Tuesday, September 16, 2008

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Yo, Coombs, Your Bracciole is Showin'

In south Philadelphia, bracciole (spelled a variety of ways, but almost always pronounced brah-ZHOLE) has a few meanings, some more savory than others. In cooking, it’s a rolled piece of meat—often beef—stuffed with, well, nearly anything: sausage, cheese, greens, onions, red peppers, even hard-cooked eggs.

As with long, fat pieces of meat anywhere, the phallic connotations are self-evident, so offers from cheeky vendors in, say, the 9th Street Italian market to show you their braccioles should be countered with equally sincere offers to, oh, I don’t know, whip out a magnifying glass for better viewing or tweezers for more delicate handling. Extending the overstuffed concept, it can refer also to a full-figured young woman wearing clothes better suited to a significantly smaller frame.

We’ll leave aside the last two meanings—those are for someone else’s blog—in favor of the first.

I laid hands on two nice pork tenderloins recently and realized that I was craving a bit of South Philly. So I braccioled them and, lacking any broccoli raab, dished up a side of okra and tomatoes from the garden.

Spinach and Artichoke Bracciole

8-10 oz fresh goat cheese
3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
5-7 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Hot sauce

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed of silverskin

Mix together the goat cheese, spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, and a fat, juicy dollop of hot sauce (Crystal, Tabasco, Cholula, etc.). Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Butterfly each tenderloin by slicing down the center almost to the opposite side, but do not cut all the way through. The tenderloin will resemble, to the extent that it can, an open book. Then, starting at the center (the “spine”) and slicing toward the edge of the meat, butterfly each side longways again and open the new flaps so that, with a mere three cuts, the whole tenderloin lies flat in a long, pointed oval.

Line a 9”x13” baking dish with foil (not strictly necessary, but it makes cleaning up easier) and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut four or five pieces of kitchen twine (about 6” each—depends on the circumference and length of the meat) for each bracciole. Stuff each flattened tenderloin with half the mixture, tie with twine, and place in the baking dish. Drizzle/brush with olive oil then season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Roast for 30-40 minutes and serve with a side of some braised or sauteed vegetables.

[Edit: the audio post of the blog is posted here]



we are never full said...

this post freaking cracked me up. i can just hear my family saying the word bracciole right now.

Matthew Rowley said...

It goes without saying, of course, that it's natural complements are "scrapple" and "pork roll"