I approach almost everyone of my endeavors with a strong desire to be the best. I’m one of those people who is rarely satisfied with my results and I’m usually looking for a better way to do something.
This creates some problems for me regarding the publication of this blog along with many other ventures in my life. Deciding what to cook for dinner is usually the easy part. If I’m doing the cooking everyone else in the house is usually happy and will pretty much take whatever I dish out.
Preparing the food can be a challenge, but as long as Nancy is within shouting distance and the recipe doesn’t have anything to do with baking I can usually hit the mark.
Experiencing extreme satisfaction from what I cook, well that’s another story. We have a fairly stable ritual at the dinner table, unless one of us is in a terrible mood. We pray, we share stories about the day and then we start critiquing the food. This is something I started and everyone begrudgingly plays along. I always want the truth, the good, the bad, the ugly, but my family likes to go easy on me.
I can tell what Jacob and Randy think by the amount they eat. When they don’t go back for seconds or I hear “I’m full” prematurely I don’t even need to ask. Jacob, Nancy’s son, will usually give me a better description of what he likes or doesn’t since he’s been around good food all of his life. Randy who grew up with my sub-par cooking will usually eat anything and is happy to have the free food. He is the typical broke UNR college student.
When it comes to Nancy, who is probably just trying to keep the peace and keep me in a good mood, the conversation goes something like this:
Joe – “What do you think? What would you change? I liked it, but I didn’t love it.”
Nancy – “It was good.” This is after she ate half of the plate and is mysteriously “full”.
Joe – “Come on, what did you really thing? What would you do differently?”
Jacob – “Mom, tell him what you really think!”
Nancy – “I liked it. It was fine. I’m just full, I ate a late lunch at the restaurant.”
Joe – “Give me a break. What would you change?”
Nancy – “Well I would add more of xyz and I think you should do x.”
Hahaha, the running joke at our dinner table is, if the meal needed some work, you have to ask a few times before you can break her down and get a straight answer.
The pictures are probably the hardest part of the equation. I did some photography when I was in my 20s, but nothing to do with food and/or inanimate objects. If you’ve been reading the blog since I started, or have gone back and checked out some of the older posts, you will notice that the pictures have improved quite a bit.
I started with a Canon Elf, point and shoot, and every photo had lighting problems. I recently purchased a Canon Rebel and built a light box out of a cardboard box and tracing paper which has helped quite a bit. I have a long way to go! Next I need to read the three photography and Photoshop books I ordered from Amazon.
Lastly and rival for the most challenging part is writing the post. My strengths are math, computers, business, sales, etc. I’ve never been able to write! I’m always jealous of Nancy’s blog because she tells such a great story and it leaps off the page. I can verbally tell a great story, but when it comes to putting it on paper, well you know, you’ve been reading them.
With that said let me move on to Bolognese sauce. There is a connection here. Bolognese was one of the first things I cooked when I started this cooking quest a few years ago and I’m still not happy with the results. I’ve reviewed and compared 20 or more recipes and have made at least six different versions with some incredible results. We love it in the fall and winter, but it works anytime as far as I’m concerned. Our favorites are with pasta or over polenta. A good lasagna Bolognese is always welcome too.
My plan is present to you three different versions of Bolognese sauce over the next few months. The first version, todays, is a simple adaptation of a Mario Batali recipe. This is the most basic of the bunch. It is super easy to make, super easy to prep and has very little active time. You can get it going and then work out, watch TV, respond to all the emails you left unopened, email your friends about my blog, etc.
Traditionally it is made with tagliatelle and has very small amount of tomato.
Pasta with Bolognese Sauce (serves four to six)
- 2 medium sized carrots, small dice (1 extra carrot for your dog!)
- 2 medium sized celery hearts, small dice
- 1 large onion, small dice
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound ground pork, not lean
- 1 pound lean , 90% lean
- 4 ounces pancetta, small dice
- 1 cup or other Italian red wine (If you won’t drink it, don’t use it)
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 tablespoons
My dog, Ecko, loves carrots so whenever I have a recipe that includes carrots I always grab an extra one for her. She runs around in circles and then rolls on it and then tosses it up in the air and the finally eats it bit-by-bit.
Turn heat up to high and add pork, beef and pancetta. Continue to stir and break apart meat into small pieces. Cook only until meat has lost its raw look, but do not brown. You do not want the outside of the meat to crisp or fry. You want the meat to be tender. About eight minutes.
Add wine, tomato paste and half and half. Reduce heat to very low, only enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every fifteen minutes or so until the sauce is almost gone, but the meat is still very moist. About 1 1/2 hours. Add salt to taste.
Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain pasta, arrange on plates and cover with Bolognese sauce.
The next version is actually my favorite, but harder to get right. It uses skirt steak and a much more complex method… worth it, but there can be problems. The use of crumbled dried porcini mushrooms adds an incredible taste as well. Stay tuned.