Holy Braciole

braciole flank steak

Beauteous Braciole

OK….last night’s dinner was a bit of work with a lot of steps and a bunch of ingredients. Everyone liked it. That’s my story.

Braciole (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • A 1 1/4 -1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped

    mise en place

    Le Creuset Prep Bowls

  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 10oz package Birds Eye frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 8-10 baby bella mushroom, stem removed and sliced relatively thin
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine (same as pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tbsp Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Sliced or Shredded Provolone Cheese

    Organic Provolone Whole Foods

    Cut the Cheese

  • 2 leeks – chopped
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 28oz can of Muir Glen tomato puree
  • Herb bundle with Rosemary and Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. In a medium saute or fry pan, over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add 1 clove garlic chopped and 1 chopped shallot. Saute until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Fragrant Garlic

Saute Garlic and Shallot

2. Add in 1 10oz package of Birds-Eye frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry. Saute until heated through then transfer spinach to a bowl and set aside.

Birds-Eye Spinach

Birds-Eye Spinach Sauteeing

3. Add 1 tbsp of Olive Oil to the same pan and heat over medium. Then add in 1 cup of sliced baby bella mushrooms. Saute until tender.

Whole Foods Baby Bella Mushrooms

I foraged for these at Whole Foods

4. Add back in the spinach and stir to combine

5. Stir in 1/4 cup of toasted Pine Nuts – I buy these in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. They’re expensive, but buying in the bulk aisle allows you to get just what you need.

Baby Bella Mushrooms Birds Eye Spinach Saute

Spinach, Mushrooms & Toasted Pine Nuts

6. Once heated through, transfer to a bowl and while still hot, stir in 2 tbsp of Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese. I wasn’t going to add anything here…but needed a binder for the stuffing and I heart ricotta cheese!

Poly-O Ricotta Cheese

Stuffing is Done!

7. Place the flank steak on plastic wrap on a cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap and using the flat side of a tenderizer, pound out the steak to about 1/2 inch thick. Be careful not to over pound and toughen the meat. If the flank steak is super thick, you can carefully butterfly the steak before pounding or even instead of pounding out.

Whole Foods Flank Steak

Pre-Pounded Flank Steak

8. Remove the top and bottom layer of plastic wrap and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper the meat on the up side

9. Place 4 – 6 pieces of cooking string under the pounded flank steak at about 2 inch intervals. The string will need to be long enough to tie around the braciole once stuffed, so better to err on too long than too short.

NOTE: Putting the string under the meat before stuffing and rolling it, makes the ultimate tying process easier

10. Cover the meat with a layer of the spinach, mushroom, nut mixture. Leave about an inch uncovered all around – I didn’t leave enough space…

Birds Eye chopped spinach mushrooms

Layer on the stuffing

11. On top of that, add a layer of thinly sliced or shredded provolone cheese. You need a medium hard cheese here as you don’t want it all melty and oozing out of the braciole.

Organic Whole Foods Provolone

Because Everything is better with Cheese

12. Carefully roll the flank steak – keeping the stuffing inside.

13. Tie the roll securely with the strings – mine looked a little frankenstein or maybe ‘The Mummy’, but that was fine.

Whole Foods Flank Steak Braciole

Secured Franken-Style

14. In a roasting pan or a lasagna pan over two burners on med/high heat 3 tbsp of olive oil. I used my All-Clad turkey roasting pan…but, should have used a smaller one like the All-Clad lasagna pan.

14. Sear the stuffed flank steak on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.

whole foods flank steak braciole

Searing the Braciole

15. Transfer the seared steak to a cutting board. Set Aside.

16. Depending upon size of pan…Add another 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium.

17. Add in 1 medium onion sliced, two chopped leaks and one chopped carrot. Saute until softened – about 7 mins.

NOTE: I might have added a second carrot…but only had one in the fridge.

