Projole

Italian Flank Steak Rolled with Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese, and Mint
I'm not entirely sure where this recipe came from originally. I seem to recall watching a Saturday morning cooking show where someone was cooking a flank steak, rolled with pine nuts and mint and simmered in a tomato sauce and that it sounded really good. Recently I tried to locate the source of this recipe, and came up snake eyes - until I started doing some variations on my spelling. Technically, there is no "projole" - it's "brajol" or "braciole", and it's nothing like this dish, with the exception that sometimes it's made with flank steak, and it is stuffed (although with onions, celery and mozzarella cheese), and it may or may not be simmered in a sauce.

In any case, this has been in my repertoire now for the past five years, and it's definitely become a favorite. I've made it for friends in Marblehead, dinners at my folks' on the Cape, and shared the recipe with friends and $5 Dinner Clubs from San Francisco to New York. I've even had vegetarians tell me, as they smelled the sauce and the steak with the fragrant mint cooking, that they wished they ate meat.

Depending on the time of year, you might not be able to get your hands on fresh mint. Don't worry. Although it doesn't taste quite the same, substituting basil works just fine.

For 4

Ingredients

2 # Flank Steak
6 cloves garlic (loosely chopped)
3 ½ T fresh Mint (about 33 leaves, loosely chopped. You can substitute Fresh Basil for this)
2 T fresh Parsley (loosely chopped)
¼ Cup Pine nuts
1 T Olive oil
¼ Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Sauce:
6 tomatoes (loosely cut) Or 1 (28 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes (loosely cut)
1½ - 2 cups of red wine (nothing fancy)
1½ - 2 T dry oregano
Parsley
5 cloves garlic (loosely chopped)
Pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F. Spread your pine nuts on a cookie sheet, and put them in the oven to toast them. After about 4 minutes, shake the cookie sheet to prevent them from toasting too much on one side, and let them cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside.

Lay your flank steak so that the grain runs horizontally in front of you. Across the middle of it, from left to right, sprinkle your salt and pepper, then your mint, pine nuts, garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Now comes the "tricky" part - you want to roll it, and then tie it up. Take a piece of string, about 3 feet long, and tie a little loop at one end, and place it aside. Roll the steak forwards, like a burrito or a wrap. As you're rolling it, curl your fingers in, so as to push your filling in, and to make a nice, tight roll. Some of the stuffing may fall out, but it's not the end of the world - you can throw it into the sauce. Once you have your steak rolled, it's time to tie it, to prevent the stuffing from coming out while cooking. Take your string with the loop, and start at one end (I start on the right hand side, which I find easier being right handed). Pull the other end of the string through your loop, and cinch it tight. Keeping the steak flat on your cutting board, just loop the string over and under, over and under, until you reach the opposite end of the steak, and tie it off. Now you're ready to cook.

Put 6 - 8 T of olive oil in a big stockpot, over high heat. You want to brown the steak, searing it. The pot will be hot and spitting, so be careful. It should take about a minute or so per "side". Once the outside of the steak is browned, remove from the pot, and set aside.

Add your tomatoes, garlic, wine, oregano, parsley, and pepper to the pot that still has the oil and bits from the steak, and bring to a simmer. You can also add any of the excess stuffing that fell out when you were rolling the steak. Once the sauce begins to simmer, return your steak to the pot, spooning the sauce over it, making sure that it's mostly covered. When the pot reaches a simmer again, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook for an hour. Check it about every 10 minutes and spoon the sauce over it, and make sure it's not sticking.

About 20 minutes before the steak is done, put a pot of water on to boil for your pasta. When it boils, throw in your pasta (angel hair is a nice accompaniment, as is penne). This way your pasta should be ready as your steak is. Green beans or asparagus go well with this, so having water boiling for your vegetables around the time that you throw your pasta in will have them coordinated as well.

Once an hour is up, remove the steak from the pot and let it sit for a couple of minutes (keep the sauce on a low heat). Cut the string away, and with a sharp knife, using tongs to hold the steak, cut ¼ inch medallions, and layer them on a plate. A little pasta on the side, some of the sauce poured over the steak and the pasta, and some pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and parsley sprinkled over the top for garnish, and you're ready to eat.

Enjoy!

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