Food inspiration can strike at anytime, even in the middle of lunch with a group of writers eating a particularly good batch of Hot and Sour soup. Julie organized the fourth annual WriterRead (check it out here) and I made lunch on Saturday for all the writers who bravely took the stage and shared their stories about traveling and coming home. I sat down next to Rene as lunch was winding down and after a few minutes, our conversation turned to food. We talked about Mount Royal (my favorite grocery store), Northern Waters Smokehaus (home of the best pancetta, ever) and a sushi restaurant in a gas station (gas and sushi, an unlikely pair) and then Rene mentioned a meat market, Old World Meats, that makes a roast called Al Capone. A piece of stuffed beef named after a Mafia kingpin?? Now, that's a dinner idea I can get behind.
In the spirit of Italian gangsters, I opened a bottle of wine from Puglia— a smooth blend of Uva di Troia and Negroamaro. It wasn't the biggest, baddest Italian wine I've ever met but it had a decent depth, ripe fruit, a little spice and was a smooth operator.
Ted and I spent a lot of time aimlessly driving around northwestern Wisconsin when we were newly married— looking for old farmhouses and cabins, bars in the middle of nowhere and exploring Wisconsin's back roads with our Gazetteer. I remember driving up to Al Capone's Hideout near Couderay for dinner on a beautiful fall day when Jack was a baby. I was expecting something dark and discreet— it was a hideout, after all. As it turns out, Al had good taste for a gangster— his 'hideout' was more like an estate with a beautiful stone lodge, a stone guard tower and several other buildings on a private lake. I guess Capone preferred to hide out in style, spiral staircases and all.
I have no idea if he actually ate a stuffed flank steak when he was hanging out at the hideout but if his opulent taste extended to the dinner table, there's a good chance he did. This roast is a little fussy to put together— rolling and tying anything is tricky but trust me, it's worth it. The combination of fresh mozzarella, good Italian sausage, olives and pepperoncini is a winner. Capone would approve.
Al Capone's Roast
1 (3 - 4) pound flank steak, pounded out to 1/2 inch
8 - 10 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 -8 pepperoncini, chopped (remove the seeds if you don't like it spicy)
1/2 cup mixed good olives, pitted and chopped
12 - 14 basil leaves
1 pound Italian sausage (recipe here)
1 package mushrooms, sliced
4 tbsp. butter 2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 package fresh mozzarella (8 ounces), sliced
1/2 cup romano, shredded
Herb salt (recipe here) and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a sauté pan over medium high heat, cook the Italian sausage until lightly browned and thoroughly cooked, set aside. In another sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of butter and sauté the sliced mushrooms until softened and browned, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini and olives until combined. Place the flank steak on a flat surface and layer the ingredients as follows: Italian sausage, tomato/olive mixture, mushrooms, basil, Mozzarella and Romano cheese.
Roll up the flank steak as tightly as you can (don't worry if some of the filling comes out of the sides) and tie the roast tightly and securely with cotton twine. Liberally season the roast with herb salt and pepper. In a large cast iron pan, melt two tablespoons of butter and sear the roast, over medium high heat, on all sides. Place the cast iron pan in the oven and roast for 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Remove from the oven and let the roast rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.