Leeks Onions Carrots

Saute Veggies

11. Add in 2 cloves of garlic chopped and salt and pepper – saute another minute or two.

12. Raise the heat to med/high and pour in 1 cup of dry red wine to deglaze the pan.  Allow about 1/2 of the wine to evaporate.

13. Pour in 2 cups of beef broth – I had some chicken stock I needed to use so I did 1/2 chicken stock, 1/2 beef broth.

14. Return the meat to the pan and cover with 1 28oz can of Muir Glen pureed tomatoes. Then add in an herb bundle of Rosemary and Thyme – about 2 sprigs of each….

Muir Glenn Tomato Puree

Smother in Muir Glen Tomato Puree

15. Stir the sauce a bit. Bring to a boil, carefully cover with tin foil and place in the oven.

16. Braise in the oven for :50 – :60 minutes.

17. When done…Remove from the roasting pan and allow the meat to rest for :10 minutes.

18. Transfer a few ladles of the braising sauce to a blender and allow to cool….Then puree.

DO NOT puree while the sauce is still super hot – it’ll blow the lid off of the blender…really.

Whole Foods Vegetable Puree Muir Glen

CAREFULLY Puree the Sauce

19. Slice the braciole and transfer to a serving dish. Serve with the pureed vegetable sauce. Make sure you remove all strings and…I had to toothpick the ends…remember to remove those too.

Braciole Spinach Mushroom Stuffed Flank Steak Whole Foods

Holy Braciole!

Holy Braciole! That was a bit of work – but well worth it. And…while it could serve 4, three of us ate all but one slice!

Little Lies, Illusions and A Succulent Pot Roast

Pot Roast Plated and Ready

A good friend’s mother told him once that if he didn’t have time to clean his apartment before people were coming over, he could just use lower wattage light bulbs. In the dimness, guests would miss the dirt and dust. Makes sense to me.

Spanx

Little lies, illusions and cover ups surround us every day. I used to work for a shapewear company and our motto was always ‘fake it til you make it’.

I mean do you really think all those celebrities are cellulite-free? No. No they are not.

And the regular people? We’re all frantically double-Spanxing just to keep up. (note: I can’t believe that ‘Spanxing’ just passed my spell check!)

It’s cold out and slow cooker season is officially on. With the slow cooker, comes so many illusions. As prep is generally pretty easy and results are more than always pretty good – it can trick your guests into believing that you are a fabulous cook. They will think that you slaved for hours over the meal. That you reinvented cooking. You may literally change the way they see less expensive giant meats.

Annie’s Choice

I don’t have a slow cooker anymore – too big for small living. And when confronted with a Sophie’s Choice between my Le Creuset large dutch oven and the All-Clad Slow Cooker, I had to let the slow cooker go.

No worries. The dutch oven works just as well if not better.

So, it’s really slow and low cooking season at my place. And, last night I teased my neighbors with the warm wafting aromas of beef and herbs – providing the illusion that I was an amazingly fabulous chef, hostess and meat miracle worker.

Slow and Low Cooking Pot Roast (Serves 6)

Ina Garten-style with a few tweaks (some on purpose, some by accident and some because I had amnesia at Whole Foods)

Honestly, this is all about the prep…

1. Go to Whole Foods or similar and buy a giant, inexpensive piece of meat – 4-5lb boneless beef chuck roast. Ask the butcher to tie it as this will help keep it together during the slow roast. My butcher did this string pattern with just one piece of string!

Giant Meat from Whole Foods – Perfectly Tied

2. Mise en place your veggies:

Veggie Mise En Place to Make Anne Burrell Proud

  • 3 cups of leeks – it’s supposed to be just two but I forgot to buy onions so I increased the leeks
  • 2 cups chopped carrots – about 5 carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery – about 4 stalks
  • 2/3 of a single onion chopped – because that’s all I had in my fridge
  • NOTE: these are going to be pureed, so don’t kill yourself chopping. Just try for somewhat similar size across all veggies.

