Don't be surprised by the number of onions in this beloved Portuguese dish. The meat needs to be completely surrounded by aromatic slivers of onions, so that when it's done, both beef and onions are rich, smoky, slightly spiced, and bathed in a thin but intensely flavorful sauce. A good way to savor the juices is to serve generous helpings of rice in shallow bowls, spoon the meat and onions over it, and then ladle on lots of sauce.
This dish is a great showcase for Portugal's wealth of unique and affordable wines. From fresh, juicy (and unbelievably low-priced) JP Tinto Terras do Sado to the intense Caves Alianca Alianca Particular Palmela to the more full-bodied richness of Jose Maria da Fonseca and Van Zeller "Domini" from the Duero, the country offers great choices for pairing with the oniony beef in this recipe. Although the acidity levels range from moderate to low, the easygoing fruit flavors—always a food-loving trait among reds—these wines have in common make them perfect with this dish. These fruit flavors vary in intensity from one to the next, but none are "tight" or "tough" wines, and all are free of excessive tannin and wood. Even those that flash a little new wood (like the Caves Alianca Palmela) are so very good-natured that you hardly notice its presence. Wines with more tannin made waves here. In our tastings we found the spicy, brothy nature of the braised beef and onions exaggerated the tannins, leaving a raw, bitter taste that upset the harmony of the dish. Even the medium-weight, delectable, and pleasingly tannic Luis Pato Casta Baga felt out of place, so the even more powerful (often tannic) Portuguese "high expression" wines are also best left for another meal. From California, try the juicy Bonny Doon "Clos de Gilroy," a mellow, nearly tannin-free wine made from Grenache grapes that's very much in the spirit of these Portuguese reds.