Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bison Bolognese: Better than the sauce you think it is

Bolognese is not a meat sauce in the way you might think. It's not a tomato sauce with meat added, nor is it saucy. There's a bit of tomato used, really just for color and flavor. It's broth that is used to cook the meat. Bolognese cooks for a long time, allowing everything to reduce and intensify.

Because of the long cooking time it's critical that you use a very heavy pot to cook it in. An enameled cast iron saucepan (Le Creuset) is your best bet. Plan for at least 3 hours for it to simmer. I started prepping for the sauce at 1:30 pm yesterday. By 2pm the simmering had begun, and we had a hearty meal (with our new favorite salad) at 6:30. I did turn it off and covered it between 5 and 6pm since I was out of the house.

I based the recipe on one from the wonderful Angeli Caffe Pizza, Pasta, Panini cookbook, just reducing fats and mushrooms. Angeli Caffe's Bolognese recipe is an inspired variation of Marcella Hazan's. I used bison instead of beef since we love it. The finished sauce won't change a bit if you substitute beef.

Bison Bolognese
Print recipe only here

1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
1 carrot, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1 pound ground beef or bison
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2-3 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken or beef broth
14.5-ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes

1 pound fettucini or pasta of your choosing
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Set porcinis in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Prep all veggies. They need to be totally minced so they will just melt into the sauce. Chop and chop some more.

Set a 3-quart Dutch oven or heavyweight saucepan over a medium high flame and add olive oil. When warm, add carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the veggies are a bit soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant.

Add ground beef and sausage. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt to draw out the moisture from the meat. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon, stir well and cook until the meat is cooked through

Turn the heat up and add the wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the alcohol is cooked off. Add the parsley, sage and bay leaf. Add the crushed tomatoes and broth. Stir well. Bring to a simmer.

Remove porcinis from their soaking liquid, reserving liquid, and chop coarsely. Add to sauce.

Turn down to lowest flame possible and simmer, uncovered, for a minimum of 3 hours*, stirring from time to time. If the sauce dries out add 1/2 cup of water or porcini liquid whenever necessary. At the end, however, no liquid should remain. Taste and add salt as needed.

At dinnertime, cook and drain the pasta and toss with tablespoon of olive oil. Add the Bolognese and Parmesan and mix well. Serve immediately.

* If you cannot maintain a sufficiently low or gentle simmer, pop the sauce into a preheated 250 oven.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Beef Bourguignon as Antidote to Winter

February did not pace itself in Chicago. Groundhog = Woodchuck Day* was overshadowed by an epic storm that afforded us two glorious snow days and enough leaden snow mimic a winter in Tahoe. Not that I've spent a winter in Tahoe.  But that's ancient history. It hit 50 the other day and is poised for a repeat performance later this week. We've even seen squirrels. While we rather enjoyed tonight's Beef Bourguignon I clearly should have made it last week.

I adapted the recipe from the old but good New Basics Cookbook. Rick Bayless taught me to use a water-Worcestershire combo if you find yourself without beef broth. This works well here. I usually keep a solid beef base in my fridge but I'm out and can't remember where I sourced it.

Other sourcing notes: Salt pork isn't available everywhere, but many traditional grocers will carry it. In Chicago I've picked up a Hormel one at Dominick's and Treasure Island. I only use an ounce at a time, so I wrap the rest and freeze it. It sautés up just fine right out of the freezer. And with it nice and solid it's easy to remove the fat. That said, I try to select the hunk with the least amount of fat, since it just goes in the trash.

Everything else can be picked up at Trader Joe's. I'm a broken record on this point, but it's wonderful to be able to pick out meat and have the nutrition data right there for you to see. The one I got for us tonight had 2 ounces of saturated fat per four ounces.

* It's true: a groundhog is the same thing as a woodchuck. I always thought groundhogs were feral guinea pigs and woodchucks were beavers or gophers. The plurality of burrowing rodents endemic to North America might explain my inability to remember that Caddyshack is called Caddyshack and not Groundhog Day.

Beef Bourguingnon
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

1 ounce salt pork, trimmed of fat and cut into small dice
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck or stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 sprig rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
1 1/2 T flour
2 cups Burgundy wine
1 cup water
1 T Worcestershire sauce**
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped diagonally into chunks
6-8 button mushrooms (four ounces), quartered - or chanterelles
2 T parsley, finely chopped

Also: 8 ounces pappardelle pasta (Trader Joe's sells a nice one)

** If you have it, use 1 cup beef broth instead of water and Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 350

In a 3-quart Dutch oven set over a medium flame, sauté the pork until browned and slightly crisp. Remove and reserve.

Using same pot, adding a tablespoon of canola oil since not much fat was rendered from the pork. Add the beef - a few pieces at a time - and brown all over. Remove and reserve until all the beef is browned.

Turn up flame to medium-high, add the onions and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.

Add wine, water, Worcestershire, reserved pork, tomatoes, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven ad cook for about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prep the carrots and mushrooms.

In a small sauté pan, heat 1 T olive oil. Add 1 clove of garlic and a pinch of chili flakes. When the garlic begins smelling wonderfully fragrant, add the quartered mushrooms and sauté until a bit soft, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add another T of olive oil (or a pat of butter) and about 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Add the chopped carrots cover loosely and steam-sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Remove lid and reserve.

After about 2 hours, 15 minutes of cooking time, set a large pot of heavily salted water to boil.

Remove the stew from the oven and stir in the mushrooms, carrots and parsley. Taste for seasoning and correct as needed. Turn the oven down to 200. Cover the stew and return it to the oven.

Cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, then toss with 1 T olive oil and a pinch of the chopped parsley.

Portion the pasta into bowls and top with stew. Serve and enjoy.

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