Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bracciole di Cervo

     Italian Braised Venison Roulades Filled With Walnuts, Basil and Pancetta!
     Where there are hunters, there are great wild game recipes.  France, Switzerland and Germany are famous for offering classic wild game recipes.  Often Italian wild game cuisine is overlooked for some reason.  Italy has a long history of fine wild game recipes that date back before the age of the Roman Empire.
     In Italian restaurants, bracciole are usually made with beef, veal, pork and sometimes lamb.  After doing a little bit of research, I found out that venison is a prized choice of meat for bracciole.  
     While shopping at a huge food market in Chinatown, Las Vegas, I noticed that there was a large variety of wild game meats offered in the frozen food section.  Every wild game meat choice had official USDA certification sticker that proved authenticity.  
     Wild game is served for very special occasions in Asian countries and it is considered to be an elegant delicacy in Chinese fine dining restaurants.  Quail, partridge, duck, squab, venison, rabbit, boar and several other wild game meats were offered at the food market in Chinatown.  For those who seek top quality wild game meats, a busy large Asian food market is a good place to look. 

     Italian chefs make Brown Sauce and the French make Espagnole sauce.  Both of these sauces have their origins in Spain.  Italian Brown Sauce is a little richer tasting than Sauce Espagnole, because it is simmered and reduced till it is like a Classic Demiglace.  Classic Demi Glace is a thin rich Sauce Espagnole that is reduced to perfection and it needs no addition of Glace Viande.  

     Usually an Italian Brown Sauce is made to order, in the same pan that the entrée was cooked in.  Often no roux is used to bind the sauce.  The braising sauce for today's bracciole is made this way.  
     How a bracciole braising sauce is garnished is up to the chef.  A piccolo soffritto (petite mirepoix) of shallot, garlic, onion, porcini and carrot is a nice bracciole sauce garnish.  Minced celery is sometimes added.  The idea is to add a a touch of aromatic vegetables that create eye appeal.  Diced carrot certainly looks nice in a bracciole braising sauce and it "sweetens" the sauce. 
     Red wine is added to many Italian bracciole braising sauces.  White wine is also used in brown braising sauces to create a gentle flavor contrast that is not overpowering, for lighter meats.  For venison bracciole, combining white wine and red wine is best.  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Venison For Bracciole:  
     There are two sections of venison that are good choices for bracciole quality cuts.  Just like in cattle, venison legs have a flank sections.  
     Venison flank cuts are very lean and they are much thinner than beef flank steaks.  In fact, venison flank can be as thin as a veal cutlet.  
     Thin sliced venison bottom round (hind quarter) are also good choice.  The meat should be cut across the grain at a biased angle.  For bracciole, even cutting the top round with the grain is good.  
     Slicing straight across the grain at a 90º angle may make the bracciole tender, but because venison is so lean, severe shrinkage will occur and the meat may fall apart after braising. 
     Cut 4 thin cutlets of venison top round or flank, that weigh about 2 1/2 ounces apiece.
     Use a meat mallet to pound the cutlets thin and even.
     Chill the cutlets till they are needed.

     Dried porcini are always available in food markets. 
     Soak about 2 to three dried slices of porcini in 1/2 cup of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Mince the reconstituted porcini and save the soaking liquid.

     The same sauté pan will be used to cook the bracciole, later in the recipe!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of minced pancetta.
     Saute the pancetta, till it is lightly browned.
     Use a perforated spoon to remove the pancetta and set it aside in a container.
     Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside till later in the recipe.  (Leave the oil in the pan.)

     Bracciole di Cervo Preparation:
     Step 1:  Place the 4 prepared venison cutlets flat on a countertop.
     Place 1 or 2 large basil leaves on each cutlet.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle a thin layer of plain Italian bread crumbs on the cutlet.  (About 1 tablespoon each.)
     Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil over the bread crumbs.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated parmesan on each cutlet.
     Sprinkle equal amounts of the reserved pancetta on the cutlets.
     Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of finely chopped walnuts on each cutlet.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Fold the long edges of each bracciole over the edge of the stuffing, so the end will seal when the bracciole is rolled.  The seal should only be less than 1/2" wide.
     Roll the bracciole into cylinder shapes.
     Use as many toothpicks as necessary to pin the bracciole edges shut, so the bracciole retain their shape when they are cooked.  (The toothpicks should all pierce the bracciole in one direction.  Refer to the pictures above.)
     Set the bracciole aside.
     Bracciole di Cervo:
     Step 1:  Reheat the reserved sauté pan that was used to cook the pancetta over medium heat.  There should be about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pancetta grease in the pan.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 5 or 6 whole garlic cloves.
     Add the prepared bracciole.
     Sauté till the bracciole are lightly browned on all sides.
     *Remove the garlic cloves when they become a light brown color.  (Either discard the garlic or snack away!)
     Step 2:  Add 1/5 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add the reserved finely chopped porcini.
     Sauté till the soffrito vegetables start to become tender, but not browned.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of chopped peeled and seeded fresh plum tomato.
     Sauté till the tomato starts to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 3 cups of rich reduced beef broth.
     Step 5:  Add sea salt to taste.
     Add 6 crushed black peppercorns.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Step 6:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce temperature to very low heat
     Cover the pan with a lid.  (Do not tightly seal the lid!)
     Gently simmer and braise, till the venison bracciole is fully cooked and tender.  (About 45 minutes.)  Turn the bracciole occasionally.
     *Add a splash of water, if too much liquid evaporates.  The liquid should only be halfway up the sides of the bracciole at the most.  Skim off any excess grease that floats to the top of the sauce.
     Step 7:  After the bracciole are tender, remove the lid.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce becomes a thin sauce consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Hold each bracciole with tongs and remove the toothpicks.
     Keep the venison bracciole warm over very low heat.

     Bracciole di Cervo Presentation:
     Arrange the Bracciole di Cervo on a plate so they point outward from center.
     Serve with a portion of your choice of al dente pasta, polenta, risotto or rice.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate
     *The plate in the photos was served with Pennoni Pasta with butter and Italian parsley and sautéed spinach.

     Bracciole di Cervo is a classy Italian venison entrée that autumn season deer hunters will really like.  This is also a great recipe for those who go deer hunting in a food market!  

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