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Mike's Recipe for Feb. 2012 - Braciole

Last month I made a recipe from a cool book I received for Christmas. It wasn?t the only recipe book I got! Heather picked me up David Rocco's Made in Italy. The gift was inspired by one of her favorite recipes (which I attempted to make back in October). She used it for my great birthday dinner. Now it's my turn to use it to clear up a previous confusion.

When Heather and I visited Next Door Bar and Grill for the first time, Heather ordered a bronzini, which is a sea bass. In her head she was picturing braciole. Until that point, I had no idea what either of those were. Now I do, and I even made the latter!

Braciole is a pretty cool dish and it was fun to make. You take some steak, put a bunch of crazy ingredients (like raisins) on top of it, roll it up, and put it in a tomato sauce. The recipe calls for thinly sliced flank steak. Heather did great and found me some already sliced strips of top round at Wegmans. They worked really well and required no extra prep as they were already nice and thin. Along with raisins, the spread included fresh mint and pine nuts. Toasting the pine nuts was stressful as they are a bit pricey, so I didn?t want to ruin them. Thankfully, Heather stepped in and helped so there were no tragedies.

I rolled them up without cutting the steak into smaller pieces yet. After spacing out four toothpicks to hold them firm, I used a knife to cut them into four small individual rolls. I felt like there was no way they were going to hold together, but they were actually quite firm.

The sauce called for garlic, onions, tomato puree, and red wine. Given our affinity for beer, we substituted Ommegang Hennepin for the wine. I thought that the herbiness of the farmhouse saison would work well with the other ingredients.

The steak browned briefly in the sauce pan before the tomato puree and beer were poured on top. The whole thing then simmered on the stove for about two and a half hours. Heather helped me avert one crisis during this simmering process as she got a whiff of a burning smell. The heat was too high and some of the tomato was burning on the base on the pan. Thanks to her amazing quick thinking, we quickly swapped the sauce and meat into a new pan. We then added a bit more beer to account for some of the moisture that was lost to the burning.

Given the long simmering time of the recipe, I decided to tackle a side dish too. I was drawn to another recipe in the book called Involtini Di Melanzane E Provola. Apparently that means rolled eggplant with smoked provolone. I?m not usually a huge fan of eggplant but I figured if anything could convince me, frying it with cheese would.

The recipe is quite straightforward and easy. I sliced the eggplant as thinly as I could (which was quite inconsistent). With hot oil ready to go in a pan, I dunked a slice in some egg, coated it in flour, and dropped it in the plan. Heather helped me a lot here. My hands stayed messy, and she made sure they were getting flipped when they were ready. After frying all the slices, I spread some shredded smoked provolone on each and rolled them up. We then put them in a warm oven to make sure the cheese would melt and hold the rolls.

When the braciole was finally ready, I carefully used tongs to move each little roll from the sauce to a spare plate. On the plate I pulled the toothpicks out of each and then added them back to the sauce and tossed with some spaghetti. It then got served up with some of the eggplant rolls on the side. It made for a nice heaping plate of Italian comfort, which I absolutely love. I paired the meal with Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA The hop bitterness of the beer would stand up well to the tomato sauce.

I seriously loved this meal. It felt a bit like traditional spaghetti and meatballs, but biting into the little beef rolls was a completely different experience. The mint brings a freshness. The pine nuts bring a great texture. The raisins bring a surprising fruitiness. It was a home run. The eggplant rolls weren?t quite as great. I would have liked them to hold the crispiness of the frying a bit better, but I still enjoyed them. The whole meal was truly comforting and quite filling.

You just read one of Upstate Crumbs' monthly New Recipe posts. Every month, Mike and Heather will each make a post about a new recipe. For Mike, it will usually be an adventure in trying to learn to cook. For Heather, she'll pick something that is outside of her comfort zone in some way.
By Mike on February 15, 2012 at 9:29pm EST Topic(s): recipes new recipes home cooking books braciole beer ommegang bear republic eggplant david rocco

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