Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ragu: Italian gravy

Editors note: this, seemingly, is the longest recipe I've ever posted but I guarantee if you make this your family/friends will sing your praises for a long, long time.

Because I'm making ragu today I tried to remember when I posted the recipe on PBE. Come to find out, I didn't. This is from a recipe I found on Laura Rebecca's Kitchen. She was participating in a challenge from Darling Bakers and I'm not sure who had the original recipe. It is Lasagna Verdi al Forno.

It was delicious the first time I made it but way too much work so next time I used store-bought lasagna noodles and it still took forever but the ragu is what I loved so, in honor of my darling companion coming back from a short, but grueling road trip to fetch our trailer from New Mexico, I decided to spend the morning cooking up a double batch and have his partner in crime for this three-day adventure, his lovely wife and the Princess and her court, over for some splendid Italian Gravy.

My mom, an excellent cook in her own right, had met an Italian woman and they became fast friends. Reason being, they both loved to cook and sometimes I think they tried to out-cook each other but being on the receiving end of these culinary wars was a good thing. Poking through my mom's refrigerator on day for something to eat for lunch I ran across a dish of pasta with sauce. It didn't seem to have much tomato sauce but was heavy in the meat department and asked it I could have some. Momma called it Pasta and Gravy and it was the best damn ragu sauce I'd ever tasted. It wasn't until I made the ragu from the Daring Bakers had I ever even come close.

So, pick a morning, at least four hours, and make a double batch because it freezes so very nicely and you are going to want more of this gravy.

Ragu alla Contadina (country style ragu)
This recipe doubles nicely

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
2 medium onion, diced
4 ounces pork loin
4 ounces mild Italian sausage
8 ounces beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)

2/3 cup dry red wine or broth
1 &1/2 cups chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a very large skillet saute the pancetta and onions stirring frequently about 10 minutes, or so, until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together in a food processor or meat grinder.

Stir into the skillet and slowly brown over medium heat. This takes a while because, first, the means will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often with wooden spatula. Protect that nice crust forming on the bottom of the pan you'll use that later. Cook until the meat is a deep brown. Pour the meat into a very large sauce pan.

De-glaze the skillet with some dry red wine scrapping until you loosen the lovely bottom bits. Pour in the sauce pan with the meat.

Stir 1/2 cup stock into sauce pan and let it bubble slowly until totally evaporated. Repeat with another 1/2 cup stock. Stir the last 1/2 cup stock along with milk and adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pan and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they into the pan. Cook uncovered, very slow bubble, for another 45 minutes or until the sauce resembles a thick, meat stew. I've never had to add salt and pepper but now would be the time so give it a good taste.

Now your done with the ragu. Let's whip up a bechamel sauce. This is easy, very easy.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all purpose unbleached flour
2&2/3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

If you cook up a package of lasagna noodles and gently warm the bechamel and ragu, if needed, you can layer all of this, along with a cup of Parmesan cheese, into a 13 x 9 pan, ending with the beschamel and bake for about 40 minutes, covered. Uncover and brown the top for about another 10 min. Let rest for about 10 minutes it will be so much easier to cut.

You're gonna cry when your family or guests gobble this up in what seems like a minute because only you know how damn long it took to make. Just be happy you were smart enough to freeze a batch for the next meal. You did make a double batch, right?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gooey Butter Cake

Those three words just say it ALL!!

Sure wish I would have taken a photo of the cut piece with the homemade banana nut ice cream on top. I know good lord I'll have to walk an extra mile of three.

I have heard of this cake but had never, until last nite, had the pleasure of an up close and personal meeting with this tasty treat.

A small gathering of friends got together to say our farewell and best wishes for a wonderful couple that for med reasons must go home for the summer.

One of the gals that works here put the function together and brought this cake while her dear husband made the ice cream. There weren't many of us but the company was enjoyed as well as the desserts.

Try googling gooey butter cake and see the many, many items that come up. Well it seems that when you Google the cake and put in the word butter guess whose name comes up...............Paula Deen = butter. In spite of the Deen connection I did like the cake a LOT!!!  But my thighs are in pain!!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I found a winner

Well actually I was the recipient of winning this product.

Paula over at
had a giveaway recently and I was the lucky recipient of these two items. The roasting and grilling salt is wonderful. The other item is a sun dried tomato spread that I have yet to use.

The above photo is of some roasted spuds drizzled with a bit of olive oil sprinkle some of the grilling salt and roast in a not (425*) for about 20~25 mins.

Find the grilling salt and their other products here