The Sunday Gravy Experiment Part 7 – Braciole

Well, the Sunday Gravy project is proceeding nicely and we are now at Day 36. Since my Spicy Sausage experiment (which was posted well over a week after I did the cooking) I have reheated the gravy twice to keep it fresh (days 26 and 32) and it still tastes great. The sweetness has given away a little, but the layers of rich umami flavor more than compensate for this and there is no harshness at all.

One of the traditional additions to the typical Sunday Gravy (which usually accompanies to the Sausages and Meatballs I cooked on Day 4) is Braciole (plural of the less commonly used name Braciola). Basically, these are stuffed rolls of meat (usually beef, but sometimes veal or pork), that are (mostly Italian-American) derivatives of the generic Italian delicacies known as ‘Involtini’. Fans of ‘The Sopranos’ will certainly recognize the name of the dish (usually pronounced something like ‘bra-ZHOOL’), but in the television show the word is usually used (for fairly obvious reasons) as a slang term for penis…

The Ingredients

The filling for a Braciole can be just about anything. The simplest are just cheese and herbs, sometimes with breadcrumbs), but the variations can be quite substantial, including sausage meat, arugula, preserved meat products like salami, and mushrooms or onions. Some varieties include things like raisins and pine-nuts, especially in Sicily, and, while that sounds interesting, I am going to try a combination that will be somewhat complex, but still quite subtle. My ingredient list is as follows:

  • 1lb. Beefsteak;
  • 1 cup frozen Spinach;
  • ½ lb. Ground Pork;
  • ½ cup shredded Asiago Cheese;
  • 5 Prosciutto slices;
  • 6 Provolone Cheese slices;
  • ¼ of a small onion, finely chopped;
  • 1 tsp. Thyme;
  • Salt and Black Pepper.

The Method

Rather than make several small Braciole, which would be most common at a Sunday Gravy style meal, I am making one large one. The steak I have is too thick for rolling, and I want more surface area, so the first task was to butterfly the cut and pound it thin. Afterwards, I seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper.

Next, you need to really squeeze the spinach to get rid of excess water, and then mix it with the pork, grated Asiago cheese, onion, the thyme, and a little salt and pepper.

Now, the mixture gets spread over the flattened steak, leaving a nice margin at one end.

The Prosciutto then gets laid over the meat mixture with the Provolone placed near the edge.

After rolling the Braciole tightly in a jelly-roll fashion, it needs to be tied with twine to hold the shape.

Browning it in a little oil will add some nice flavor.

The final cooking will, of course, take place in our Sunday Gravy. I am afraid I didn’t take into account the size of the roll when considering this step and it is not possible to cook it in the pot I have been using all along. Consequently, the roll can’t be totally submerged in the gravy (which I would have preferred) but I can turn it as it cooks.

I let the braciole simmer for a little over an hour. Once it was done, I removed it from the gravy and let it sit for a few minutes to let it firm up before slicing.

You could easily serve large sections of the Braciole but I thought little rounds would be nice as this shows off the center very nicely.

For this supper, I just served the Braciole slices with some spaghetinni cooked with porcini mushrooms and garlic. Some Milanese risotto, and maybe some sautéed broccoli would have been good too, but this was simple and quick and worked nicely.

The Verdict

Well, I liked this very much but the wife (although she ate everything) found a taste in the Braciole she wasn’t keen on. She said she detected a ‘musty’ taste and, while we couldn’t identify exactly what was causing it, we figured it was possibly an interplay between the spinach and the thyme. It was unfortunate she didn’t totally enjoy the result but she still thought the meal was pretty good.

12 thoughts on “The Sunday Gravy Experiment Part 7 – Braciole”

  1. I always find it fascinating that American Italian can be so different from Italian Italian. This looks yummy, although I may agree with Darlene that thyme and spinach may not work together.

    1. Oregano is often used in Italian-American dishes (sometimes over-used) and I’m not a fan. The thyme wasn’t really that strong really. The only thing I could think of that was giving her the unusual taste was the interplay between the thyme and the spinach… it tasted fine to me. Possibly the Provolone was influencing her as well… I don’t use it often and it has a slight pungency to it…

  2. Could be too the prosciutto and or, the combo of the mixture of meats in the past few weeks. I always just used the asiago and onions and didn’t get too fancy with the filling. I also saved the herbs for the marina. Could be various things. It is interesting though to see the longevity and experimentation with the gravy.

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