Okay back to the blog. We’ve been fairly busy at work in the past week and I’ve been working every night on books and business stuff trying to make up for the prior weeks of screwing around while Chad was in town. I’ve been cooking, I just haven’t really had the desire to sit down and write. Last weekend I made my favorite, but the toughest version of Bolognese and served it over polenta. It was enjoyable as always. Last night I made a pot roast braised in Chianti with glazed carrots and parsnips, which I loved and will post in a few days.
On another positive note yesterday was the first day in a million years that I ate reasonably. I didn’t exercise, but I think I will be able to get back in the swing of things today. It’s all mind over matter, so I just need to get my head straight again. One of my challenges is to get through the day at Dish without going crazy. We have a way of cracking a scone or dropping a cookie or miscutting a piece of pie almost every day. Of course we are not going to throw away good food so we, mostly me lately, eat it.
If I can stop myself from eating the scraps then I have to make sure I don’t sneak into the dry storage room and eat chocolate chips or tear pieces off the big blocks of chocolate we use for brownies. Oh and I have to stop myself from eating whatever other creation gets made on a daily basis…tapioca, rice pudding, key lime pie, etc,etc, etc. Wow, what a tough life, ha ha.
So for any of you that want to gain some weight and bulk up, send us your resume. We have plenty of calories to go around!
Well, what about the Bolognese? It’s good, it’s terrific if you do it right. I’ve made it three times now. The first time it was out of this world, so good we couldn’t believe it. I followed the recipe almost to the letter. The second time I screwed it up because I became paranoid about the method and the meat turned out to be really tough and dry. It was one of the days that I thought I should just stop cooking. The third time, last weekend, it worked out great, but still not as good as the first time. The recipe came out of an incredible book I found last year called “Cooking by Hand“, by Paul Bertolli.
So without further ado, here is the recipe with my notes about what I think you should watch out for.
Bolognese #3 – (enough for 5 servings over polenta or with pasta)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds freshly ground skirt steak (have your butcher grind it with a 3/8″ plate)
- 3 1/2 ounces pancetta, diced
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 onion
- 10 to 12 sage leaves
- 1/2 ounce dry porcini mushrooms
- 3/8 cup tomato paste
- 6 cups of meat stock, simmering
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot. Add the skirt steak and the pancetta. Turn the heat to high and stir in two tablespoons of salt. Maintain the heat on high until the meat juices evaporate and you begin to hear the meat sizzle, indicating that it is beginning to brown. Lower the heat a little to slow the browning. If the meat is not leaving a residue there is probably too much fat in the pan. Por some of it off. In this case, the meat is likely to fry, causing it to toughen up rather than gently brown. (This is where I had problems the second time around. The first and third time I poured a rather large amount of fat off and it worked much better)
Break up the butter and distribute it over the surface of the meat. This will aid in the browning process. Stir the pot frequently to expose the unbrowned sides of the ground meat to the bottom of the pan. (This is super important). If you notice that the browning is occurring unevenly, move the pot relative to the flame in order to encourage an even development of residues. Raise or lower the heat if necessary to encourage the development of color (a deep chestnut) or discourage too much color (blackening).
While the residue is forming, cut and set aside a 1/4 inch dice of one celery stalk, one carrot and one small onion. After about 30 minutes, yeah you read it right, you could notice a solidly stuck layer of brown residue covering the bottom of the pan.
Add the diced vegetables along with 10 to 12 fresh sage leaves. Add a 1/2 ounce of dry porcini mushrooms broken into small pieces. (This adds an incredible flavor). Lower the heat and allow the vegetables to sweat with the meat for 15 minutes. Then add 3/8 cup of tomato paste. Stir in well to distribute evenly. Maintain moderate heat and cook the meat and vegetables for 5 minutes more.
You will notice that the addition of the vegetables and the stirring of the pot have caused most of the residue to loosen. Raise the heat to high and add 1 cup of hot beef stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any residues still clinging to the bottom and low sides of the pot. Allow the broth to evaporate. When the meat appears nearly dry and you notice some reformation of residue, add another cup of broth. Repeat this process one more time, using 3 cups of broth in all. After the third and final addition and evaporation, add another 3 cups of broth to the pot, making certain that all residues are free from the bottom. Reduce to a bare simmer and cover the pot tightly.
Cook the ragu until it is meltingly tender, 1 1/2 hours. Remove the ragu from the heat, skim away some of the fat if there is an excessive amount. Stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and then simmer the meat over very low heat for five minutes.
Season the ragu to your taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour it over polenta (here is my reciepe, leave out the cheese though) or use with tagliatelle.