Growing up in a 3 1/2 room apartment in the Bronx had its quirks. Little did
I realize though, that my taste buds were in a 20 year training boot camp.
Having watched my mom come home from work to whip up exotic southern italian
dishes in 20 minutes still amazes me to this day. Now married with 2 kids, I
have taken food basic training to the battlefield of life and earned
(earned?) the position of head chef in our house. The following is one of my
favorite, easiest, most satisfying sauces that exist…Bolognese Sauce. Right
up top I’ll say, that just how I modified mama’s approach on this to how I
like it,  (and all of her masterpieces…which she still yells at me to this
day and tells me I don’t know what the heck I’m doing..ha ha ha…), you
will do the same. That is why you wont find boring exact measurements, or
details that lock you in a corner that you and your family simply don’t
like. Just follow my general approach, and please (PLEASE), KEEP TASTING AS
YOU GO. If there was one sole rule I want you to follow it is that – TASTE

The following feeds about 4. In a lightly oiled (extra virgin please) medium
saucepan, go ahead and brown about 1 lb. chop meat over a medium flame. You
probably think I am calling for all top prime choice sirloin or something,
not the case. I’d like for you to actually buy 1/2 lb of top prime and the
other 1/2 ground chuck..or even veal if you like. Spending as much money as
you can doesn’t always lead you to taste…you need some cheaper, fattier
meat to make things work sometimes. Use your own judgement here. Again,
start with mine and then adjust. While browning, mince the meat as best as
you can so it becomes finely chopped. Use a wood spoon please, if there’s
one thing that drives me nuts is metal utensils against a chemically
treated, “non-stick” panware – especially when I see the coating being
worn off in the that stuff ending up in our food? ..Sorry, let me
stay focused…wood spoon please. You will see the meat give off alot of
water, just keep the pan uncovered, it will evaporate. You can also help
things along by discarding it manually. At about the 1/2 way point, add a
chopped medium sized 1/2 sweet yellow onion. Quick checkpoint here: Don’t
burn the meat ! The goal of this phase is a 75% cooked, still pink in the
middle, pan full of chop meat and onion. Lightly salt it now please, Sea
Salt. I say salt it now because beef is one type of meat that should
never be salted raw. Another thing, please don’t ruin the whole thing by
over-salting(took me years to get this). This step is very critical. Less
is more here. there will be another round of salting later…no worries.

When the water has dissipated, go ahead and add the LOVE (and the epitome of
what makes this sauce different..)…add 1/2 cup (maybe a bit more) of
cognac, brandy, or even bourbon (which is what I typically use…it’s a sweet
whiskey…Maker’s Mark). So now, with the sauce pan covered with a slight
opening to let it breathe a bit, you are infiltrating the chop meat with the
alcohol. Let it go until half is gone(maybe even a bit more)…leave the rest
in. This is important: the more you leave in before the next step, the more
that flavor will perform  - this is what will wow your guests…leave
it in !

Now, the last step before you can go pour yourself a nice chardonnay, help
with some homework, or whatever. Btw, I recommend Behringer’s “Founders
Estate” Chardonnay – 1.5 liter for about 14.99. Keep it nicely chilled.
Next, there is another kind of a major thing going on here that I don’t want to
labor over – The Tomato Sauce. Lets me just say this, you either have the
September prepared  ”Ball” jars in your garage or not. The only reason why
I have them is well…you know…Sergeant Mom…These simply are plain crushed,
peeled, boiled tomatoes, with a few Basil leaves jarred and stored for long
term storage. In the Northeast, they are typically prepared in late
August/early September using the very much in season, beautiful Jersey-plum
tomatoes.  To be fair to this recipe and dissertation on life, lets assume
you don’t have those. The good news here is that the large cans of peeled
or crushed tomatoes are in theory the same thing…really…no joke (you know
the ones..scalfani..or tutto rosso etc etc). So over a lower simmered flame,
add one large can of peeled tomato and one(maybe two) tiny can(s) of plain
tomato sauce, 3/4 box of frozen peas and carrots( go ahead and get fresh if you like – I don’t think it matters here…too many other dominant things going on) and a dash of cream sauce(a dash !…like less than half of the that tiny carton it comes in). Now do
another dusting of salt and stir, taste and adjust…remember you are tasting
what is close to and what will be the final product, except the tomato is
still raw. The real checkpoint here is salt level and overall taste. Let
this simmer for at least 45 mins…taste and adjust…don’t over-salt ! About
15 minutes before you think it is ready, add 3 fresh, raw, hand crushed
tomatoes. This will give it a nice fresh garden look and feel. At the risk
of being condescending here, of course, please cut the top of the tomato off
before crushing and adding. Your guests will get insulted if they see a
tomato top in their dish ! LOL !

Now…the recommended pasta (strongly recommended) is FRESH orechiette. I
feel this shape of pasta cups and holds the sauce nicely. Just go
to your local Italian cheese/pasta/bread joint in your area and buy them -
buy 2 – 1 lb bags. Make 1.5 lbs. and lightly salt the water you are cooking
them in. They take  about 15-20 minutes to cook, so make sure your final
plating includes the pasta freshly complete, and not some gluey overcooked
pasta that has been ready for 1/2 hour (been there and done that too).

When the pasta is just about cooked, take 4-5 orechiette or “little ears”
put them in a plate, put some of the sauce on them with a a light dusting of
grated cheese(pecorino is fine) and TASTE. This is your final tasting so get
it right ! If more salt is needed, do it to the sauce – LIGHTLY.

Plate it like this: Small amount of sauce on the bottom of the dish, light
dusting of cheese, then 2 ladle of pasta, then a nice heaping ladle of sauce
in the middle. Do another nice dusting of grated cheese across the whole
thing. Now, on one corner, a fresh basil leaf or two, and on the other
corner (this is an example of where Seargent mom gets pissed), a dab of
fresh, lightly salted, cool (not cold) ricotta cheese. Just a dab a
heaping tablespoon – smeared onto the side of the plate. Then, make a little crevice in the ricotta and fill it with a small (small !) amount of extra virgin olive oil and a light sprinkle of crushed hot pepper.

Now, if you are looking for an idea on what to server AFTER this, well…how about some
grilled baby lamb chops and a nice fresh arugula & tomato salad?

Sunday is for Sauce and Bolognese is closest to My Heart ! Enjoy the song
“My Heart” from here at Tricked Out Country Central and have a great
Sunday !

My Heart

Click To Listen: My Heart

Tricked Out Country

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