Thursday, June 4, 2009
Mom and I at Revere Beach after Dad died in 1955.
We already know how to make bread and cheese stuffing so there is no need to go into detail with that. This always had soaked Raisins, Pignole or almonds mixed in though.
Mom used to use Flank steak. This used to be a pretty inexpensive cut of meat as it was tough as leather if you were not careful. I guess that was before people found out that it was very lean and relatively healthy. Many recipes for Bracciole call for round steak. This is and excellent choice, but I find a round steak to be a bit irregular. It usually has a number of lobes of meat with connective and fat tissue between. When it is pounded, it is easy to get thick and thin places and portions of meat that seem separate from the body of the steak. I really like to pound the living h--- out of it, so any weakness in the fabric of the meat will challenge you when you try to roll it up and secure it shut. Flank steak is very even, and when pounded flat it comes out fairly uniform.
Using the whole flank steak, it might be a good idea to split it(butterfly) so that you begin a little thinner to begin with. Of course we did not have plastic wrap years ago, so this was just a piece of meat on a counter or chopping block beaten with a pan bottom, tenderizing hammer, or a very heavy wine bottle. Perhaps a good champagne bottle would be good. Don't do it on a stone surface with a bottle though...you may not be happy picking glass out of your steak!
Place a layer of plastic wrap on the counter, then the meat and another layer of plastic. Beat the steak vigorously all over, breaking up the fibers of the meat and flattening it out to a uniform thickness. Don't be ridiculous, but make it as thin as you dare. Watch out for thin spots that appear from over vigorous beating.
Remove the plastic wrap and spread a uniform layer of bread and cheese stuffing on the meat, leaving an inch or so border around the edge, and about two inches on the narrow end. Fold one of the bare narrow ends over the stuffing then roll it up till you reach the other end. Secure the roll with butcher's twine tied every couple of inches for the entire length of the roll. Alternatively(I never keep string in the kitchen)you can secure the roll with toothpicks through the outer layer, into the second layer and back out again to the surface. This is one of the reasons not to beat the steak too much as this would never hold otherwise. Heat a large pan like a chicken frier or a heavy dutch oven shaped pan or stockpot you will make sauce in to a fairly high temperature. Put a film of olive oil on the bottom of the pan. You really should not use Extra Virgin oil for this. Other oils or even butter(clarified is best)(not a traditional item) would be good as you can add good olive oil later on. I do not know about your house, but the only olive oil I ever saw in my grandmother's kitchen was Philip Berio in the great big can. If you cut the top off the can when it is empty, it makes a great waste recepticle with a plastic bag inside. Make sure you file or flatten the cut edge with a hammer to avoid getting cut. It was plain yellow oil and she and my mother used it for everything, including on her scalp! When the scent of the oil becomes obvious, lay the roll into the oil. DO NOT OVERHEAT OILS, ESPECIALLY THE SO CALLED HEALTHY OILS AS THE CHEMISTRY CHANGES AS IT GETS TO THE SMOKE POINT. If you have preheated the pan and heated the oil, this should not be a problem because it should not stick. Turn the roll over and over till it is well browned. You are not trying to cook it through. Just look for good color. Pour your best effort vegetarian sauce over this, though pepperoni added makes a nice flavor. Remember you are cooking beef in this sauce, so make sure you have added a few cloves to the sauce early on. Once the sauce has begun to boil, reduce the heat till the sauce is barely moving. Like a good pot roast, it can be about 185+- degrees Fahrenheit. You could also put it in a very slow(250 degree)oven covered. Simmer this for at least and hour, but the longer the better as a rule. Just keep checking this so that the meat does not fall apart. You want a roll, not Pate'. Baste the uncovered portions of the meat with the sauce periodically.
Lift the meat out of the pot gently and allow to rest and cool. Slice as pinwheels and serve as a main course, using the sauce over spaghetti or other pasta as a Secondo. The toothpicks and string will not tenderize enough to eat! Remove them as you slice them. They may hold things together while you are cutting, so it might be wise to remove them after the meat is on the platter. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil...the good stuff this time.
It would not be unusual to use eye of the round slices or other small portions of tough meat to make small Involtini or miniature Braccioli as a main course or as Antipasti.
Many recipes for Bracciole call for a sort of pesto made with parsley and slivers of garlic laid in bands across the narrow width of the meat, alternating with blanched carrots,hard boiled eggs laid end to end, olives or any number of other stuffings. This is the version I remember best though...Complete with Raisins! By the way. The raisins that would be most authentic would be Sultanas or Golden Raisins. Malvasia grapes are gold.
You could easily do this in a beef broth heavily laden with crushed tomato, wine and herbs. Nothing is stopping you from using other meats like pork or veal. Keep the herbs you use in mind when you change meats. Sage.... garlic and Rosemary...Think of traditional pairings.