Chuck Steak (Shoulder) Sfincione a.k.as Pizzaiola   

Carne Brasata con Salsa Sfincione 

Carni a Sfinciuni 

Carne a sfinciune is a Palermitano dish with excellent taste. It is ease to prepare, few ingredients are needed and the majority of them are available in your pantry. 

Because historically Sicilian beef is tough, the meat has to be tenderized and it is done by baking it slowly and timely in a typical Sicilian sauce that includes the pungent taste of capers and the nutty and fruity flavor of green olives; in fact the beef is first seared, covered with the sauce and slowly braised in the oven.  

Another reason of the popularity of this recipe is that it does not require a fancy and expensive cut of beef: the low-priced chuck braised in sfincione sauce becomes so tender it can be cut with a fork. Cook the steak sfincione tightly covered with aluminum foil.  

Carne a sfincione was one of my mother’ preferred dish because she could prepare it in advance and cook one hour before dinner. She always made it with extra sauce to accompany some pasta, she preferred cut ziti.    

We prepared this dish often at Joe’s of Avenue U, our family eatery, using the recipe that follows. 

Serves 6  

Ingredients 

·        3 lb chuck-shoulder steak, cut in 6 slices, 1/2” thick 

·        6 tablespoons olive oil 

·        3 whole cloves garlic  

·        2 medium onions coarsely chopped 

·        Can 28 oz Italian whole peeled tomato 

·        1 bay leaf 

·        12 pitted and chopped green olives   

·        3 tablespoons rinsed capers 

·        ½ teaspoon oregano 

·        Few basil leaves 

·        Salt and pepper to taste 

·        ¼ cup white wine 

·        ½ cup toasted breadcrumbs 

·       4 oz finely diced Caciocavallo or your preferred cheese 

·       Baking pan 11”X7”X2”

 

Steak Sfincione

 

PREPARATION

The Prep 

Pour the tomatoes in a bowl and crush them with your hands. 

In a large sauté pan over medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil; add the garlic and sauté the steaks in batches, to sear: about 3 minutes on each side. Discard the garlic and set the sautéed meat on the side. 

In the same sauté pan over medium heat add 1 tablespoon of oil, the chopped onions and bay leaf; keep stirring to loosen any bits of meat attached at the bottom. When onions are translucent about 6 minutes, add the tomatoes, the olives, capers, oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes and set on the side. 

 

The Assembly 

Spread a few tablespoons of sauce in the baking pan and lay the steaks over it. Use your judgment if salt and pepper is needed. 

Cover with the sauce; sprinkle the wine over, dust with a thin layer of breadcrumbs, drizzle remaining olive oil over breadcrumbs and divide equally the diced cheese over each steak. 

 

The Baking 

 

Pre heat oven at 350’. 

Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven’s middle rack. 

 

Cook for at least 1 hour. Uncover to check the sauce: if it is too watery bake it uncovered for additional 15 minutes and if the meat is not satisfactory tender, keep it in the oven for additional 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.  

 

Serve hot, with plain boiled potatoes on the side; also, with a spongy Italian bread to mop the sauce and a bottle of Nero di Avola or a young Californian Zinfandel to conclude an enjoyable dinner. 

 

NOTE: 

·       Baking time can be reduced according to the cut of meat. A shell steak, for instance, is baked in 15 to 20 minutes. 

 

·       Steak a sfincione can be finished on the stovetop, by placing the seared meat into the sauce and sprinkling the wine over it. Cover the pot and allow the braising process over low heat, until meat is cooked and tender. Transfer to a serving plate; add a dust of breadcrumbs and the cheese. 

 

·       If you made extra sauce cook one pound of your preferred pasta and dress it with the sfincione sauce and offer grated cheese and/or toasted breadcrumbs on the side.