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Grilled braciole with tomato-caper relish
Issue 44: A summery take on an Italian-American classic, inspired by 'The Bear.'
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There’s a flashback scene in The Bear where the siblings are telling stories, cooking with each other, and arguing about what goes in their recipe.
“We’re not doing fucking raisins,” Carmy’s brother, Michael, quips.
The second that scene opened I knew exactly what they were making: braciole.
For the uninitiated, braciole is an Italian-American dish that’s an all day affair, which is why it’s usually reserved for special occasions or a long Sunday cook. It’s essentially fillings rolled into pounded-flat beef, tied right, braised for a few hours in a tomato sauce, then served with pasta and/or bread. The side of an Italian family talking loudly at each other is optional.
There’s no agreed upon set of fillings, but you’ll usually find some combo of prosciutto, breadcrumbs, capers, herbs, garlic, pine nuts, a ton of Parmesan cheese, and yes, raisins. It’s time-consuming, fun to make (who doesn’t need to pound some aggression out?), and a seriously underrated entry in the Italian-American food canon.
Watching this scene, my first thought was that I couldn’t remember the last time I had braciole. My second thought was, wow I need it right now.
But with the show premiering in the middle of summer and my displeasure for being hot, I wasn’t about to turn on my oven to satisfy a now-intense craving for braciole. So I thought: what if I could make it more summer appropriate?
Our family’s recipe calls for pine nuts and capers in addition to other fillings. But I’m not that interested in pine nuts, so I just included my favorite parts: prosciutto, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, and a showering of parm. I replaced the braise entirely, and used the capers for a tomato-caper relish to go on top.
Courtney Storer, a culinary producer on The Bear, makes her breadcrumbs from scratch and that’s probably a smart move. She uses panko breadcrumbs with a lot of garlic, oregano, parmesan, and pecorino.
This faster, fresher, grilled version is nowhere near traditional, but it still gives me the beefy, briney, and tomato-y notes I crave.
P.S. According to my brother (and me tbh), the relish is addicting. We think it would be good on: a sandwich, toast, a meaty piece of fish. So maybe make a double batch?
Grilled Braciole with Tomato-Caper Relish
For the braciole:
1 lb flank, bavette, or any thin cut of steak
⅓ pound prosciutto
½ cup bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
Freshly-grated parmesan cheese, about ½ cup
Glugs of olive oil (1-2 healthy tablespoons)
For the relish:
12 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
3-4 tablespoons capers
1 shallot or ½ small red onion, finely diced
Heaping ¼ cup finely chopped herbs (parsley, basil, or a mix of both work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Twine, 3-4 pieces of twine per piece of beef, about 4-5 inches long
If using an oven, preheat to 350 degrees.
If using a grill, prepare for two-zone cooking. Build a medium-high fire to one side and let burn for 10-15 to heat up the grates.
Prepare the braciole
Pound the beef out to about ¼ in thick. For ease of rolling, I like to divide it into 2-4 pieces versus one giant slab of beef. It’s ok if they’re a little wonky in shape.
Mix together bread crumbs, garlic, pasley, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Lay each piece of steak out on a flat surface. Layer prosciutto then bread crumb mix on top of the pounded steak. Use a spoon to make it even across each piece. Grate parmesan on top of each piece - enough so it looks like a fresh dusting of snow.
Roll each piece like a jelly roll as tight as possible, using the twine to tie it tight. Brush outside with neutral oil.
Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Add neutral oil to the pan and sear the braciole on all 4 sides until it forms a nice crust. About 2-4 minutes each side.
Pop in the oven to bring to temp, about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. If using a meat thermometer, the inside should be at a temp of 125-130 and it will come up a few degrees while it rests.
Remove from pan, set aside to rest at least 10 minutes.
Place the braciole directly on the fire side of the grill and sear on all 4 sides until there’s a nice crust. About 2-4 minutes each side.
Move the braciole off the flame to indirect heat. Cover the grill and bring to temp, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. If using a meat thermometer, the inside should be at a temp of 125-130 and it will come up a few degrees while it rests.
Remove from grill, set aside to rest at least 10 minutes.
While meat is in the oven/on the less-hot side of the grill, prepare the relish.
Mix together all of the ingredients. Let mingle for a bit while the meat cooks and rests.
After the braciola has rested, remove the twine. Slice about ½ in thick.
Arrange on a platter and top with relish.
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