So I am an avid fan of Everybody Loves Raymond and I have been for years. I have seen every episode at least 10 times and own every season on DVD. I still watch it at night when it is on. There is an episode titled “Deborah makes something good” and that something good is Braciole. Today’s featured recipe and man is it good!!! Every time over the past few years when I saw this episode I would think “that looks so good” and “I so want to make braciole one day”. Well, my friends, one day came last Sunday. In the episode, Deborah says she adds currants to her braciole, so I ordered some from Amazon and I bought the rest of my ingredients and I was ready to go. I did not find this to be an extremely difficult dish to prepare but it would definitely not be filed under quick and easy recipes. It requires a little extra effort and time in the kitchen. I promise It is absolutely, positively, 100 percent worth the extra effort. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients required. Most of the ingredients needed for the filling are also needed for the sauce so there is quite a bit of repetition.
Braciole (adapted from Sunshine and Bones blog)
For the filling/stuffing you will need:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced pancetta (this is usually found in your grocer’s specialty cheese case near the deli)
1 large onion, finely diced
crushed red pepper flakes, just a pinch
2 cups of day old Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into chunks
1 cup of whole milk
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and then finely chopped
1 8 oz. container white mushrooms, diced
1 1/2-2 cups spinach, stems removed and cut into chiffonade (I had to google it…it isn’t hard I promise)
1/2 cup grated provolone
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus extra to sprinkle over the finished product)
1/2 cup currants (I ordered them off of Amazon. Yes you heard me correctly)
2 pounds top round, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (I found some in the Wal-Mart meat section and it was called Milanesa style)
For the sauce:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Crushed red peper flakes, just a pinch
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped (see what I mean about the repetition?)
4 T. tomato paste
1 cup of red wine (I used Barefoot sweet red)
1 32 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (Ok the recipe I followed called for the tomatoes to be passed through a food mill…after I finished laughing because I do not own a food mill and I am not buying one, I brought out my Immersion blender and stuck that baby in the can of tomatoes and that worked just fine. You just want the tomatoes to be smooth. And again, I found these tomatoes at Wal-Mart)
2 cups of water
Your choice of pasta, cooked al dente
For the beef rolls: add about 2 T. of olive oil in a skillet or saute pan and then add the pancetta. Bring the pan to medium heat. Cook the pancetta until it gets brown and crispy, about 5 minutes or so. Pancetta is basically Italian bacon and sweet Maria it is so good. When this stuff is getting close to where you need it, your kitchen will smell like heaven. Add the diced onions and crushed pepper flakes and toss to let them mix well with the pancetta. Season with Kosher salt, to taste. Cook the onions until they are tender and opaque, about 8 minutes.
While the onions are getting tender and opaque, combine your bread cubes and whole milk in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine and let this mixture sit until the bread has absorbed and is really soft. Using your hands, really get in there and really mush the bread and milk together. Set this aside.
Add the garlic to your saute pan and saute it for about 2 minutes. Next, add the mushrooms and stir until mushrooms are fairly soft. Add salt to taste if necessary. Remove the mixture from the heat and then stir in the spinach.
Now, stir the onion/garlic/pancetta/mushroom mixture to your mushy bread. Stir to combine. Stir in the cheeses. Taste to see if you need to add any more Kosher salt and add accordingly, a little at a time.
The recipe I followed called for you to lay the beef slices out between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a mallet to flatten and even the slices out. I skipped this step because it was not necessary as all of my meat slices were thin and even in thickness. Feel free to do this step if you just think it needs to be done or if you have some pent up aggression that you need to release in a positive way. Tenderizing meat is a great stress reliever, so by all means…get after it.
Ok…now that your filling is rolled up in the beef slices, it is time to work on the sauce. Pour some olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot. I used my most favorite Lodge color shallow dutch oven. Here is a picture of my little darling. I took this picture to show ya’ll a picture to go by size wise…I don’t just have pictures of my pots because they are my pride and joy. Ha ha!!! Now heat the olive oil in your dutch oven
over medium heat. Season the beef rolls lightly with kosher salt and brown the beef rolls on all sides. When they are nicely browned on all sides, transfer them to a plate and set aside.
Add a little more olive oil to the pot, then add your onions and the crushed red pepper and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender and opaque. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Now stir in the tomato paste and red wine and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and season with kosher salt, to taste.
Return the beef rolls to the pan and let those babies get cozy in the sauce. Bring the sauce just to a boil and then reduce your heat. Simer until the beef is very tender, about 2 hours. Remove the toothpicks before serving. Serve over your choice of cooked pasta (for the record I used angel hair pasta). Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if you want.
This is what my finished product looked like. Like I said…I had been wanting to cook braciole for several years. It was definitely a marker on my culinary path to wherever the heck it is I am going. Being a cajun mama, I am not sure if that path will ever end. Making this dish was definitely a cooking adventure worth taking. Will I make this weekly or even monthly? Probably not. Not because it is a little more time consuming, but because braciole is one of those dishes that when you make it, you want your family, husband, or significant other to look forward to. One of those dishes that Sundays are built around. In fact last week as I was in the throws of cooking, Big Daddy walked in the kitchen and said “dang, it smells like Sunday in here!!” and that is the whole point. I hope you and your family enjoy it too.