Lunchbreak: Beef braciole from Cucina Paradiso

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Anthony Gambino

Cucina Paradiso
814 North Boulevard
Oak Park

Beef Braciole
Yields 14-16 4 oz pieces

2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup store-bought, drained and roughly chopped roasted red peppers
3 Tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 pound piece flank steak
6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise

Braising ingredients:
extra-virgin olive oil
12 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, gently smashed
3 small onions, sliced
1 cup red wine
2 (28 ounce) can tomatoes crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

To make the Braciole: Toast the Italian bread crumbs in a dry skillet with a little olive oil over low heat, until golden. Add to a large mixing bowl along with the garlic, mozzarella, red peppers, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper, to taste. Stir together until well combined.
Set the flank steak on a piece of plastic wrap. Make a deep horizontal slice along the steak almost all the way through and fan open like a book. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently flatten the steak until about 1/2-inch thick; take care not to tear. Discard the top sheet of plastic wrap; rub the surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the stuffing evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Arrange the eggs lengthwise down the center of the meat and roll up like a log, using the plastic wrap as support. Tie the roll with kitchen twine in 4 to 5 places to secure – this will help hold the shape and keep the filling from falling out. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put a roasting pan on the burners and heat over medium heat. Add a 3-count of olive oil and add the thyme and garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant. Carefully add the braciole and sear until evenly browned all over, approximately 2 minutes each side. Add the sliced onions then stir in the red wine to deglaze. Add the canned tomatoes over the top of the braciole. Bring to a simmer, then cover with foil and put in the oven to braise for 45 to 60 minutes. When done, remove the foil and remove the braciole to a carving board to rest.¬† Let the sauce cool for about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme stems. Pour the sauce back into the pan and set over medium heat to bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the kitchen twine from the beef and cut into 1-inch thick “pin-wheel” slices. Arrange the slices on a platter. Pour the sauce over the top, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Stuffed Shells
Yields 12 shells, about 6 servings

12 pieces jumbo dry pasta shells
2 pounds ricotta cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan

6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 or 7 leaves fresh basil, torn or shredded

Preheat oven or broiler to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add pasta. Cook shells 12 to 15 minutes, they should be softened but still undercooked at the center. Drain pasta and cool. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmigianino and Asiago. Add parsley to the cheeses and stir to combine filling. To a small saucepot over moderate heat, add oil, garlic and onions. Sauté onions and garlic 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and season sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce 5 minutes and stir in basil leaves. Pour a little sauce into the bottom of a shallow medium sized casserole dish. Fill shells with rounded spoonfuls of cheese mixture and arrange them seam side down in casserole dish. Top shells with remaining sauce and extra mozzarella and Asiago cheeses. Place shells in very hot oven for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is golden in color.

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