Braised Beef over Polenta

5 pounds chuck roast
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large yellow onions, diced
10 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 32-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups bold red wine, such as Chianti
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 325°F. Cut the chuck roast into 3 or 4 large pieces. Brush the pieces with oil and apply salt and pepper generously. Heat your largest, deepest sauté pan over medium-high heat and sear the meat for several minutes on each side, about 12 minutes in all. (If the meat does not all fit in the sauté pan at once, do this in batches.) When the meat is well seared, with a dark brown crust all over, remove to a plate and turn the heat down to low.

Add the onions and garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until they are golden and soft. Add the red pepper flakes, if you desire a little kick.

Stir in the diced tomatoes and sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the red wine. Bring to a simmer, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, then turn off the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Put the chuck roast pieces back in the sauté pan. (If the pan is too small, transfer meat and sauce to a Dutch oven.)

Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 4 hours. (This can also be done in a slow cooker. At this point transfer to a slow cooker and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours.)

After 4 hours, remove the meat from the oven and cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, scrape off the layer of fat that has hardened on top of the meat. The meat can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, and warmed gently in the oven for about an hour at 300°F.

The meat can be served as it is, in its sauciness, or you can pour off much of the sauce, and blend it into a smooth, thicker sauce. Serve over polenta or pasta with a good red wine.

The meat also freezes beautifully. Freeze meat in sauce, in a well-sealed container for up to 6 months for best taste.

Serve over polenta.

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