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!

Bitchin’ Brussels Sprouts, So Not Meh

Fresh Farmer’s Market Brussels Sprouts

Last week, Joe Biden reminded us all of a different time. A time when ‘malarkey’ was an

Joe Biden Malarkey

That’s Malarkey!

effective way to call someone out on a lie, an untruth. A time when someone could say ‘malarkey’ and everyone would know what he meant. Joe thought some of what that other guy said was simply, malarkey.

Languages evolve and colloquialisms come and go. At some point, ‘eh’ was replaced by ‘meh’ – meant to convey indifference and signify a sense of ‘whatever’ or ‘not so much’. ‘Meh’ is so much in use that this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine actually included ‘The Meh List’…certainly a sign that ‘meh’ is on its way out.

I remember a few years ago when I asked my nephew where my niece was, he, then about 10, told me that his sister was ‘lolly-gagging in the kitchen with Mommy’ – Hmmm, ‘lolly-gagging’? And, no, by a few years I don’t mean that I asked him this question in 1950. He must have picked that up somewhere, and it sounded funny out of a 10-year old in 2008.

Other words and sayings that have sadly and not so sadly fallen out of favor:

Golly…as in ‘Golly, Davey, if we lie…Dad…And, the Lord, will be mad at us’

Davey and Goliath

Golly, Davey!

Piss-Ant, as in ‘Mom! Mary-Ellen called me a Piss-Ant’

Before Mary-Ellen ever whispered those evil words

Groovy…as in ‘Hey there, groovy chicks. You’re all hep in far out ways’

Groovy Johnny Bravo

And others:

Loosey-Goosey

Willie-Nillie

Fuddy-Duddy

Whipper-Snapper

Interestingly, many of these long gone expressions rhymed…maybe a sign of happier times when Opie skipped by a watering hole toting his fishing pole, whistling on his way home after a long day at school.

Another thing that evolves is the way we prepare foods…The way you first experience a food can sear an impression about that food forever. Like when it was all the rage to boil vegetables until they drooped and sagged, lost all color and even more taste. No wonder kids hated vegetables.

But, thankfully, this trend has passed and is no longer a hip and rad way to prepare veggies. Even the most daunting of greens when prepared well, can be a lot more than just nutritious.

Bitchin’ Brussels Sprouts (side dish for 4)

1. Slice the bottoms off of about 20-25 Brussels sprouts and peel off the outer layer of leaves. You can keep these outer leaves and quick fry them – they’re like chips! Or, toss them

2. Slice each sprout in half lengthwise and submerge cut side down in a bowl of ice water with the juice from one half of a lemon. The acid from the lemon will kill any critters hiding between the leaves…eww

Acidy Water Kills Bugs

3. Melt 2 TBSP of butter in a medium fry pan over med/high heat. You can sub 1 tbsp olive oil for 1/2 of the butter…

Melt that Butter!

4. Remove the soaking sprouts from the ice bath and pat dry with a paper towel

5. Carefully place each sprout cut side down into the simmering butter bath

From Icy Bath to Butter Bath

6. Cook until well browned and then carefully flip each sprout over

sprouts vegetables

I Totally Flipped for them!

7. Whisk together 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and 1 TBSP of Dijon mustard

Steaming Liquid

Steaming Stock and Dijon Mixture

8. Pour the mixture over the simmering vegetables and allow to steam the sprouts to tenderness. You can at this point add salt and pepper to taste – bear in mind that if you used chicken stock, it’ll be salty enough.

Vegetable Side Dish

Simmering Sprouts

9. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, sprinkle about 1 TBSP of freshly grated parmesan cheese over the sprouts, transfer to a dish and serve

Vegetable side dish

Table-Ready

These groovy sprouts are totally bitchin’ and quick and easy to prepare. So, any of you old fuddy-duddies who think you hate Brussels sprouts because you suffered over-boiled vegetables in the 1970s. Don’t lollygag or dilly-dally, get out there and sear, simmer and saute your sprouts. They’re totally not meh. And that’s not malarkey!

We Embrace Change and Coconut Curry Shrimp

shrimp dinner

Embracing Change: Coconut Curry Shrimp

More than 2 years have passed since lovely Sarah Palin asked ‘How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?’ Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk politics here. But we are going to talk change.

Sarah Palin Asks the Question

Very early in my career during a round of pretty significant layoffs through which I survived, I learned that: ‘Change is good. We embrace change.’ That’s what one of the higher-ups told us, the lil’ people, at the time. And, I repeated it a lot in my head – like orphans who learn to soothe themselves by rocking in their cribs – I managed the shock of watching 30% of the company being marched out the door and soothed myself by repeating ‘Change is good. We embrace change’ over and over and over again. I repeated it until I actually believed it. And it’s been a mantra ever since.

Now, I do admit that not all change is easy to swallow. The mass firing wasn’t fun for anyone, but it was good in the long run for the company – and, a great learning experience for my younger self.

Personal change (as opposed to personnel change) can be tough to handle as well. Last night, for example, my 70-something-year-old father asked to borrow my readers because he forgot his.

That’s right. I now have readers. Still sort of hyperventilating from that one. I do feel the need to announce here that my ‘readers’ are only 1X AND as per my eye guy, I have better than 20/20 vision – it’s just that my eyes have changed and I can’t see menus, in small print, in dark restaurants, whatever. Let’s not discuss this again.

