April 20, 2013:
Cook’s Country – April/May issue
Braciole. Braciole. Braciole.
I just can’t get enough of saying its name, letting it roll off my tongue, pretending I were on the beach in Sicily, scarf around my neck blowing in the wind, over-sized sunglasses taking over my face. Ahh, yes, my first mistake in choosing it for my latest 12 Months of Cooking Challenge.
Last month was a bit of a funny month for the challenge. I had chosen braciole (pronounced bruh-zoooool) early in the month, had sent Big Ring out for the ingredients, and then got curb stomped by a nasty cold, putting braciole on hold. Instead, I made that incredible chicken soup that I still dream of to this day. The cold lasted just over a week, and lucky for us the braciole ingredients were still in tact. The proper April challenge was a go.
This dish was not like the others, which in all fairness weren’t the most challenging. Braciole is an Italian rolled beef dish, similar to Germany’s rouladin, that originates in Southern Italy. I’m pretty sure, prior to braciole, I had never once cooked a dish involving beef. Just like most other meats, beef kind of scared the heck out of me. I mean, if you cook it too long, it becomes tough, if you under cook it, it’s cold, which, sorry, not really my thing. It’s kind of finicky, you know.
But that name, oh that name, she enticed me. I’ve had a love affair with Italy since I first stepped off that plane in Florence four years ago. And nearly every meal I’ve made in my once a year Big Ring Birthday Bash has been Italian. I couldn’t go wrong… or so I thought.
You see, this meal, it had a lot of steps. A lot. The thick slab of flank steak we got from the local butcher (yay local!) needed to be pounded out within an inch of its life. But I had no pounder, no mallot, no hammer even. I was left to use a big ol’ can of crushed tomatoes, which frankly, did not do the job well at all.
And then there was the debacle of the kitchen string, which, frankly, wasn’t all my fault. I didn’t realize I needed kitchen string until the day I was actually making the meal, and so, I sent Big Ring back to the grocery store. Well, that dear husband of mine, who himself has never worked with kitchen string, came back with hairy string. HAIRY STRING!!! I was already started on the recipe at this point, and the dinner hour was fast approaching. Surely, the hair would stay on the string right? Right? Yeah, no. This meal most definitely had extra fibre that was not called for!
The biggest mistake I made, though, was halving the recipe. Because we’re a small household, not so keen on leftovers, I figured we’d save a few dollars and chop the recipe in half. While the taste turned out just fine (despite the hair, which you didn’t notice once it was all cooked) the technique of rolling the steak and its fixins’, I thought, probably would have been easier with a larger surface to work with – I barely got the 1 pound of beef rolled around once, let alone three times, and I had raisins and other fillings falling out every which way.
But, it was kind of fun tying the sucker up and trying to figure out what it looked like. Big Ring said an inch worm; I said an armadillo 😀
The flavour was good, but not good enough for me to try again. Sorry braciole, even with your beautifully exotic name, I can’t overlook the massive amount of steps you require. You’re out of the Princess cooking repertoire.
1 (2-pound) flank steak, trimmed
10 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped coarse
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (plus extra for serving)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Position steak on cutting board so long edge is parallel to counter edge. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to even 1/2 inch thickness. Trim any ragged edges to create rough rectangle about 11 by 9 inches. Pat steak dry with paper towels.
2. Combine garlic and oil in bowl and microwave until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly, then remove garlic from oil with fork. Separately reserve garlic and garlic oil. Combine raisins, Parmesan, 1/4 cup basil, parsley, half of garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp pepper flakes in bowl.
3. Brush exposed side of steak with 1 tbsp garlic oil and season with 1/2 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper. Spread raisin mixture evenly over steak, pressing to adhere, leaving 1-inch border along top edge. starting from bottom edge and rolling away from you, roll steak into tight log, finally resting seam side down. Tie kitchen twin around braciole at 1-inch intervals.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon garlic oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add braciole, seam side down, and cook until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
5. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, remaining garlic oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes to now-empty skillet. Cook until onion just begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and remaining half of garlic and cook until fragrant and tomato paste is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, bring to simmer, and pour sauce over braciole. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until fork slips easily in and out of braciole, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Transfer baking dish to wire rack, spoon sauce over braciole, re-cover, and let rest in sauce for 30 minutes.
6. Transfer braciole to carving board, seam side down; cut and discard twine; and cut into 3/4-inch thick slices. Stir remaining 1/4 cup basil into sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle 2 cups sauce onto serving platter. Transfer braciole slices to platter. Serve, passing remaining sauce and extra Parmesan separately.