21 December 2016

The gift of time

I've been thinking a lot about time lately. How easy it is to lose track of it, "waste" it, judge how you spend it. And what is worth your time. There are things that take a lot of effort, aka, time, which translates to work which translates to money. This is a cheap meal that takes time. But it doesn't take much effort. The only work lies in the ability to decide to start. 

In this case, my husband suggested a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, we make the slow cooked classic Italian sauce (and my plans for a quick chicken thigh dish were averted). It was 3:30 pm and we had none of the ingredients. As we headed to the store (the specialty one with better meat, I read Marcella Hazan's recipe again and did a double take when I checked on a trusted blogger's rendition. Three hours of cooking time for the final stage, but "up to another 2 hours" for the first two steps. 

Don't be tempted to rush, is a phrase often associated with bolognese. Also, trust Marcella. 

I stopped us in the street. We did not start this early enough, I explained, and I had to be the killjoy. After some huffing, we bought a strip steak instead, sat down for an espresso, and headed home. I gathered the ingredients over the next week (simple, frugal ones, really) and on snowy Saturday, we got to it (with non-specialty store beef). After some fine dicing of a mirepoix and some stirring, the flavors are left to build at a simmer, and build and build. 

A third of the sauce is in my freezer now, along with the rest of the bundle of the fresh pappardelle from a pasta store in our neighborhood, and I plan to pull it out on a night I am strapped for time. Although, now I'm kinda hoping for another snow day to make a second batch.

Marcella Hazan's Bolognese
Adapted barely from NY Times

3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
½ cup chopped onion
⅔ cup chopped celery
⅔ cup chopped carrot
¾ pound ground beef chuck 80% (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
Pappardelle pasta and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese to serve

Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color. Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely (45 min). Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 teaspoon -- of nutmeg, and stir. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated (another 45 min), then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt. --NYTimes