I normally don’t post recipes that plenty of other people have covered – and probably better than I would anyway – but there doesn’t appear to be anybody who’s written about cooking the classic Sicilian dish, farsumagru, sous vide. Of course, it had occurred to me that perhaps there was a reason for this and I would find out why the hard way. Although, you can probably guess by now whether I was successful or not.
Aside from the usual benefits of not being able to overcook the meat, there are a few advantages to my method here. Typically, farsumagu consists of a large thin piece of beef or veal rolled and stuffed with layers of salumi (usually mortadella and prosciutto), beef or pork mince, peas, cheese and hard boiled eggs, which is then simmered in a red wine and tomato sauce. Because mince, for safety purposes, must be heated to a higher temperature than intact pieces of meat it is unavoidable that the outer layer will be overdone when cooked traditionally.
By using the water bath, though, I could pasteurise the whole roulade by holding it at a much lower temperature (57.5°C) for a few hours thus keeping the outer layer close to medium-rare. Another benefit was due to the thickness of the roll: it needed around ten hours to pasteurise (I erred on the side of caution using the Baldwin tables) meaning the beef flank I used, which can be quite tough even when grilled quickly, had some time to tenderise. Cooking conventionally I would have had to braise this cut and that’s not the texture you are looking for in a farsumagru.
Previously, whenever I’ve bought the meat for this I’ve always had the butcher butterfly it to give me a roughly rectangular shape but for a change I decided to do it myself. It’s actually quite easy as long as you have a sharp knife and I found a very good pictorial guide here. I accidently made a few holes in the flank when pounding it thin but I managed to patch them up with some trimmings I had accumulated.
Another good thing was I didn’t need to tie the roulade up with butcher’s twine because the vacuum packing meant the shape stayed intact throughout cooking. I also browned the roll beforehand because I didn’t want to subject such a thin layer to high heat straight out of the bath. There is a problem with doing that when using an edge vacuum sealer though because more meat juices get released as the air is being sucked out of the bag: it took me two goes to get a proper seal.
All that was left to do was make the sauce separately and this was just a very simple red wine and tomato reduction I fortified with the liquid from the vacuum bag at the end. I boiled the juices before I added them to coagulate any blood proteins before straining through a filter to remove the scum. It turned out the meat only released 110g of liquid over the entire time, which actually surprised me as I thought it would certainly be more: yet another benefit of low temperature cooking. And yes, I am aware how nerdy that last sentence makes me appear!
For the farsumagru
1 large beef flank, butterflied to around 15cm x 20cm in dimension
4 slices mortadella
6 slices prosciutto
250g pork mince
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 eggs, hard boiled and shelled
50g provolone, cubed
Grape seed oil
For the tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
150ml red wine
250ml beef stock
- Place the flank steak between sheets of cling film and using a mallet or rolling pin pound the meat until it is 5mm thick. Be careful not to create any holes in the meat.
- Lay the mortadella in a single layer over the meat, leaving a 2cm gap at the edges to ensure the stuffing doesn’t overflow when you roll the meat into a roulade.
- Repeat the process for the prosciutto.
- Blanch the peas in boiling water for 30 seconds and drain.
- Add the peas, mince, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, pecorino and pepper to a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Spread the meat mixture evenly over the prosciutto.
- Slice the tops off the boiled eggs and lay them lengthways down the centre of the meat.
- Arrange the cubes of provolone in a line down either side of the eggs.
- Roll the meat up tightly and tuck in the flaps of meat at either end to create a seal.
- Place a frying pan over a very high heat and when very hot add some grape seed oil.
- Season the meat and brown the roll for around 15-30 seconds on each side.
- Seal in a vaccum bag and place in a temperature controlled water bath at 57.5°C for ten hours (the time will depend on the thickness of roll, use the check the Baldwin tables for a precise time).
- Meanwhile, place a saucepan over a low heat and pour in the olive oil.
- Fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes, making sure not to brown it.
- Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine.
- Boil until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the beef stock, passata and pepper.
- Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half, around 45 minutes. Reserve.
- When ready, remove the meat from the bath and pour any liquid from the bag into a sauce pan.
- Bring the juices to the boil and then strain through a filter or cheese cloth to remove the grey scum.
- Add the strained liquid to the tomato sauce.
- Carve the roll into 2cm slices, divide between four plates and pour some sauce over each one.