But, most change, is really good. As a food person, in order to keep it interesting and have content on a very regular basis, I’ve had to embrace new foods and cook things that I would have never made before. I’ve had to change the way I think about a lot of things.

Two truths I used to hold:

1. Shrimp is not a meal

2. I hate coconut

But, change is good. And recently I made:

Coconut Curry Shrimp (serves 4)

1. In a large pot on the stove top, whisk together:

  • Coconut Milk Whole Foods

    13.5 oz NOT 14oz

    1 14 oz can of Coconut Milk – unsweetened. For whatever reason, Whole Foods sells its 365 brand of Coconut milk in 13.5oz cans. Could be a marketing ploy and I fell for it and bought 2 – which was OK because I also made coconut rice…and, the 365 brand is very well priced.

    The recipe I tweaked also called for fresh coconut…but I draw the line there as I can’t stand crunching down on flakes of real coconut. So I left it out.

  • The juice from one lime
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp of minced ginger – note, you can store ginger in your freezer for about one eon if you peel it first (use a spoon), wrap it in Saran and then put it in a ZipLoc freezer bag…frozen ginger is easier to grate as well – I used my Microplane grater
Ginger Root

Fresh Ginger Peeling Process

2. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over low heat

Curry into the Coconut Milk mixture

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 7 – 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken and reduce a bit.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste – just a pinch of each will probably do ya

5. Add in 1lb of large, peeled and deveined shrimp. I know… I normally use frozen, but thought ‘Embrace Change!’ and bought a beautiful looking pound of fresh shrimp at Citarella.

coconut curry shrimp

Citarella Shrimp into the Curry!

6. Return to a simmer, then cover and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until the shrimps are fully cooked

Oh, they’re cooked now!

7. Toss in about 1/4 cup combo of freshly chopped parsley and freshly chopped basil

8. Serve over rice…I made coconut rice with orange peppers and peas – it was very pretty – much prettier than the picture above…Again, I left the flakes of fresh coconut out.

Like it? They LOVE it!

The coconut curry shrimp was really good. I liked it…A lot. And, so did these people.

Up is down. Black is white. Day is night. I eat coconut. Shrimp is a meal.

You know what, in my kitchen at least, there is hopey changey stuff that’s working just fine.

Change is good. We embrace change.

A Vegetable Peel Receptacle Miracle!

Russet Potatoes Pre-Peel

Chances are, if you’ve had any potato dish in my apartment that requires the potatoes to be peeled, you’ve eaten something that may or may not have fallen into the kitchen garbage can.

Some of these might not have been in the trash

Relax. Here’s what was happening…

I used to have a disposal…And, while I was told explicitly that the disposal was for scraps of food only…I often peeled vegetables right into the sink and then whirred the peels away in the disposal. Horrors right?

BTW, I also sent egg shells down there. And, while I might deny this…there may have been one incident when I broke a glass into the disposal and sent the shards into the spinning blades and away forever. Listen, I googled this before choosing between putting my bare hand into the blades vs keeping my fingers safe and just turning the disposal switch and I did find someone online to support turning the switch.

So, when I moved and no longer had a disposal, I had to readjust my approach to vegetable peeling. I tried peeling into the sink onto a paper towel – but that seemed a little messy and peels inevitably ended up on the drain. The use of the paper towel as receptacle wasn’t working to protect peels from causing a clog.

Small SimpleHuman Trash Can

I resorted to peeling vegetables directly into the trash. A few challenges arose. I have one of those super smart trash cans – you know the ones that lure you in at Bed Bath & Beyond because they’re

a. so prominently displayed

and

b. so pretty.

And, since my kitchen is NYC tiny, I have a small SimpleHuman semi-oval one. It’s only about 17 inches tall and I’m like a ton taller than that. So I have to bend pretty far down to create the right projectile for the veggie peels. Plus, my smart trash can isn’t smart enough to remain open while I’m peeling. I have to keep one foot on the lid opening pedal while peeling. It’s sort of a balancing act. SimpleHuman might want to create a ‘remain open’ option for exactly this type of thing. I’ll take a fee on that idea, thanks.

I’m also a little klutzy, to be honest. I can manage holding on to a carrot or a celery stalk when peeling directly into the trash. But, potatoes are slippery. Yes, to answer your next question, I’ve tried to peel toward myself as opposed to away – and that doesn’t work for me.

Were these in the trash?

And, sometimes, while thrusting the peeler against the potato, my hand has slipped and the half peeled potato has flown into the trash.

Before you get all crazy, I’m sure that I washed the potato before cooking it and serving it to you. Even in a perfect peel, you need to wash the peeled potato before serving. I know that.

But the other day while making the pot roast, I found a solution. So simple, the fact that I hadn’t thought of it before makes me the simple human in this scenario!

I took one of the many brown bags I have from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and propped it atop the SimpleHuman lid. Then, I slit the left and right sides about 8 inches down, creating a flap in front. I folded that flap down and created a perfect vegetable peel receptacle at a much better height.

Perfectly Positioned Veggie Peel Receptacle

I know you’re thinking, it’s a vegetable peel receptacle miracle! And, for me, it really is.

The paper bag solution, unfortunately doesn’t make me any less of a klutz. But, you all can now rest a little easier knowing that the potatoes I’m serving have only at worst been flung into a brown bag of vegetable peels.

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.