Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Braciole...Easier Done Than Said

A friend requested that I make braciole for him last year, and I complied with a recipe that was but a vague memory to me. Our cousin Frances served this to us when I was about 14 years old and I loved it. What I remembered was that it was beef pounded very thin, then layered with bread crumbs, Romano cheese, parsley, and minced garlic. It was rolled and secured with a toothpick then cooked in her tomato sauce. It must have been a long simmer because the meat was tender...each mouthful was pure enchantment.

1 beef round tip roast
1 1/2 cup fresh ciabatta crumbs
1C freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2C minced parsley (1/3 bunch)
1/2 large garlic bulb
1/4C extra virgin olive oil
black pepper (optional)
1 pot meatless tomato sauce


Roasts are hard to come by in weights under 5 pounds, so use only half the roast for this recipe, about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds. Slice the roast across the grain into 1/4" slices. Pound them with a meat tenderizer until they are thinner, but take care not to tear them. Small pieces that may tear off may be used to patch other tears in the center portion of each piece. After you have finished tenderizing the meat, refrigerate it while you start to mix the filling.

Traditionally a rustic bread without crust would be used, but I decided on a rosemary ciabatta for this recipe, since it was the smallest loaf I could find. A less course grained bread with a softer crumb might work better. Remove the crust from the bread and pulse the inner portions in a food processor. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and set aside. Grate about 1 cup of Romano cheese. I use a medium grate, not fine, so the proportion will be off if you use a finely grated cheese. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese together and set aside. Now mince the parsley and stir it into the bread mixture.
Mince the garlic and also add it to the filling mixture. Use enough olive oil to moisten the mixture. Some people drizzle the olive oil over the filling once it has been spread on the meat, but this seems much easier to me and helps the filling hold together.

As you place the first slice of meat on the work surface, decide whether you want larger or small braciole, then cut the meat accordingly. After making 3 larger pieces, I opted for smaller braciole and cut all the sliced beef in half. Place a generous layer of the filling on the meat after adding pepper to it, if you choose to add pepper. I tried it, but am not sure it makes much difference. Keep the filling in the center and roll the meat around it, securing the meat with a toothpick. Securing
the meat on the sides, as displayed in the photo above proved to be impractical.
Place a frying pan over a medium high heat and add some olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan by 1/4". Place the rolled meat into the pan to brown, turning frequently to brown all sides. Since they will be components of a rich meat sauce, browning will add depth to the flavor of the sauce. After doing the entire batch, I decided that 2 toothpicks down the center that also secure the sides are enough, and they make the braciole easier to brown. Add the braciole to your simmering tomato sauce and cook for several hours until the meat becomes tender. Remember to remove the tooth picks before serving. They make a nice meat course to go with pasta.

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