In case you haven’t noticed: there is a big scandal unfolding in Europe, regarding horse meat being sold as beef. Now there is nothing wrong with eating horse meat — it is healthy, lean, and tasty. The problem is that if it says on a package that something contains 100% beef, it should not be horse instead. Since horse meat is quite a bit cheaper than beef, this scam has been widespread and more ‘beef’ products that actually contain horse are discovered on a daily basis throughout Europe. We can only hope that the horse meat used in the beef products is good-quality horse meat, i.e. meat from horses that have not been treated with medication that renders it unfit for human consumption. (If you buy horse meat from your butcher, you can be sure that this has been checked due to a strict registration system.)
Even though the butcher I frequent specializes in horse meat and is even famous for his horse sausage, I had never before prepared horse meat. My butcher is pretty happy with the scandal by the way: his horse meat sales have gone up by as much as 40%! Because of the ongoing scandal and because the Braciole alla Barese I prepared recently were traditionally made with horse meat, I thought it would be nice to prepare braciole with horse meat and share my experience with you. They turned out just as nicely as the beef braciole, and I doubt that I would be able to tell them apart in a blind tasting. (In a comment on my post about beef braciole, Valentina, who is originally from Bari, pointed out that nowadays beef is the norm rather than horse.)
Braciole are thin slices of horse meat (or beef) stuffed with garlic, parsley, and cheese, which are rolled up and cooked slowly in a tomato sauce. The tomato sauce will become very flavorful and can be served with pasta as a primo piatto, followed by the braciole themselves with the remaining sauce and a green salad as secondo piatto. I thought it would be nice to make them with basil, red wine, pecorino, and orechiette this time (rather than oregano, white wine, parmigiano, and fusilli as I did with the beef version).
(The series of recipes from Conor’s visit will continue tomorrow.)
For 2 servings
2 slices of horse sirloin, pounded thin (ask your butcher for scaloppine from horse rather than veal), about 300 grams (.66 lbs)
1 can peeled tomatoes (400 grams/14 oz)
6 fresh basil leaves (plus more as garnish for the pasta)
150 grams (.33 lbs) orechiette pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
30 grams (6 Tbsp) freshly grated pecorino (plus for as garnish for the pasta)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
80 ml (1/3 cup) red wine, preferably the same as you will serve with the dish
Combine the pecorino, parsley and garlic in a small bowl and stir until homogeneous.
Pat the horse scaloppine dry with paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.
Cover the horse scaloppine with the cheese mixture, spread out evenly.
Roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole that is just big enough to hold the bundles over high heat. Add the bundles.
Brown the bundles over high heat on all sides.
Take the bundles out of the casserole and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the red wine.
Cook over medium heat until half of the wine has evaporated, scraping all the nice brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula.
Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and add to the casserole.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil, stirring.
Add the horse bundles and baste them with the sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer.
Cover partially and allow to simmer for about an hour, turning the bundles now and then to cook them evenly.
Cut the basil into small strips with a sharp knife (basil loses its aroma more quickly when you chop and thus bruise it) and add to the casserole.
Stir in the basil and cook for 5 minutes longer.
If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the horse bundles and cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring, until it has the desired thickness. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Boil the orechiette al dente in salted water according to package instructions and drain. Dress them with 2/3 of the tomato sauce. Return the horse bundles to the pan and cover to keep them warm while you eat the primo piatto.
Add freshly grated pecorino and more basil to the pasta.
Toss to mix.
Serve immediately on warm plates.
Serve the horse bundles with the remaining sauce with a green salad, cutting them crosswise so you can see the layers inside.
This is good with a red wine from indigenous grapes from the province of Bari with good acidity: Castel del Monte, or another red made from Uva di Troia grapes. Wines made from other indigenous grapes with good acidity like Gaglioppo or Aglianico would also work, also if they are from Campania or Calabria rather than Puglia. Primitivo or Negroamaro wines such as Salice Salentino or wines made with new oak are be too heavy and would overpower the fresh flavors of the braciole. We enjoyed them with a 2009 Cirò Duca Sanfelice Riserva from Librandi, a very elegant wine from gaglioppo grapes. It reminded us a bit of a light barolo or a pinot noir.