Elegant Dinner for Two

The holidays are always a busy time and since neither of us live near our family, we always have to travel.

So we've begun to have our own Christmas dinner together before we leave for the in-laws. I enjoy making an elegant, candle-lit dinner every year. Here's our 2014 Christmas!

On the menu:

Braciole with risotto and Barboursville Vineyards' Octagon 2007

Braciole sounds fancy and looks intimidating to make but it's simple, here's Giada's recipe:

1/2 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/3 cup grated provolone
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak
1 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cups store-bought marinara sauce

Stir the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper and set aside.

Lay the flank steak flat on the work surface. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the steak to cover the top evenly. Starting at 1 short end, roll up the steak as for a jelly roll to enclose the filling completely. Using butcher's twine, tie the steak roll to secure. Sprinkle the braciole with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the braciole and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the marinara sauce. Cover partially with foil and bake until the meat is almost tender, turning the braciole and basting with the sauce every 30 minutes. After 1 hour, uncover and continue baking until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes longer. The total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the braciole from the sauce. Using a large sharp knife, cut the braciole crosswise and diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer the slices to plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve.

And I wouldn't serve anything but an Italian style wine with this Italian dish. I opted for a local, Virginia wine made by Barboursville Vineyards. Barboursville is known world-wide for their Italian-style wines made by Luca Paschina, Winemaker.

This was the 2007 vintage and was showing beautifully. Perfect with the meatiness of the braciole and easy to drink on it's own for after the meal.

Set the mood with candles, lanterns and crystal stemware. Our table seats 8 but I made it cozy by putting the chairs in the middle, facing each other and using the rest of the table for candles.

Oh, what a night!