From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The French may have pot-au-feu but when it comes to great steaming casseroles, Sicilian Sunday gravy made with meatballs, sausage and braciola probably has more fans. It is easier to make and certainly less expensive to construct than the boiled supper of the French. That's a good thing, especially when more than 20 people regularly gather for Sunday supper at your table. Mrs. S, a special woman who contributed so much to the richness of my childhood, was the undisputed queen of Sunday gravy and I suspect that in her lifetime she made enough of it to fill a swimming pool. I spent hours in her kitchen and, by osmosis, learned how to make many of the dishes she prepared for her huge extended family. She used no recipes and, because she had no daughters, none of her specialties were ever written down. I had a sense of what went into her Sunday gravy, but the particulars remained her secret. Time has changed the way we eat and I haven't thought of her gravy in years, but I chanced on a recipe for braciola in Saveur magazine and memories came rushing back. Now the Silver Fox and I are good eaters, but a gravy made with meatballs, sausage and braciola was way too much food for the two of us to contemplate, much less eat. Fortunately, the version in the magazine was streamlined and only braciola was used to flavor the sauce. Braciola are roulades of beef that are filled with a stuffing of some type. Years ago they were time consuming to make because the meat had to be thinly sliced and pounded before if could be stuffed. Nowadays, thinly sliced beef is available at the meat counter and the work has been considerably reduced. Once stuffed, the rolls are fried and then placed in sauce for a long slow braise that brings all the flavors together. I like my braciola to be fork tender, so I have made a few changes to the recipe you see below. To allow the rolls to brown without sticking, I dust them with an instant blend before frying. I also braise them in a 250 degree oven for 5 to 6 hours. The slow oven produces a wonderful tomato gravy and delicious roulades. We had these for dinner tonight and I loved the memories that surfaced as we ate them. I've found that good food makes for great company and even better memories. Thank you Rose, for everything. I hope you will give this recipe a try. Here's how the braciola and this version of Sunday gravy are made.
Braciola and Tomato Sauce...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Saveur magazine
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
12 (6"x 4") slices boneless beef chuck, pounded to 1⁄16" thickness
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instant blend flour (i.e. Wondra)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 tp 1/2 teaspoons red chile flakes
2 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
1 bay leaf
Cooked spaghetti and garlic bread for serving
1) To make filling: Mix together raisins, 4 tablespoons parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a bowl; set aside.
2) Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper, and place about 1 tablespoon filling on the bottom half. Roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks, and repeat with remaining beef and filling.
3) Heat oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef rolls with salt and pepper and lightly dust with instant blend flour. Working in batches, add rolls, and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook, stirring to scrape bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chile flakes, tomatoes, and bay leaf, and then return beef rolls to pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially and gently stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.
4) Remove meat rolls from sauce, remove toothpicks, and transfer to center of a serving platter. Continue cooking sauce until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Surround braciola with cooked spaghetti. Pour sauce over meat rolls, and sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
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