Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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Those who find the parts of meat recommended for curries and stews such as the shank to be sinewy and tough may have wondered if there isn't some way to make them more tender.

There certainly is, thanks to the wisdom of French and Italian home cooking, which we'll apply to this week's recipe, by thoroughly simmering the beef in red wine.

By taking the time to stew the beef, its fibers will loosen, and the flavor will dissolve into the broth. Some mushrooms and fruits contain enzymes that break down protein. Since this action is strong in “maitake” mushrooms, we can expect it to help tenderize the meat when they're cooked together.


“Try to choose a deeply colored red wine,” says Kuniaki Arima, who supervised the recipe's cooking aspect, as using paler, more transparent wine waters down the dish's hue. Affordable wines work well.

Wine vinegar, though optional, enhances the refreshing taste that lightens the heaviness of meat in the dish, which is something of a feast, and sure to be the focus of attention at your dinner table.

“The color becomes darker if the amount of skin used is relatively large for that of the juice of grapes. Which is to say, the smaller the grapes and the thicker their skin, the darker the wine,” according to a person in charge of importing and producing wine at Suntory, seconding the use of a deeply colored red.

Differences in the flavor of red wines are also caused by the length of time the skin of their grapes is mashed and whether the variety of grape has thicker skin or the production area is warmer. All these factors provide clues of taste for choosing your wine.

In production areas with strong sunshine or at high altitudes, the skin of grapes tends to become thicker to avoid ultraviolet rays.

“You could say that Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is a representative dark red wine,” the person at Suntory said.


(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients (Serves 3 to 4)

300 grams beef (labeled “for curry or stew") cut into bite-size pieces, 500 ml red wine, 1/2 onion, 1 potato, 1 pack (150 grams) maitake mushrooms, 5 cherry tomatoes, 1 clove garlic, 1 Tbsp flour, 1 Tbsp wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp miso, 30 grams butter

About 425 kcal and 1.6 grams salt per portion (Calculated when above ingredients serve four people)

1. Separate maitake into large pieces and mix with beef and red wine in bowl (PHOTO A). Slice onion into thin wedges and cut potato into dice measuring 2 to 3 cm per side. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Crush garlic.

2. Warm 1 Tbsp olive oil in pot over low heat and cook garlic. When aroma rises, add onion and potato and stir-fry over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Remove beef from marinade, sprinkle bit of salt and pepper and dust generously with flour. Line up pieces in pot to sear (PHOTO B). When surface colors, add maitake and mix. Add cherry tomatoes and then the marinade. Add wine vinegar and simmer for about 15 minutes without lid over medium to high heat.

4. When cooking liquid is reduced and the corners of beef show, add miso (PHOTO C). Lower heat a little, cover with lid and cook for another 15 minutes or so.

5. When broth is reduced further to a half, add butter. While butter melts, season with 1/2 tsp sugar as well as a bit of salt and pepper.


Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Passo a Passo, an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s Fukagawa.

Midori Kasai is a professor at Ochanomizu University and chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.


Penne with beef ragout

Cook 240 grams penne (for three portions), drain and mix with the “beef stewed in red wine.” For added enjoyment, serve with Italian parsley, powdered cheese or fresh cream.


Among types of mushrooms, the action of the enzyme that breaks down protein (protease) is especially strong in maitake. When meat comes into contact with the cut end of maitake, the enzyme splits the protein and reduces the shrinkage of meat so that it turns out tender. Since enzymes lose their function when heated, it is better to marinate the meat and maitake before heating.


From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column