Involtini di Manzo: Stuffed Beef Rolls
Judy noted as we traveled around Northwest Sicily, that savory cooking, and notably the cooking in and around Palermo typically features breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and raisins. We saw this everywhere, and the cooking class at the Becchina estate featured one nice recipe featuring this trinity.
The beef used for these rolls is best coming from a young animal. This topic was briefly touched on in the cooking class and it is rather important if you want the fork tender melt in your mouth results we got in Sicily. In France this kind of beef comes from the Genisse, a young heifer that is old enough to have been out with the herd on the field, but not quite full grown. The meat is a darker red than veal, from an animal that has been out on a daily walk moving her limbs, but also a younger animal than we get steaks from. When in doubt, ask your butcher, and if you only have one type of beef or veal to choose from, go for a naturally raised veal that has been kept outside with its mother, walking about. It will have some color to it. If you don't like the idea of using veal because you can't be sure whether it was raised humanely, go ahead and use beef, but make sure you get it sliced thinly. You might discuss this detail with your local butcher or local Italian grandmother and see what he or she might suggest.
The keys to this recipe, aside from the meat, having done it with the teacher in Sicily and then again in rather rustic conditions on the wood stove at home in France, is to make sure you get the right kind of cheese, young Pecorino and also a good Parmesan. You can replace the fresh young Pecorino with Cheddar, if you are in a pinch, but do make sure you get nice good Parmesan.
Involtini di Manzo (Bracioline) from Chez Becchina
8 extra thin slices of young lean beef : rump steak, boneless and flattened if necessary (ask your butcher to slice it as thin as possible)
4 extra thin slices of mortadella or ham
1 hard boiled egg
1 heaping cup of loosely packed fresh ground breadcrumbs, made from day old (good) bread with the crust removed
1/4 cup chopped Pecorino primo sale (fresh young pecorino)
1/3 cup Parmigiano reggiano or Grana padano cheese
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
2 Tablespoons raisins
1 peeled garlic clove in winter, 2 if fresh with its green stalk
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat leafed parsley (don't skip the parsley!)
finely ground Trapani or Mozia sea salt to season, even better: fior di sale. (Lucy's note: Use your best sea salt, including breaking out your fleur de sel if necessary)
2 Tablespoons Olio Verde extra virgin olive oil
Oil for browning (Lucy's note: your favorite cooking oil)
One large jar of your favorite tomato sauce or simply minced whole canned tomatoes
toothpicks (for closing the rolls)
Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mince everything: the eggs, the parsley, the raisins, pine nuts and garlic, cheeses, and add them to the bowl. Toss, season with salt, then add the olive oil in a stream, tossing the mix to keep it light and fluffy. The stuffing should still be light and not drenched with oil, use your discretion with the oil.
Lay out the beef slices on a board, and note the direction of the grain of the meat. This will have an effect on your finished product. The meat contracts in the process of cooking, and your fresh bread crumbs will expand in the process of simmering, laying the meat this way and rolling it as shown will ensure a compact and durable roll, which does not pull apart and spill the contents during cooking.
Cut your ham or mortadella into pieces that fit within the size of the beef slices. (My thought is that if you are not able to get your hands on the real mortadella from Italy, you can replace it with deli thin slices of bologna or something similar.) And lay a slice on top of the beef as shown. Look how thin this is sliced. Tell the people at the deli you want it that thin.
Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the breadcrumb/egg stuffing onto the roll, ensuring that you stay within the edges. You don't need to force these completely full of stuffing. The goal is to get a nice roll that won't fall apart so don't go overboard on the stuffing. A little goes a long way.
Fold in the edges on either side as shown, and roll them up, finishing with a toothpick to hold them together. (repeat for all of the beef rolls.)
Donna did a great job in this class!
In a flat skillet, heat the cooking oil and quickly brown the beef rolls on each side, turning them every 3 minutes or so.
When they are browned, transfer them to a plate and drain off the cooking oil the best you can. In a medium sized pot or deep skillet, heat the tomato sauce and bring it to a simmer. Transfer the beef rolls into the tomato sauce, and simmer them covered for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve hot!