Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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
(serves 4)

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!

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Blogger Unknown said...

This looks absolutely divine! I love the combo of raisins and pine nuts, and I love using a thin slice of beef as a "wrap" instead of using some kind of bread (pita, e.g.) or some kind of leaf (cabbage, for example). Thanks!

7:56 PM, October 21, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a child, my mother used to make beef olives on a regular basis, they were thin slices of rump steak wrapped about a seasoned breadcrumb stuffing with streaky bacon as a way of making the expensive meat go further.

They had nothing to do with olives but this was a medieval dish and the names is a corruption of 'aloes' or 'allowes' from the Old French alou meaning lark as the rolls were thought to look like small birds which had lost their heads. The standard French term is paupiettes but they are also called alouettes sans tete. According to Wikipedia they are know as braciole in Southern Italian and Italian-American cookery.

10:10 PM, October 21, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

And when I came home to France last week, the first day, I went to the butcher to get the beef to make this recipe again. I explained to him what I planned to do, and he told that in that region (the Savoie is where the country house is), they call them p'tits oiseaux, or little birds. How interesting to know that these little birds have migrated all over the world this way, from the tip of the boot to America, to the Alps. Thank you for your kind comments, both Toni and anon.

10:37 PM, October 21, 2008  
Blogger Eileen said...

This sounds (and looks) absolutely wonderful! I've got to try it.

3:55 PM, October 22, 2008  
Blogger TexasDeb said...

Lucy - I am sorry to get to this so late in the game but - these look so wonderful! Is there any substitute you could offer for the young pecorino? That might be hard to come by and I am suddenly in a HURRY to try this recipe out.

8:24 PM, November 01, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Well, lets see. You know, you could use cheddar, whichever form it manifests where you live. Try that.

11:15 PM, November 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am late too, but what's interesting is that my mom used to make the same dish in Aleppo(Syria) and call it Rolled Braciola, using the Italian word. The meat was Lamb and the stuffing sliced garlic, mixture of seven spices and pieces of lamb fat. She sautteed the meat in additional rendered fat and cooked it in tomato sauce. Most delectable

8:08 PM, November 05, 2008  
Blogger Shayne said...

oh my this looks so good. I love the photos too

4:32 AM, November 14, 2008  
Blogger Larraine said...

Despite having grown up in an Italian-American family, we had never had this dish. We went to my aunt's house for dinner, and she made it. Her recipe doesn't include currants or pine nuts. It has the hardboiled egg plus chopped garlic and parsley. My father was a terrific cook, but it annoyed him that I liked this so much! He made it a few times, but it was never one of his favorites. I love it and make it when I have the time. I'm going to try the currant and pine nut variation.

1:42 AM, January 15, 2009  
Blogger Bill said...

Brociolli - "little birds" has many variations, all of them good.

9:24 PM, December 10, 2010  

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