RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Ba-Da-Bing! Braciole Burgers

Americans love their T.V., and few things are as identified with New Jersey as the television phenomenon "The Sopranos," the inspiration for this burger. Growing up in the melting pot that is New Jersey (I live in Nevada now, but I lived in New Jersey for half of my childhood), I was well aware of its large Italian-American community. Few states could offer the Garden State's variety of Italian delis, mom and pop "hole in the walls", and pizza joints, each one more authentic than the next. This proud culture is a unique part of New Jersey's "personality," and it was well, if not comically, represented by the Tony and Carmella Soprano, and their food-loving family and friends.

Within every new episode of "The Sopranos," you could count on two things. One was that Tony would be spending time at the Ba-Da-Bing! club, and the second was that Carmella would have a "nice braciole" in the fridge. Braciole is a common Italian-American dish, involving a thin cut of steak wrapped around a filling that often includes sausage, pine nuts, raisins, pancetta, and seasonings. The filled steak is braised in tomato sauce until it is cooked through and tender. It is the quintessential Sunday dinner meal, but perhaps too heavy for those muggy New Jersey summer nights. This burger, an Americanized version of all of the flavors that make braciole great, would be the perfect substitute. Sweet New Jersey tomatoes play a starring role in the sauce.

Ingredients 

1 head radicchio
Ice water

For the Jersey Tomato Pancetta Sauce:
2 cups Jersey grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons Colavita olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup small diced pancetta (about 4 ounces)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Sutter Home Zinfandel
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

For the grilled radicchio:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup Colavita olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the patties:
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/4 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
Vegetable oil for brushing the grill

For assembly:
6 thick slices provolone cheese
6 soft Ciabatta square sandwich rolls, split

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat.

Cut the radicchio into quarters lengthwise, keeping some of the stem attached. Submerge the radicchio in a large bowl of ice water for 30 minutes to take out some of the bitterness (cover the radicchio with a plate to keep submerged if necessary.)

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place a 12-inch fireproof or cast iron skillet on the grill rack over medium-hot heat. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and roast, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes start to char and are popping, 6-8 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes back to the bowl and wipe out the skillet. Place the skillet back on the grill rack and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, until the fat has mostly rendered and the pancetta begins to crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, stirring frequently, 4 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, Zinfandel, Worcestershire, and crushed red pepper. Add the roasted tomatoes and mash them with the back of a rubber spatula or spoon. Simmer the sauce for 4-5 minutes longer to thicken, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Grill the radicchio: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, thyme, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and vinegar, Season with salt and pepper. Drain the radicchio on paper towels, patting them dry. Place the radicchio in a shallow baking dish, carefully open up the leaves and spoon the olive oil mixture inside. Grill the radicchio over medium-high heat, until it has browned on all sides, turning occasionally with tongs, 6-8 minutes. Return the radicchio to the shallow baking dish; cover to keep warm.

Prepare the patties: In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, sausage, Zinfandel, pine nuts, parsley, raisins, oregano, sage, and salt and mix well, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the rolls.

Coarsely chop the grilled radicchio. Mix it with the arugula and reserved olive oil mixture in the shallow baking dish and set aside.

Grill the patties: Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. During the last few minutes of grilling, place one slice of cheese on each patty and place the rolls, cut sides down, around the circumference of the grill to lightly toast.

Assemble the burgers: Top the bottom halves of the Ciabatta rolls with some of the grilled radicchio-arugula salad. Spread the top halves of the rolls with a thick layer of the tomato-pancetta sauce. Place a patty on the bottom halves, add the top halves, and serve immediately!

Comments 

Other tomatoes may be substituted for Jersey tomatoes. Foccacia may be substituted for ciabatta, if desired.