body. Submerging the sliced onions in the liquid causes them to form a meaty-tasting compound, called MMP, that enhances the savory flavor of the broth. Beef shank is sold both long-cut and crosscut (and with and without bones). We prefer the long-cut shank since it has more collagen. You can substitute 4 pounds of bone-in crosscut shank if that’s all you can find. Remove the bones before cooking and save them for another use. Crosscut shank cooks more quickly, so check the stew for doneness in step 2 after 3 hours. A 4-pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at the seams, trimmed, and cut into 2½-inch pieces, can be substituted for the shank. Serve with crusty bread or boiled potatoes.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- Total Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
- 3 pounds boneless long-cut beef shank, trimmed of all visible fat and cut crosswise into 2½-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 5 allspice berries
- 4 bay leaves
- 1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 large onions, halved and sliced
- 2¼ cups dry white wine
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Season beef with 1 teaspoon salt.
- Cut 8-inch square of triple-thickness cheesecloth. Place garlic, allspice berries, bay leaves, and peppercorns in center of cheesecloth and tie into bundle with kitchen twine. Arrange onions and spice bundle in Dutch oven in even layer. Add wine and cinnamon. Arrange beef in single layer on top of onions. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and cook until beef is tender, about 3½ hours.
- Remove pot from oven and add chorizo. Using tongs, flip each piece of beef over, making sure that chorizo is submerged. Cover and let sit until chorizo is heated through, about 20 minutes. Discard spice bundle. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.