Braciole

Braciole 1

Last week, I overheard a couple chatting at lunch about their evening plans. Just a snippet, mind you.

Dude: “What do you want to do tonight?”

Chick: “How about brajole?”

Dude: “I can do that.”

Chick: “Yay!”

Now, I heard this without context — I really had no framing for the Dude’s question — but I was intrigued and thought about it all the way back to the office. You know how a word gets in your head and nags your brain until you figure it out? This was one of those words.

Brajole.

Is it a movie? A night club?

A card game?

Is there a Cirque de Soleil show in town?

No doubt about it, I was going to have to do some research. Once back in the office, I opened da googles and typed in my spelling — a complete guess — of this word I had never heard before: brajole. And da googles, always trying to be smarter than the rest of us, corrected me in its passive-aggressive way — ignoring my word completely — and popping up what turned out to be the correct spelling, braciole.

And in that second, scanning the search results, all became clear:  braciole.

Braciole 2

Being of Eastern European heritage, my general knowledge of Italian cuisine is dreadfully lacking. Not only had I never heard the word braciole (pronounced bruh-zhul), it quickly became clear from the search results that I had never tasted anything remotely close to braciole.

Needless to say, it immediately went on the weekend menu.

Braciole 3

Braciole is small rounds of beef, flattened to within an inch of their lives, stuffed and rolled with all manner of flavor goodness, quickly browned in a frying pan, and then simmered in tomato sauce for hours until it simply melts under the weight of a fork.

Braciole 4

It’s a bit of work, with a long cooking time, so don’t plan this for a quickie weeknight meal. (The couple I overheard must not have eaten until 10 o’clock that night. Ah, youth. If I had a heavy Italian meal at 10, I’d be popping Tums all the next day.)

I was very, very lucky to find top round already sliced super-super-thin (second photo above) at the grocery, cutting prep time down considerably. Lacking that, you should have the butcher slice the round for you on their handy-dandy professional slicers, or slice it yourself and prepare to do some pounding to achieve butcher-thinness. (Note that cubed steak is probably not a good idea as I suspect the filling would leak out of all the holes.)

And speaking of the filling … oh em gee … pancetta, onions, mushrooms, bread crumbs, two kinds of cheeses … the filling is so good I could have made a meal out of that alone.

Braciole 5

You can serve the beef rolls whole or slice them, as I did, into 1″ thick spirals (adding them back to the sauce). So unique and delicious!

Apologies to the couple on whom I eavesdropped, but I have to say, it was worth it. :) And I suspect foodies (and they must’ve been, preparing such a meal on a weeknight) would forgive me and understand.

Karen xoxo


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Braciole

adapted from Anne Burrell on the FoodNetwork.com

The filling I used here is not traditional, as it lacks pine nuts and raisins. Raisins are a “never” in this household, and I simply forgot to pick up pine nuts, which I suspect would be a very delicious addition. Regardless, the stuffing is so good, you’ll catch yourself eating it right out of the bowl. Oh, and I had extra from Anne’s recipe (even though I did reduce the proportions), so I just added it right into the braciole sauce towards the end of cooking. Delicious. I also switched up the prep order from Anne’s instructions. I wanted the sauce to simmer as long as possible, so I got that going first, and then prepped the beef rolls.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours

Yield: 4 generous servings

Ingredients

Sauce:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (28 or 32-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or pass whole tomatoes through the food mill)
2 cups water

Beef rolls & stuffing:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced pancetta
1 large onion, finely diced
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
4 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup grated provolone
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 pounds top round, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 12)

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Instructions

Sauce:

Coat a large sauce pan with olive oil and heat over medium until shimmering. Add the onions, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt. Sweat the onions until they are glassy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red wine, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 2 cups of water – season with salt to taste. When the sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover with a lid.

For the beef rolls:

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add the pancetta and bring the pan to a medium heat. Cook the pancetta until it gets brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and crushed red pepper and toss to incorporate with the pancetta. Season with salt, to taste. Cook the onions until they are soft and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, in a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the milk, stirring well until the milk has been absorbed. Set aside.

Add the garlic to the pan with the pancetta and onion and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until soft and have let off their moisture, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Add the onion/mushroom mixture to the reserved bread and stir to combine. Add the provolone and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and stir to combine. Taste to make sure that the mixture is delicious and season with salt, to taste, if needed. Set aside.

If necessary, lay the beef slices between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet to flatten and even out. Put about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling on one end of each of the beef slices and roll up. Secure the rolls with kitchen string or toothpicks. Repeat this process with the remaining beef and filling.

Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Season the beef rolls lightly with salt and brown them on all sides. As each roll finishes browning, add it to the tomato sauce, spoon sauce over the roll to coat. (Depending on the size of your pan, you will likely have to brown the rolls in batches.)

When all the rolls are in the tomato sauce, bring the sauce to a gentle boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pot again, and allow to cook about 2 1/2 hours. Spoon sauce over the rolls occasionally, if they’re sticking out of the sauce. The beef rolls will be very, very tender at the end of cooking.

Remove the string or toothpicks before serving. To serve, arrange 2 or 3 braciole on each serving plate (or, optional, slice each roll into 1″ spirals). Spoon on some of the sauce and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

You can serve this straight up, as Anne instructs, or over gnocchi or pasta (the gnocchi was a very delicious accent to this dish, I thought).

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