Beef Braciole with Grilled Tomato Sauce

Braciole is traditionally made with slices of top round steak, pounded thin and wrapped around a savoury filling, which is then braised in a tomato sauce. This version is BBQ-ready and features flank steak stuffed pinwheel-style, with proscuitto, fontina and parmesan. A summery grilled tomato and fresh herb sauce is served alongside. The dish would be a perfect match for a rich, harmonious Tuscan red like Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2009.

Serves 6 to 8

For the steak:
1 ½ to 2 lb. flank steak, well trimmed
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
4 green onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¾ cup fontina cheese, cut in very small cubes
1/2 cup proscuitto, sliced thin
salt and pepper
14 to 16 bamboo skewers

For the tomato sauce:
7 or 8 small sweet cocktail tomatoes (or 3 plum tomatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a shallow dish, soak the bamboo skewers for at least one hour to prevent them from burning on the grill.

Trim the flank steak of any fat. Place it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder or mallet, gently but firmly pound the steak until it is about ¼ inch thick. A rolling pin is a good substitute if you do not have a mallet. Take care not to pound the steak so hard that you break through the meat causing holes. This step helps break up the steak fibers, making it more tender, at the same time making it ¼ inch thick and easier to roll. The steak should be not quite double the size. Cut it in half along the shortest side, leaving two even pieces. Sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper and prepare the filling.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high and add the Panko. Keep stirring the bread crumbs so they are coated in olive oil and continue to cook until they become golden and toasted (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove the toasted Panko to a medium bowl and add the minced garlic, sliced green onion, chopped parsley, sliced proscuitto, grated parmesan and cubed fontina. Mix well and then add ¼ cup olive oil.

Spread the filling evenly over the two pieces of pounded flank steak, leaving a ½ inch border along the edge. Press and gently pack the filling onto the steak to keep it in place. Cut eight 12 inch long pieces of kitchen twine. Starting from the one short side of the steak, roll up the meat like a jelly roll, pressing any stuffing that falls out of the ends back into the roll. Tie the roulade tightly with four of the pieces of twine, spacing the ties evenly and ensuring both ends are tied tightly. Repeat with the remaining piece of steak. Wrap both steak rolls tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the whole tomatoes over high heat until the skin starts to char and blister. Remove the grilled tomatoes back to the bowl to catch any of the juice as the tomato skins open up. Allow to cool. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, slip off the skin and remove the core. In a blender or food processor, add the peeled tomatoes with any of their juices and the olive oil left from tossing them before grilling. Add the chopped red onion, fresh basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar and pulse. You want to have a mostly smooth sauce but not a complete puree. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat the grill and brush the grates with a bit of oil to prevent the steak from sticking.

Carefully unwrap the beef braciole. Brush the outside with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place a bamboo skewer through the roll, about every 2 inches, so you have between 6 to 8 skewers per roll. Using a very sharp knife, cut between the skewers into pinwheels. Remove the twine and discard. Gently lay the pinwheels on the preheated grill and cook uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn each pinwheel over and cook another 4 minutes longer for medium rare. Be careful not to overcook the beef. Flank steak can become very tough if cooked past medium rare.

Transfer the braciole to a serving platter with the grilled tomato sauce served alongside.

Recipe created by Christie Pollard for the Trialto Wine Group