Caçoila, or Portuguese stewed beef, is a comforting dish featuring beef, red peppers, and aromatics slowly cooked in a rich sauce made with red wine, tomato, and butter.
I have reservations about sharing this recipe for Portuguese stewed beef because there are numerous variations of caçoila (typically pronounced ka-soy-la, although some say ka-sir-la). These versions differ in terms of the meat used (with many opting for pork butt instead of the slow-braised inexpensive beef cut) and the way it’s served, whether in a bowl or on a sandwich. I’m concerned that someone might take offense. However, I couldn’t resist sharing it.
The dish derives its name from a caçoila, a large clay pot often used to prepare it. Traditionally, the pot is soaked overnight. The following morning, the ingredients are added, and the pot is covered and placed on a stovetop over low heat or in a very slow oven (about 250°F or 120°C) until the meat becomes tender. This is a stovetop version that was enthusiastically devoured by my recipe testers. The beef recipe is sourced from a friend on São Miguel Island, a distant neighbor of Pico in the Azorean archipelago.
How To Make Your Own Crushed Red Peppers
Here’s a tip from the author on how to create your own crushed red peppers: “Crushed red peppers are exactly that: red peppers that have been ground. Once processed, some Portuguese families, like mine, brine them, while others prefer to add olive oil and salt to preserve them. If you can’t find bottled crushed red peppers, you can make your own: Remove the stems, but not the seeds, from 2 or 3 large medium-hot red peppers. Place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Whir until blended.” Voilà!
- One (4 1/2-pound) chuck roast, cut into 2- to 3-inch (5- to 8-cm) chunks
- ▢2 tablespoons crushed red peppers, (see LC Note above), or more to taste, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ▢1 large (9 oz) onion, cut into slices
- ▢1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
- ▢6 to 8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- ▢2 bay leaf
- ▢1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
- ▢4 whole cloves
- ▢Kosher salt, to taste (optional)
- ▢3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter or lard
- ▢2 cups hearty red table wine
- ▢2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
- ▢1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ▢Boiled white potatoes, (optional)
- ▢Roasted red peppers, (optional)
- ▢Cooked greens, (optional)
Here’s the process for making this Portuguese stewed beef, known as caçoila:
- The day before cooking, coat the beef with crushed red pepper, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- About 4 hours before you plan to serve the dish, spread onion slices, parsley, garlic, and bay leaves in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Bundle the allspice and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth, securing it with kitchen twine or place them in a tea ball, and add them to the Dutch oven. Season the beef with salt if desired and place it on top of the aromatics. Dot the beef with butter or lard.
- In a measuring glass or bowl, mix together the wine, tomato paste, and cinnamon. Pour this mixture over the beef.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the meat becomes very tender, which should take about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Be sure to turn the pieces of meat occasionally. If you want a more stew-like consistency, keep the lid on throughout cooking. For a thicker, glaze-like sauce, remove the lid about halfway through cooking to allow some liquid to evaporate and the sauce to concentrate in flavor and thickness.
- Remove the bay leaves and the cheesecloth pouch or teaball with spices. If desired, serve the caçoila with boiled white potatoes, roasted red peppers, and cooked greens. Enjoy your hearty Portuguese stewed beef!