3. Smash up 4 garlic cloves – Ina uses 5, but I was hesitant to do so. Would have been fine in the end

4. Mise en place your Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I didn’t do this, and it would have been real smart if I had. Put a teaspoon measure by them

5. Bundle 3 branches of fresh rosemary with 4-5 branches of fresh thyme

Herb Bundle

Muir Glen Tomato Puree

6. Open a 28oz can of tomato puree. The Muir Glen was on sale yesterday at Whole Foods – Yay!

7. Pour 2 cups of good red wine into a measuring cup. Ina uses Burgandy, I had some really good Montepulciano – 2 cups for the roast, 1 glass for me

8. Pour out 1 cup of chicken stock and open up a Knorr’s chicken bouillon cube

‘Cooking’ Cognac

9. Pour out 2 tbsp of either Cognac or Brandy. I had a pretty good cognac on hand – but that’s a story for another time

OK. That was the hardest part.

Pre-Heat oven to 325 degrees

10. Generously salt and pepper the giant meat on all sides and then dredge in flour. Ina uses a lot of salt (1 tbsp) I might use a little less next time.

11. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over med / high heat and sear the meat on all sides. Once seared (about 4 mins on each side) remove the meat and put on a plate

Searing the Giant Meat

12. Turn the heat down to medium – Add 2 more tbsp of olive oil to the pot and stir in all of the vegetables and smashed garlic. Add in 1 tbsp of salt and 1 1/2 tsp of pepper.

Cook over medium heat until tender – about :10 mins

Simmering Veggies Pre-Booze

13. Add the wine and cognac and bring to a boil

14. Once boiling, add in the pureed tomatoes, the chicken stock and the bouillon cube. Ina then adds 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper…I’d skip the salt here as mine turned out pretty salty.

15. Throw the Thyme/Rosemary bundle in there and then add in the Giant Meat and bring to a boil. Cover and put into the oven.

Sauce Smothered Meat Oven-Ready

16. Bake for 1 hour and then turn heat down to 250 degrees and cook for an additional :90 minutes

17. Remove from the oven and take the roast out and put onto a carving board

18. Carefully ladle some of the veggies and sauce into a blender or Cuisinart and puree. CAUTION: allow to cool a bit before blending or it will blow the lid off of the blender. Just sayin’. Puree in batches until you have enough sauce.

NOTE: I didn’t puree the entire pot of goodness – didn’t need that much.

Veggie Booze and Sauce Puree

Also – Ina puts the puree back on the stove and does some magical adding of flour and butter here, but, really, you don’t need it. The pureed veggies and booze make a lovely sauce all on their own.

19. Slice the roast and serve over egg noodles covered with the sauce and some chopped parsley

In an apartment, aromas seep into hallways from everyone’s home. Some better than others. Slow cooking takes the aroma flow to a new level as the scents of deliciousness flow out of my kitchen for hours.

Last night even the doormen 14 floors below had heard from my neighbors that ‘Annie was cooking something amazing smelling all day’. Ah, but ‘all day’ in this case is really the illusion. For with very little work, you can produce an amazingly succulently, moist pot roast.

But, don’t tell anyone.

Consider What’s at Steak.

Anderson Live!

I have respect for all people and all peoples’ stories” – Anderson Cooper.

Today I joined the audience at Anderson Live. Because my (ahem) schedule is somewhat flexible and I’m on the Anderson Live email list, I was able to attend at the last minute when the show’s audience coordinator sent an email begging for seat fillers. I like Anderson. He seems like a good guy. I’ve been to his show before and he’s approachable, interested and interesting and holds true to his statement of respecting people and their stories…no matter how bizarre those stories may be.

Today’s show was no exception. And the bizarre started from the get go. Anderson’s co-host was Howie Mandel – very funny guy, right? Right, but widely known for his intense germaphobia. So intense that when the production team set the desk with notes and drinks for Anderson and Howie, Howie’s water was unassembled. An Anderson logo Tervis tumbler was shrouded in a sterile plastic bag and next to it sat an unopened bottle of water. The Tervis tumbler and bottled water stayed undisturbed until Anderson hazed Howie about the hermetically sealed bag. Howie did at that point remove the plastic bag  but never touched or opened the water. He even joked that he couldn’t be sure who had handled the sterile plastic bag…too risky. Too much at stake.

