Food and Drink: Braciole di Patate

I’ve loved to cook for as long as I can remember. There is something therapeutic about spending time in the kitchen, transforming basic ingredients into a cohesive and satisfying dish. I genuinely believe that this love was instilled in me by my Nonna, who is herself a fantastic cook. Note: All Italian grand-kids think their Nonna is the best cook in the world, but mine actually is. A while ago I decided that I’d like to learn some of my Nonna’s specialities, those dishes that only she can make. But as always, life gets in the way. This past weekend I made a point of setting aside a Saturday afternoon and planning an overdue visit to my Nonna’s kitchen. The first dish I planned to learn -- and believe me, the list is long -- is braciole di patate.

Now, you may be wondering what exactly braciole di patate are, so here’s a brief Italian lesson.

Definition of BRACIOLA: 
A thin slice of meat wrapped around a seasoned filling and often cooked in wine or tomato sauce.

Variants of BRACIOLA: bra·ci·o·la or bra·ci·o·le

Origin of BRACIOLA: 
Italian, literally, slice of meat roasted over coals, from brace live coals.

To confuse the matter further, these braciole di patate  are made of potatoes, not meat, and they aren’t cooked over coals. Regardless of their name, which is admittedly odd, this dish is flavourful, crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. They are very tasty when they're hot, but I prefer them cold. They're also extremely addictive in a "betcha can't eat just one" kinda way, so consider yourself warned.

You’ll need:
  • 10 large potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A cutting board large enough to roll out your potato "dough"
  • Oil for frying
Start by boiling the potatoes. When they are fork tender, strain, allow them to cool, and peel. Using a ricer, crush each potato directly onto your cutting board. Knead the potato until you’ve created a mixture similar in texture to dough. Roll into a ball and allow to cool completely. This should take about an hour.

Once the potatoes are completely cooled, season the potato mixture with salt and pepper, parsley, both cheeses and garlic. Knead until everything is well mixed. Next, make a small well in the centre of the potato dough and add the egg. Knead until the egg is incorporated completely.

Next, add the flour. You’ll need to start with small amounts, 1 tablespoon at a time. The flour is meant to hold the potato dough together, but you need to be careful not to add too much or the potatoes will become too dense. Knead until the flour is mixed.

Take a palm sized piece of the potato mixture, and using your hands, roll the mixture into a log, about ½ inch thick. Cut into 2 inch long pieces. Make only a few braciole and use this as a test batch.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, over medium-high heat. Once hot, slowly add the test braciole, being careful not to splash the oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place in a paper towel lined plate. Allow the braciole to cool and taste, checking for seasoning. If anything needs to be adjusted, this is the time to do it.

Once you've settled on your seasoning finish rolling the potato, and fry. When frying, make sure not to over-crowd your pan or the braciole will not cook correctly.

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