Sunday, March 1, 2009

V Day Bolognese

Hola! We've gotten a few days of warmish weather around here, which is enough to remind us that spring is really coming!

The seed-starting setup is almost finished, and we will get the first ones into the soil germinating within the next week. Can't wait!

Until then, I thought I'd share the recipe that the hubs and I had for Valentine's Day, and have had many times since then. We thought about going out since we eat out so rarely, but it was clear that we'd rather spend that money on quality ingredients and that time in the kitchen together. We wanted something indulgent and special, but nothing so tedious as to force us into too much prep. We settled on a dish with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods, but ultimately complex and satisfying flavors.

This dish wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of a friend. My friends are spread all over the country, and the world, and somehow I manage to keep in touch with most of them. A dear friend of mine was in Rome recently and I insisted that he buy me some of the good stuff while in the old country. (Yes, my family is Italian so I can say that.)How could I pass by an opportunity for door-to-door grocery shopping from Rome? What he brought back exceeded my expectations. His thoughtfulness was revealing both of our friendship as well as his knowledge of things culinary. Fittingly, he, the husband and I tasted most ingredients together, about five minutes after he arrived. They were universally delicious.

I wanted to do something quintessentially Italian with these fantastic ingredients. Something simple, but not plain. I wanted to highlight the quality of the ingredients by using them in the most straight-forward way possible. There was no question. It had to be bolognese.

You might have heard of a ragoût (Italian:ragu), (not to be confused with Ragú) the simple tomato sauce. Bolognese is simply a ragu from Bologna.

Sometimes I riff off familiar dishes by browsing recipes and deciding on my own take. Since this dish was uncharted territory for me, I reached out to the blogosphere for some help.

Do you ever have that experience of coming upon someone's work that is better than anything you will probably ever do? That's what this guy's blog is like for me.

FXcuisine is a FANTASTIC food blog, and you should visit it more than you visit mine. (That's right, he updates TWICE weekly!) In addition to his committment and fabulous camera setup, François-Xavier is deeply interested in slow food, and documenting the work of those precious few who still make things the way their ancestors did. I have deep respect for him as a journalist, and as a cook. His blog was the perfect place to find the true recipe, which he faithfully reproduces, without any personal touches.

I, on the other hand, did make some changes. The title of this recipe links to his, but the measurements and method are slightly modified, and mine.

Ragù Bolognese

In a large dutch oven, or any large oven-safe pot with a lid, add

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

toss in

1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced

Once these are starting to turn soft, move them to the other side of the pan. In the empty side, cook

3-5 strips of bacon, cubed. (pancetta is traditional, but expensive)

Once cooked through, move over the bacon and brown in small batches

1 lb. ground beef

Once all your beef is brown, add

1/4 c. dry white wine

scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Then, add

2 large cans of tomatoes (if you have fancy friends, use San Marzano. If you're slightly less fancy, use the ones you canned form the garden. If you're desperate, use the ones from the grocery store, but it just won't be the same.)

While you're doing this, keep warm on another burner

1 cup full fat milk
1 cup chicken stock

Add the milk and stock to the beef mixture.

Add salt, pepper, and a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Cover this and put it into a 250 oven for 3-4 hours. Seriously, it's worth it. You could probably do this in a slow cooker, but I've never tried.

It'll look like this.

Your house will smell divine.

This is best served with polenta (me) or pasta (him).

Two of our favorite ways to have it-

With red wine (Beaujolais!) and kale.

For Vday, with champagne and raspberries and canned green beans.

Either way, it MUST be dusted with Parmesan.

and drizzled with balsamic. If you're lucky, you'll have balsamic glaze. :)

YUM! Try it. It's really easy and the results really show just how much taking the time makes a difference.

Look, I got a copper strainer!

That's all for now. I'll update once the seeds are started!

1 comment:

C.Roth said...

Alicia, this looks wonderful! I went to Bologna to stay with an Italian friend from college in 2006 and I saw this dish in a few restaurants. I think yours looks even better than theirs though!

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