Category Archives: Recipes

Fancy Shmancy Steakhouse Steaks

  • Nice, thick steaks* (1 ½ to 2 inches thick is perfect)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt (regular table salt will make the meat tough, or so someone says)
  • Butter
  • Minced garlic

*Let the steaks sit out for about an hour before cooking to bring them to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the steaks with olive oil and salt.  Turn on your stove vent, open a window, and remove the smoke alarm.

(I really need a new camera.) I used Sirloin medallions from Super Target to feed my brood. I'm sure real filets would have been better!

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high for 5-7 minutes (until it starts to smoke).  Sear the steaks evenly on both sides, no more than 2 minutes per side.  Transfer the steaks to a pre-heated foil-lined pan (for easy clean-up).  Put a pat of butter and a smidgen of minced garlic on each steak and put them in the oven.

Getting the steaks cooked to the desired doneness is the hard part.  You can use a meat thermometer for precise results or use my mama’s method (pulling them out and cutting one open to check).  When they’re ALMOST done the way you like them, remove them from the oven, and cover them with foil.  This helps the meat “set” and fills your kitchen with the most amazing aroma.  It will draw a crowd if you opened a window.

About 8 minutes in the oven will give you a medium-rare steak. About 10 minutes for medium.

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The Lucky Mom’s Red Gravy – Prepared with Love

Seasoning Pouch:

Seasoning Pouch

  • Basil (3 stems with 3-4 leaves on each)
  • Italian Parsley (3-4 stems with leaves on)
  • Thyme (3-4 stems)
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • About 10 whole peppercorns

Wrap these items up in a tied cheesecloth pouch for easy removal later.

 Sauce:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 5 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 26-oz boxes of chicken stock
  • 2 12-oz cans of tomato paste
  • 1 gi-normous (6 lb.) can of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Italian seasoning blend (I like Frank Davis’ N’Awlins Sicilian Seasoning)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 glasses of wine (1 for the sauce, 2 for the cook)

Pour a glass of wine and set aside.  Look up the words to an Italian song to sing intermittently while cooking.

Saute

Add seasoning pouch and simmer.

Sauté onions, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned.  Sip wine while stirring.  When lightly browned, add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and chicken stock.  Stir.  Add seasoning pouch.

Simmer for about 30 minutes and then start tasting.  Add more stock if it’s too thick, more tomato paste if it’s too thin.  Add salt and Italian seasoning to taste.  Add sugar to balance the acidity according to your taste.

Continue simmering til it gets the way you like it, while sipping the second glass of wine.  Sing the Italian song to bring out the fullness of the flavors.

 My kids don’t like chunky veggies, so I cooked mine a long time (about 2 ½ hours) to get the veggies soft enough to “disappear.”  Then I used Chef Rob’s trick: use an immersion blender to puree the chunky veggies.  This will disguise them for the kids and speed up cooking time.  (Read the instructions if you’re not familiar with using an immersion blender.  Trust me on this.)

This recipe made enough sauce for me to have about 4 meals for my family of 5.  I freeze it in small containers (about 3 cups) so I can take out the amount I need.

Enjoy!  And if you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Braciolone Note: Barding

I have learned from my nephew in culinary school that wrapping something in bacon or other fatty meat to enhance the flavor is called “barding.”

Now, I have wrapped the rolls in prosciutto to keep them from falling apart without the use of messy string.  While I realize my intent is different from the stated purpose of “barding,” I’m going to employ the term, anyway.

So, what I meant to say was that I was “barding” the braciolone rolls with prosciutto.

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.

Braciole — or Bracioloni — or Brociolone

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  •  ¼ cup of chopped Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese, chopped
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • 10-12 pieces of very thin beef – Flank steak or Milanese cut steak
  • 10-12 slices of prosciutto
  • Lots of red gravy (marinara sauce)

Pan prep:  olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  (I like to use a glass pan.  It doesn’t stick as badly, and is easier to clean.)

Saute the first 5 ingredients in a little olive oil, until the onions are clear. 

Saute veggies til onions are clear. (There are no streaks that became visible with the bright flash of light. That is an illusion. My stove is spotless.)

Set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the bread crumbs and both cheeses.  Add the sautéed mixture, and add olive oil until it is thoroughly mixed and crumbly. 

At this point in the recipe, all chopping is completed, and sipping wine is permitted.

Place the meat on a cutting board and spread the stuffing across the entire piece. 

Roll it carefully, starting from the narrow end.  Wrap each roll in prosciutto to keep the roll from separating while cooking.  My mother-in-law Some recipes will tell you to use string to tie the roll closed.  DON’T DO THIS.  It makes a huge mess and gets red gravy all over everyone’s clothes when you have to remove it.

The prosciutto will tighten and secure the rolls while they cook.

Place the rolls in your pan, and bake in a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until the prosciutto tightens and the rolls are lightly browned. 

This is what NOT TO DO. I poured the sauce over the rolls before putting them in the oven to brown. Even though I scooped off as much as I could, there was too much moisture, and the prosciutto didnt shrink enough. Oh, well. They still tasted good.

 Remove from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 225 degrees.  Pour marinara sauce over all the rolls, and cover the dish with foil.  Return to the oven for 1 ½ hours.

Serve with pasta and warm bread.  Listen for the yummy noises from your family.

Variations:

You may use a very large piece of beef, and make one family-sized braciole.  If you do this, wrap the prosciutto slices along the entire length of the roll.  Serve it on a big platter, sliced.

I make some without cheese for one of my kids who can’t have cheese… still yummy!

Next time I’m going to add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the stuffing.