Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Now That's Italian…Kind Of?

Once in awhile something just strikes me and I'm compelled to go for it. Like the first time I saw Dave. Or started this blog. Or saw that little black cuteness below.

When I perused this recipe on my brother's blog, I'd never heard of braciole before, but I suddenly saw big red blinking letters that flashed "DINNER!" "DINNER!" "DINNER!" over and over. A little research revealed the pronunciation (bruh-ZHOLE) and the fact that it's normally a thin cut of beef (though it can also be fish, chicken or pork) that's spread with a filling and rolled, then pan-fried in oil.

This recipe from chef Andrew Carmellini is, to put it mildly, a deconstructed version made with beef short ribs that are browned and then braised in a tomato sauce until they're fall-apart tender. He then serves them beneath a shower of herbs and hard-boiled eggs that might, just might, pass for the stuffing. If you don't think about it too hard. Or at all.

I'm sure Italian purists would be horrified but (toe-may-toe toe-mah-toe) dang it's tasty whatever you call it.

Short Ribs Braciole
Adapted from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

For the ribs:
1/2 c. roughly diced pancetta or bacon (about 1/4 lb.)
4 boneless short ribs (about 2 lbs.), cut into thirds
1 heaping Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 28-oz. cans tomatoes, plus their juice

For the topping:
1/4 c. pine nuts, chopped roughly
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. breadcrumbs or panko
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
a pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper
3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Cook the pancetta in a large, dry, ovenproof saucepot over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well, and continue cooking. Crush the tomatoes over a bowl with your hands, then add them to the pot along with their juice. Bring the mixture up to a low boil. Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven. Check the ribs about every 15 minutes or so to make sure they're not boiling too hard. Cook until the meat is supertender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2½ hours.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs or panko and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Cool and transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the oregano, parsley and chopped eggs. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Remove the pot of short ribs from the oven and immediately remove the ribs to a plate, using a pair of tongs. Use a ladle to remove some of the fat from the sauce, by pressing the chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so that the ladle fills only with the clear fat. (This is optional, but it definitely makes the sauce prettier-there's about 2 tablespoons' worth of fat there.) Add 1/2 cup of water to the sauce and stir to bring it together.

Place 4 to 5 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour the sauce from the pot directly over the short ribs and sprinkle the topping generously over each dish. Serve immediately.

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