In addition to attending the show, filling a seat, I volunteered to sit in the ‘Tweet Seats’ and tweet about the show while it was happening. There were about 10 of us there – designated ‘TweetSeat Tweeters’ and our tweets were scrolled on a screen during the show. The question wasn’t: how many tweets would a seat tweeter tweet if a seat tweeter could tweet tweets – But more of how do you tweet respecting all people and their stories when the stories were what they were today???

I tweeted a lot. Probably too many tweets for my follower. Yes, that’s right, I have a follower not a following. I’m working on the latter.

Anyway, Anderson’s first guest was the ‘Worst Mom in America‘ – a New York City mom who believes in free-range parenting – the opposite of today’s helicopter parenting. If the helicopter moms in the audience had decided to leap up in outrage, there would have been a lot I could have said. I could have mentioned that I find this helicopter-momming a bit too much. I would have mentioned that from the time my siblings and I were very young (maybe 8 or 10) my mother opened the front door at 8 in the morning and said; ‘Don’t come home until dinner’. This was par for our neighborhood…it was also, in the wake of the Etan Patz disappearance.

But the moms in the audience were surprisingly open to a happy medium between the helicopter hover and completely free-range parenting.

Ultimately, the free-range mom wasn’t half as difficult to tweet about as the second guest: a man who believes that a hair loss prevention drug caused him to be transgender.

Uhmmmm, OK. A veritable conundrum for the generally opinionated food/story/blogger/tweeter who doesn’t want to alienate her follower or the lovely team at Anderson Live.

As the interview started, ‘Mandy’ as she is known now, explained that she had even developed transgender and ‘physical feminization’ from hair loss prevention drugs. She bought these drugs online…from India…on the Internet.

There were so many groups to offend and I didn’t want to offend anyone – not transgender people, balding people, people from India, pharmacists.

I took a page out of Anderson’s book and tried to respect all people and all peoples’ stories. I tried to consider what was at stake: losing my follower? Alienating friends? Letting the Anderson Live team down? Regardless, I think I went pretty safe and hope I did ok.

With any decision, there’s always something at stake…And, at the risk of offending vegetarians, vegans and raw food eaters alike, I made this good, quick, easy and affordable skirt steak the other night.

Marinated Skirt Steak (serves 4)

Mise En Place1. In a small bowl, mix together:

1. In a small bowl, mix together:

  • 1 TBSP of brown sugar
  • The leaves from 4 sprigs of lemon thyme
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 TSP Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt
  • 1/2 TSP of pepper
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil

The mix should be a thick but not a totally pasty consistency.

2. Rub onto 1 1/2 – 2lbs of Skirt Steak. You can use flank steak, hanger steak or skirt steak.

3. Cover the meat and refrigerate any where from 2 hours to overnight

Skirt Steak post Rubbing

4. About :30 minutes before cooking, temporate the steak: to Temporate is to remove the steak from the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

5. Heat a non-stick grill pan on medium/high heat and spray lightly with Olive Oil spray.

6. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side. The meat will smoke up – so, apartment dwellers, open a window and door to keep your smoke alarms from going off!

Skirt Steak on the Grill Pan

Skirt Steak Grilled on one side

7. Remove from the grill pan, place on a cutting board and cover loosely with tin foil. Allow the meat to rest for :10minutes. This is a truly important step to ensure that the meat will be juicy. So plan for it.

8. Slice thinly against the grain and serve

I served this the other night with a side of Lemon Marscapone Gnocchi and Garlic Bread.

I enjoyed being one of the Tweeters in the Anderson Live Tweet Seats today – even when I had to hold my hands (that’s like biting your lip for a Tweeter/Blogger) a bit during hair loss transgender guest’s story.

Remembering what Anderson said about respecting all people and their stories helped me to select my words carefully and to consider what might truly be at stake.