Friday, March 30, 2012

Hearty Bolognese for an LA Winter's Day

A couple of Saturdays ago, while many were making their corned beef and cabbage, I made a batch of bolognese for a cool, damp, Winter evening in Los Angeles -- we have them, I swear.  I started it in the afternoon, browning meat and sauteeing veggies, and then let it sit in the slow cooker for a number of hours.  This can just as easily be done on the stove top.

The recipe makes enough for four with leftovers for eight.  Last night I pulled one of these tubs out of the freezer and, using the beet greens leftover from last week's beet cake, made ricotta and beet green cannelloni with this bolognese to bring to dinner with good friends who are always willing to try an experiment.  Plus, they have a two week old beautiful baby, for whom said beet cake was made in celebration, so I was thinking that even if dinner was awful, they might just be too tired to notice.

It worked well, actually.  Unlike spinach cannelloni I had made in the past, I didn't mix the greens into the ricotta I just layered them  -- I was worried the deep red veins of the sauteed greens would turn the filling pink.  The greens were earthy and fresh tasting and the saute with shallot had softened most of the bitterness.  The sauce balanced any remaining bite in the greens. 



3 slices American bacon or prosciutto, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 medium onions, quartered
5 cloves garlic
2 large stalks celery , quartered
3 small carrots, quartered
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
8 oz. whole milk
½ tsp crushed red pepper
8 oz. beef stock
8 oz. red wine
1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes with puree or juice
14 oz. can diced tomatoes with puree
pinch cinnamon

Render bacon or prosciutto fat in large, heavy bottomed pot – I use my large le Crueset dutch oven.  While the fat renders, mince onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor – each separately until they reach the the size of dry lentils.  If you don’t have a food processor, cut each to the finest, most even dice you have patience for. 

When fat is rendered and bacon or prosciutto is getting golden, add beef pork and veal and brown with crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper and thyme.  Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery and saute until translucent. 

Add the following, simmering until each liquid has mostly reduced before adding the next: milk, beef broth, wine.

Add the tomatoes.  Bring almost to a boil and then reduce to a simmer on low 2-3 hours (or put in the slow cooker for three hours+ on low) until flavors have concentrated and sauce is thick and rich.  Test for salt and pepper – add if needed.  Finally, add a dusting – less than a pinch, just a teensy flutter – of cinnamon.  It will round out the sauce beautifully.

I think this sauce is best suited to a rigotini, but I served it with fresh and fettuccine and was happy as a clam -- fresh pasta will do that.  Frankly, give me a piece of grilled bread, a little bowl of this and a salad -- and a glass of red wine -- and i could do without the past entirely.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joy the Baker's Chocolate Beet Cake

First, this cake!  It can’t be BEET! 

That was neither or a typo or a misspelling.  It’s a beet cake.  A cake full of beet, frosted with beet.  And it can’t be…beat.  (Sorry about the punning, it’s genetic.)  I pulled the old fisherman's trick of holding my catch out in front of me for the picture, so I should tell you this does not make a giant mutant cake, as this photo might lead you to believe.  It's a perfectly normal-sized two layer cake. 

Go make this cake –STAT.   It will become my standard chocolate cake.  It’s moist and flavorful and secretly slightly better for you.  Just one more amazing recipe from Joy the Baker.

So, yes, I’ve been away.  I have some ‘splaining to do, I know, and I’m sorry.  It’s been hectic – the wedding planning, a job change, and home renovations, which exploded in an invasive cloud of plaster dust that had us Swiffering the avocados on the kitchen counter along with every other item in the house.  We did 14 loads of laundry that weekend.  It was an oops, an ugh, and a cough that lasted a week. 

I should mention that this happened four days before my mother-in-law came to stay with us for the first time.   Anything that I had planned to do in advanced of her visit was scrapped and the day before she landed I managed to buy only flowers for her room (finally plaster dust free but still somehow lacking), a vacuum cleaner, and a large bottle of gin.   I still can’t figure out what my intentions were with the last two – but the flowers were marvelous.

The trip was marvelous, too – very productive, but still calm and easy.  Maybe it was the gin.  We had a few lovely dinners at home including a Bolognese I will post tomorrow - promise.  We had it with fresh fettuccine but I like it best with dried rigatoni – and always with pecorino romano and a little crushed red pepper.

As long as we don't have another major plaster dust uprising, I should be back to regular programming.  So happy to be back!