If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
My mother had the ability to horizontally filet a London broil into slices so thin they looked like they would fall apart. These became the foundation of a brasciole (pronounced: brah-SHOLE) that practically melted in your mouth. But I get ahead of myself and should explain just what a brasciole is and why you should eat it.
Simply stated, brasciole describes any long, very thin slice of meat (beef, pork or poultry) that is covered with a Parmeggiano cheese-based filling, rolled up, secured with string or skewers and slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce. All things considered, it’s a very simple dish to prepare – but there is a trick to the preparation: unless you have the same talent with the butcher knife as my late mother did, you will end up with shaved slivers of London broil instead of perfectly thin slices. What to do? Time to make friends with your local butcher or with the deli department at your favorite supermarket.
Start by purchasing the biggest, thickest, London broil you can find – at least 1-1/2″ thick. If you can’t find a slab this thick, then purchase two pieces that are 3/4″ thick. Now comes the trick part: wait until shortly before the butcher shop or deli department closes and ask if they can slice the London broil lengthwise on the cold cut slicer just before cleaning and disinfecting the machine. It has been my experience that they will happily oblige. Have them slice the meat no more than 3/8″ thick, which means that a London broil measuring 1-1/2″ thick ought to yield 8 slices. If you’ve gotten this far, your patience and persistence will be rewarded beyond the wildest expectations of your taste buds.
Ingredients for Filling
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
6 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp pignoli (pine nuts), finely crushed
2 tbsp Italian-style breadcrumbs
½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp thyme
¼ cup equal parts finely grated Parmigiano and Romano cheeses
¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup light olive oil to brown the brascioli
Ingredients for Sauce
1 large onion, finely dice
4 large cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup red wine (any dry red wine will do)
6 cups Mama Marie’s Tomato Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Set oven to 200 degrees F.
Place filling ingredients in a food processor and process for 30 seconds to create a super thick paste. Divide into 8 equal portions.
Lay out a London broil fillet and spread a portion of the paste in the center, with a half inch of clearance on all sides. Roll up the fillet and then tie in the middle and near each of the ends with butcher twine. Repeat for the remaining 7 fillets and smear each evenly with olive oil.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on high flame for at least five minutes to get it rocket-hot. Place four of the oiled brascioli in the pan and brown evenly on all sides. Remove to a separate plate and brown the remaining four brascioli. After removing the them, add the light olive oil to the pan. Wait until the oil gets very hot and then add the onions.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook the onions until they are translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and stir for another five minutes, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Turn the flame up to high and reduce the wine by half. Add the tomato sauce and stir vigorously. Transfer half the sauce to a large casserole dish.
Evenly arrange all 8 brascioli on top of the sauce and then add the rest of the sauce. Cover the casserole dish and slow roast at 200 degrees F. for 4 hours.
After 4 hours, remove casserole dish from the oven. Using a kitchen scissors, snip the butcher twine and remove from each of the rolls. Transfer the brascioli to a platter covered with boiled spaghetti. Pour the sauce over the brasciole and the spaghetti and serve with grated Parmigiano cheese.