Mama Mia

Twenty five years ago, I married a half-Sicilian New Orleanian.  Anyone who knows anything about Italian boys from New Orleans knows that means he came with a big, loud, Italian family, and an Italian mother who loved to cook.  And her signature dish was bracioloni.*

This dish was served at all high holidays, and whenever an out-of-town relative was visiting.  All those gathered anticipated it, raved about it, and devoured it.  It was the apex of the food experience. 

Now, I myself come from a long line of good cooks.  Half Cajun and half redneck, I jest frequently that I can cook anything —  whether it comes from a grocery store or comes home in an ice chest.  From my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings to my mother’s duck, I’ve been taking it in my whole life.  But once I figured out the relationship between my husband and his mother’s cooking, I vowed I would never cook Italian food while she was still alive.  There was just no reason to put myself through that  process.  It would never be as good, and I would never hear the end of it. 

But the fact is, I really like Italian food, and my kids really like it, too.  So I started introducing some entry-level dishes to my husband and kids, like lasagna and chicken cacciatore.  They gave them rave reviews, and boosted my confidence.  When I saw a local chef presenting his bracioloni recipe on TV, he captured my attention.  I listened intently to his technique, and paid a visit to his grocery store/butcher shop the next day.  Armed with his advice, a small container of his “secret” seasoning blend, and a perfectly cut flank steak, I decided to give it a try.

It was quite different from my mother-in-law’s version of the dish, which made me feel better.  Rather than trying to out-do her, I was exploring my own variation of this favorite.  I did all the work while no one was home, thinking I could throw it away without anyone being the wiser if it was lousy.  But it wasn’t.  It was terrific, and my husband raved that it was better than his mother’s.**  I didn’t know if he was just being kind, or if it was actually that good, but when he asked me when I was planning to make it again I was validated.  Even though my mother-in-law was alive and well, I had shaken off my fear.  An Italian chef was born! 

As all good Southern cooks do, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and my family loves it.  So when College Boy came home for Spring Break I decided to pull out the stops and reward him for spending the week with us, instead of going to the beach like everyone else.

Following this post is the photo-essay/recipe for The Lucky Mom’s bracioloni.   If you feel like trying it, let me know.  I’d love to hear how it turns out.

Fine print:

*The exact spelling and pronunciation of this dish is disputed everywhere.  Braciole, bracioloni, brocioloni, whatever.  It’s a fabulous stuffed, rolled meat.

** If anyone tells her this we will both categorically deny it.


3 thoughts on “Mama Mia

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      Here’s the rest of the story: after seeing him on tv (I believe it was Alec Gifford’s show – hard to believe he had a cooking show…) I went over to the store to chat with him. He cut me a perfect piece of meat, and gave me a container of his “secret” seasoning mix. He patiently talked me through the entire process and assured me I could do it! And, indeed, I did! And now I do it often!

      It had to be before Katrina, because my sister-in-law still lived here. She was one of my taste-testers. After I made it a few times I sent her the recipe. Then she shared it with her son who’s in culinary school. So it lives on. 🙂

  1. Pingback: No Ladybugs Were Harmed During the Making of This Sauce | The Lucky Mom

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