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Peposo is a specialty Impruneta, a town near Florence that's famous for its terracottas. The stew is a fiery exception to the rule that Tuscan cooking is bland, and is also one of the few dishes to have provoked a general strike. According to legend, Brunelleschi tried some while he was scouting tilemakers for the roof of the Duomo. He loved it, and asked the cook to come to Florence, with a boy agile enough to climb the scaffolding to deliver bowls of stew to the workers engaged in erecting the cathedral (this way they wouldn't loose time climbing down, going elsewhere to buy food, and climbing back up). Brunelleschi's workers went on strike to get their lunch hour back. Had he merely asked the cook to set up a catering stand, the idea would have been a smashing success.

  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper, coarsely ground for the occasion
  • 1 pound stew beef, diced
  • 1 pig's foot (if you don't want to deal with a pig's foot, substitute a pound of pork or fatty beef, diced)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • A rib of celery, minced
  • 1/2 a red pepper, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 pound peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
  • 11/2 cups dry red wine (such as Chianti)
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Boiling water or broth
  • 4 slices of Italian bread

If you are using the pig's foot, scrub it if need be and boil it for ten minutes. Drain it, let it cool, bone it, and cut the meat into thin strips.

Mince the onion, the carrot, and the celery; sauté the mixture in the oil in a pot over a medium flame. Add one of the cloves of garlic, some salt, and half the ground pepper. Flour the meat, and when the onion's translucent, add the meat to the pot. Let the meat brown, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, then add the tomatoes and the red pepper. Let the mixture cook for ten minutes, then add the wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the peposo for at least two hours, adding boiling water or broth as necessary to keep it from drying out completely and burning.

When the peposo's almost done (the sauce should be thick), toast the slices of bread and rub them with the other clove of garlic, then put them in a deep serving dish. A few minutes before removing the peposo from the fire, stir in the remaining ground pepper. Carefully pour the peposo over the bread and serve.

Serves four.

Incidentally, Impruneta still furnishes the roof tiles for Florence's Duomo. They're purchased and stored on racks out doors for 50 years, so they'll weather to the same color as the tiles they replace.