Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beef Braciole

Many countries all over the world have a roulade type of dish. A piece of thin meat, pounded out, stuffed with all sorts of things, tied up and cooked. France has their Paupiettes (veal stuffed with sweetmeats, fruit and vegetables) Germany has Rouladen (bacon wrapped beef rolls, stuffed with pickles, onions and mustard), and Northern Italy has Involti, which means, Little Bundles and could be made with a variety of different meats and stuffing. Beef Braciole is also in the Roulade family. This is the Southern Italian version. Now apparently there is some controversy over what to call these things. Other common names for very similar dishes are bruciuluni, farsumagru, rollatinis, etc...Regardless, this was a very popular dish amongst Italian-American immigrants and I don't think it mattered what they called it or who named it what. Like many recipes that made the trek across the Atlantic, modifications and improvisations were made to suit the available ingredients and culture. The flank steak became a popular cut, because it was cheap and easy to stretch into a large family meal. Made much in the same way as Sunday Gravy, the meat flavors the sauce and the sauce flavors the meat and it is best when you take all day to cook it. I have been reading up on several other similar recipes and I am very interested in trying out some of the variations. Especially some of the thinner versions made with veal that are cooked quicker, in white wine, without tomato sauce and so on and so on.

My adventure with Braciole (normally pronounced bra'zhul) began while speaking with a friend about his Grandmother's recipe. My mouth started watering and I couldn't stop thinking about it until I tried it out. I searched though a variety of recipes in my cookbooks and on the internet, but ultimately decided to trust my instincts and keep it as simple as possible. I found the basic common ingredients, techniques and attributes and began to cook without a map. 


A pound or two of Flank Steak
Sea Salt
Red Wine
Canned or Fresh plum tomatoes

A few cloves of garlic
As much Olive Oil as you need
A handful of Basil
A handful of Flat Leaf Parsley
3 ounces Prosciutto
3-5 ounces of Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Parmesan


Let the meat come to room temperature and pound it out as thin as you can get it. Sprinkle with sea salt. 

A Beautiful piece of Grass Fed Flank Steak I purchased
Place the stuffing ingredients in a food processors and make it into a paste. Don't use too much olive oil in the paste, you want it to be pretty thick and sticky. The cheese provides the thick base.

Rub the herb/cheese paste across the meat.

Slice the meat into strips, about 3-4 inches wide. Roll them up and tie them off on the top, bottom and around lengthwise. Put some olive oil in a dutch oven or another heavy pan that can later be covered and placed in the oven. Brown the outside on all sides, top and bottom as well, quickly in the pan on high heat.

Once they are browned well, pour in about 3/4 bottle of your favorite red wine (drink the rest). I used a Cab, because I like the deep rich fruity flavors.

Let the wine reduce for about 20 minutes and then add in a large can of Plum Tomatoes. Crush them up with your hands as you put them in, pour in the reserve sauce in the can as well. Cover it up. At this point it can be saved and cooked later. Let it cool and put it in the fridge for the night. The next day at about 3 o'clock put it in the oven at 300 Degrees and it will be ready in time for dinner OR place it in the oven right away and let it cook for about 3-6 hours. The longer the better, as long as it doesn't dry out. Keep the lid on until you are ready to eat to keep all the moisture in. Cut the strings and put sauce, fresh Basil and Parmesan on top of it and enjoy. I like to continue putting the sauce from the pan on it the whole time I am eating it. As you cut it open, pour more sauce on it to make sure it is thoroughly saturated.

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