Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday Supper Series #8: Braciole for beginners

I've never made braciole (Italian meat rolls braised in tomato sauce) before. Heck, I don't even know if I have eaten it before. I just know that I always see the neat, pre-rolled packages of braciole at Whole Foods, ready prepared for the pan. And began to wonder, what do they taste like? Are they worth that price? Can I make them myself? I set out to try.

Menu: Polyface beef braciole with spaghetti, steamed young brocolli, beets with balsamic vinaigrette, fresh bread and salad.

First I had to figure out how to make braciole. I read a few recipes online and consulted my Italian cookbooks. I came up with a recipe and plan in my head and got to work. Most recipes called for flank steak or top round roasts. And although my Polyface meat inventory taped to our freezer stated that I had two top round roasts, I couldn't find them. I could only find bottom round roasts and flank steak. But I like using flank steak in stir fry, so I decided to try it with the bottom round.

I sliced the bottom round roast into seven thin slices and then pounded each one out.

Then I spread each piece with some olive oil, laid on a piece of proscuitto and then covered it with a mix I made of bread crumbs, garlic, basil, parsley and parmesan.

That was the other reason why I wanted to make braciole. I am desperate for anything that uses bread crumbs. If you made bread every week and refused to eat sandwiches like I do, you'd have a lot of bread crumbs and croutons laying around too, believe me. So it was probably the bread crumbs in the ingredient list that got me interested.

Here are my rolls, waiting for the next step, the browning.

While I browned the rolls in a shallow Dutch Oven braiser (one of my Christmas presents this past year from T), I made a simple marinara sauce with olive oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, basil and oregano. Multitasking is key to an efficient kitchen.

After the rolls browned, I removed them from the pan and added a chopped onion to  deglaze the pan. I added about a 1/2 cup of red wine to help it along. 

Then I mixed the tomato sauce with the wine and onions in the braiser and added the rolls. I poured in more wine for good measure. I put it in a 350 oven for two hours and left it alone. This was the result.

It was pretty good. I think the addition of the proscuitto was an important flavor component, and I preferred not having gooey, melted cheese in the rolls, so am glad I didn't add provolone. The beef itself was tender, not dry and very flavorful. I don't know that it made a difference that I used bottom round vice top.

I didn't have any Italian red wine, so I just drank a basic Castle Rock Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. For some reason, it reminded me of Lapsang Souchong tea. Twiggy, smoky and a tad bit acidic. Hell if I could find the purported "rich, crisp fruit flavors" or the plum and cherry. It was just okay. Perhaps my inability to appreciate the wine can be attributed to the fact that I was getting sick and my body was telling me I needed tea and orange juice and not alcohol. Regardless, it was a good dinner.

And for good measure here is a photo I took on Saturday of Mei Ping.

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