Every year, it seems like some organization or other that I’m involved with does a silent auction to raise money. I’ve got nothing really tangible to offer so my go-to donation is a “Hot Home Cooked Meal” to be delivered to whomever the highest bidder is. I’ve done this for years and years and can honestly say that I’ve only had to do the thing twice. I think people bid on it and then forget. I usually offer a few choices that will serve 4-6 people and I deliver it within a small radius of my home.
So this year, The Boy’s marching band had a big golf tournament and silent auction and, yet again, I made my little certificate. My usual choices are a Southern Fried Special (fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and biscuits with banana pudding for dessert), an Indian Feast (samosas, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, raita, homemade naan and phirni for dessert), the Mambo Italiano (lasagne Bolognese, Italian greens and beans, roasted carrots, homemade garlic knots and some gelato for dessert) and a Latin Steak Night. I was torn on what to make for this one. I’ve done flank steak before but it’s such a thin cut of meat that it gets too cold or dried out before I could deliver it. So I came up with a plan to adjust my traditional Christmas braciole into a Latin dish. The preparation is almost identical to the Italian style dish but I just mixed it up with a bunch of Latin ingredients. I decided to serve it with yellow rice, roasted green beans and tomatoes and make a flan for dessert. But I’d never actually MADE this so I figured I better practice on the off chance someone actually ORDERS this one.
So my in-laws graciously agreed to be guinea pigs on a recent Sunday night and gave honest critiques. So the photos show what I did and the recipe reflects minor changes I made after getting feedback. I think I’ll be safe if someone orders this. I’m not sure why ALL of the recipes I picked are so complicated! But I figure if someone cares enough to make a donation to the band, I can get my butt in the kitchen and make a dinner worthy of their contribution, right?
Anyway, I think it turned out GREAT and I hope you all enjoy making this for a special occasion as well!
Latin Style Braciole
- 2 1/2 C low sodium beef stock, divided (go ahead and open a whole can or box as you may need more)
- 10-15 dried chiles (I use a combination of guajillo and chile California)
- Good quality olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced, divided
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 3 jalapeno peppers, diced, divided
- 6 – 8 cloves garlic, rough chopped, divided
- 2 T good quality cocoa powder
- 1 T ground cumin
- 1 large can whole Italian tomatoes (San Marzano if you can get them)
- 1 T sugar
- 3-4 links Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed
- 1 C finely chopped kale
- 1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 T finely chopped oregano
- 1/2 C toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 T cumin seeds
- 1/2 C golden raisins
- 3/4 C finely crumbled cotija cheese (if you can’t find cotija, you can use feta)
- 2/3 C panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 – 2 lb flank steak
- salt and pepper to taste
- Nice long piece of butcher’s twine (that length you think is enough – double it to be safe)
- 1 T butter, optional
Step One: Make the Sauce
Remove stems from chiles and shake out seeds. Tear into small pieces and place in a medium sauce pan. Cover with 2 C beef stock. If not totally covered, add a little water. Bring to a low boil then remove from heat, cover and allow to steep until almost completely cooled, about 20 minutes. The chiles should be pretty soft and plumped up. Blend with an immersion blender (or blend in your blender) until completely smooth.
Heat 3 T olive oil over medium in a heavy sauce pot, add chopped carrots, half of diced jalapeno and half of chopped onion with a little pinch of salt and cook until onions are translucent and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in half of garlic. Cook for one minute or until very fragrant (don’t burn your garlic!). Add cocoa, ground cumin and chile mixture. Break up tomatoes with your fingers and add to pot. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use. Stir occasionally, breaking up any big chunks of tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Add more stock if it starts getting too thick. Bear in mind that as you braise your bracciole, a lot of liquid will cook off so you want this a little thinner than a ragu for pasta.
Step Two: Make the Filling
Heat chorizo in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute until fat is rendered, breaking into very small pieces. Drain and discard all but about 1 T fat (it can be very greasy). Add 1 T oil and saute remaining jalapeno and onion until translucent and soft, about five minutes. Add remaining garlic. Cook for one minute more. Using a slotted spoon, remove chorizo mixture to a big bowl. In same skillet, saute kale for maybe three to five minutes until it is bright green. Add to bowl with chorizo. Combine well.
Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add pepitas and cumin seeds and toast just until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add to chorizo mixture with parsley, oregano, and raisins. Allow this to cool for about 15 minutes. If making ahead, you could refrigerate at this point and pick up with the next bit on assembly day.
When filling is cooler, add bread crumbs and cotija cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Mix in beaten egg. This may be more filling than you need but you can pop whatever is left in the freezer to stuff a chicken breast or something later.
Step Three: Assemble and Braise the Braciole
Butterfly your flank steak (basically double it in size by cutting it open like a book). Place between two big sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or a heavy skillet so it’s all evenly thick (maybe 1/4 – 1/2 inch). Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Starting at the short side, spread filling evenly over meat, leaving about an inch on the sides and maybe two inches on the end farthest from you. Roll away from you, tucking in sides to seal filling insides as best you can. When it’s all rolled up, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up.
Remove braciole from fridge and unwrap. Secure with butcher’s twine. Chef J can do it with one long piece as I have done here; no shame if you have to do each tie as you go (you’ll want it well secured so use as much string as you need). Here’s a link plus one other to show you how to do it properly. I did sort of a combination of these two methods and it held together very nicely.
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a large, heavy, oven safe dutch oven or roasting pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 T olive oil. Sear beef roll on all sides until it is very brown. Remove from pan to a plate to rest for just a few minutes. Deglaze pan with remaining 1/2 C beef stock, scraping up any brown bits. Add about half of your tomato-chile sauce and bring to a simmer. Nestle braciole in sauce and pour remaining sauce over top until it comes about 1/3 way up the roll. Cover tightly and place in preheated oven. Check every half hour or so to make sure there is plenty of liquid. Stir in more sauce or beef stock as needed. Braise for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours (meat should be VERY tender).
Remove braciole to a large cutting board and allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes. I also like to blend my sauce with the immersion blender to make it smoother. If your cooking vessel isn’t very deep, you may want to transfer it to a deeper saucepan so there is less spatter. You could also pulse the sauce in a blender or food processor; just be very careful as hot liquids can be dangerous. You don’t want a puree (and you can skip this step altogether if you like) so don’t completely pulverize it. Leave yourself a few chunks and stir in a knob of butter at the end.
Remove string from braciole and slice into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick rounds.
I served mine with yellow rice and roasted green beans and tomatoes. Warm up some fresh flour tortillas with a little butter and you’re golden!