Katie Alley, of the wonderfully written blog, Seashells & Sunflowers, is sharing with the readers of Asado Argentina her delicious recipe for niños envueltos. Through her blog, Katie, who moved from Philadelphia to the seaside city of Necochea, Argentina, has developed a passion for sharing recipes passed through the generations of her Argentinean boyfriend’s family. In addition to the beautifully photographed presentations of her recipes, you can discover the joys and difficulties one faces on such a large move to a different country and culture. She also posts resourceful information on Argentinean food & travel as well so be sure to check out her site. (All images in this post are property of KatieAlley, All Rights Reserved )
Rosa, my boyfriend’s great-aunt, knows her way around the kitchen. After living on the Argentine pampa for more than 50 years – first as a child with her Italian immigrant parents and later with her gaucho husband – Rosa learned the virtues of simple, honest food. No stranger to hard work, she has cooked for hungry paisanos on a cattle ranch and the well-heeled at the Necochea Rowing Club here in my adopted hometown; she has stuffed and cured her own chorizo sausages and baked the most luscious, dulce de leche-filled confections you could imagine. I’m always excited when Rosa comes for a visit, not just because I enjoy her company and her stories, but because I’m always treated to something tasty when she’s here (like last winter when we fried up churros (photo) on a dreary, pouring-down, mess of a day)! Though Rosa traded the country life for a city existence some years ago, she still recognizes that uncomplicated, homemade food often provides the most satisfying and memorable experiences.
After much consideration, I chose a tender, flavorful beef dish from Rosa’s recipe arsenal known as niños envueltos. Though a laughable, literal translation of the dish’s name results in “wrapped-up kids,” I assure you that no children were harmed in the making of this recipe. Apparently with great imagination (or following several glasses of Malbec wine), these stuffed beef rolls bear some resemblance to a baby swaddled in a blanket. Those of you familiar with Italian cuisine may note great similarities between this dish and braciole or involtini. In Argentina as well as other Latin American countries, niños envueltos may also refer to cabbage or grape leaves filled with ground beef and rice.
Rosa rarely consults an actual recipe when cooking. Though she has an assortment of yellowed, dog-eared cookbooks tucked away in her kitchen, more often than not, she eyeballs amounts and tastes her way through the preparation of a dish. She’s probably made niños envueltos a hundred times, and I imagine the dish turns out slightly different (and delectable) every time. For the purposes of putting together something that resembles a recipe, I followed behind Rosa as she prepared this dish and
annoyingly carefully measured all the ingredients. With that in mind, if you want to add more or less of an ingredient or make a substitution for something you have on hand, you’ll be cooking very much estilo Rosa.
Provided by Seashells & Sunflowers
Makes 6 servings
12 slices (¼-inch thick) beef round (nalga) – about 3 lbs.
12 oz. pancetta, medium dice
¼ c. diced onion
¼ c. diced red pepper
¾ c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8-10 small cloves garlic, minced
1 c. plain breadcrumbs
2 c. finely shredded reggianito or parmesan cheese
1 tsp. ají molido or crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Your favorite recipe for tomato sauce (known as tuco in Argentina) or a jarred tomato sauce
Place one or two slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, and pound with a meat mallet until very thin, about 1/8-inch thick. Remove the plastic wrap, and repeat with the remaining meat slices. Set the beef aside.
Sauté the pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat until well browned and a good deal of fat has rendered out. Transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate, and remove all but one tablespoon of the drippings from the skillet. Add onion and red pepper to the skillet; sauté over medium-high heat until vegetables soften and onion turns translucent.
In a medium bowl, combine the pancetta, sautéed onion and red pepper, parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs, cheese, ají molido, egg and milk. Season the mixture liberally with black pepper (additional salt is usually unnecessary because of the salt in the pancetta and the cheese).
Place the pieces of beef on the work surface. Season the beef lightly with salt and pepper, and place about two heaping tablespoons of filling on one end of each slice of beef. Carefully roll up each piece of beef, beginning with the short side, and use toothpicks (or kitchen twine, if preferred) to secure the seam and the ends.
In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat and sear the beef rolls, working in batches, until well browned on all sides. Place all of the browned meat in a Dutch oven, adding enough tomato sauce to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat so that the sauce simmers slowly. Cook the niños envueltos in the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about one hour or until the meat is tender. If the sauce thickens too much during this time, thin it out by adding a little water, as needed.
Remove the toothpicks from the niños envueltos, and serve over rice or with a side of potatoes and a simple green salad.