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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pasta Bolognese

Bolognese often gets cheated of its deliciousness when only made with ground beef. I've avoided Bolognese for this reason. However, after having Barbara Lynch's version at Sportello, I was immediately converted. This is her recipe with a few revisions (no chicken livers!!). It was one of the most unbelievable pasta dishes I've ever had and I couldn't believe it came out of my kitchen! This sauce takes time - like 3-4 hours. So, make sure to have the ground meats in your freezer for the next big snow storm. This is soooo worth the time.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large celery stalk and leaves, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 lbs each of ground veal, pork and lamb
3/4 small can of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream - this is a MUST
olive oil

1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep pot. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the sage and season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the ground meat in batches, letting each brown a little before adding more. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until no longer pink. Break up the meat so that there are no lumps and it's in small bits.

3. Pour off most of the fat. Add the the tomato paste and mix well. Cook for two or three minutes until the tomato paste cooks through. Add the bay leaves.

4. Add the wine and increase the heat to high and boil, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost gone.

5. Add the broth and the tomatoes, and basil. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. You should see a little bubble but not a boil.

6. Cook uncovered until the sauce is thick, dark and rich - for at least an hour, but better for two or three...the longer the better. If it gets to thick or dry, add a little more broth, or wine.

7. Add the cream about 15 minutes before serving.

*I think this is best served with Mafaldine pasta. Also good with Tagliatelle. Garlic bread is a must!

Wilted Romaine Salad with Bacon

This salad is a great way to use some extra bacon fat. It goes perfectly with the Bacony Buttery Roasted Chicken Breast with Mushroom Sauce. Not the healthiest salad but man is it good!!

3 hearts of romaine, chopped intact so lettuce chopped in ribbons
4 slices of crispy bacon, chopped
2-3 TB bacon fat
1 TB sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
dash of black pepper

1. Put the lettuce and bacon bits in a bowl.

2. Over medium high, heat the bacon fat, sugar and vinegar until it bubbles and the sugar dissolves. Remove from eat and let it cool slightly

3. Pour over the lettuce while warm. Mix well and serve.

Bacony Buttery Roasted Chicken Breast with Mushroom Sauce

I wasn't sure what to call this. I wanted to make sure that the bacon was featured in the title because it's the key to this melt in your mouth dish. This certainly isn't the healthiest of meals but we need a good dose of fat once and a while. And I know that many folks don't get too jazzed up about chicken but I've made this twice now, once for Paddy and me, and once for friends, and it was unreal. DO NOT skip the brine and DO buy breasts WITH skin. You need both to achieve the juicy goodness.

It's best served with the Wilted Romaine Salad with Bacon...you'll need the bacon fat for your chicken and the salad dressing and they go really well together.


4 cups very cold water
1 lemon quartered and juiced
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup salt
4-6 slices of bacon
4 boneless chicken breasts - skin ON
6 TB softened butter
8 sage leaves
1/2 onion, chopped
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 TB flour
salt and pepper
olive oil


1. Combine the water, lemon, sugar and 1 cup salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and let sit for at least 30 minutes, 1 hr is better (add a few ice cubes if you brine for an hour).

2. Heat the oven to 425 with a cookie sheet inside. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown and crispy. Freeze for another use, save for breakfast tomorrow or use for Wilted Romaine Salad.

3. Pour most of the bacon grease into a container but leave a hefty coating in the pan. If your 4 breasts won't fit into the one pan, pour enough into a second pan as well. Also reserve 2-3 TB of bacon fat for the salad dressing. Set pan(s) aside.

4. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly spread the softened butter around each breast and place two sage leaves under the skin of each.

5. Heat the pan(s) over medium-high heat until bacon fat is nice and hot. Add the chicken breasts to the pan, skin side DOWN. Cook about 5 minutes or until the skin is crispy and brown.

6. Transfer the chicken breasts to the cookie sheet in the oven, skin side UP and roast for about 25 minutes.

7. While the chicken cooks and using one of the pans that the chicken fried in, reduce to medium heat. Add 2 TB of butter and a dash of olive oil. Add onions, mushrooms and cayenne pepper. Saute until onions are soft and mushrooms tender.

8. Turn heat up to medium-high and add wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan and reduce wine until almost evaporated.

9. Add flour and mix well, letting the flour cook for a minute.

10. Add chicken broth and mix well. Let bubble for a few minutes or until the sauce thickens.

10. Remove chicken from oven and serve with a hefty portion of sauce on top.

Serve salad on the side.

Spicy Flank Steak with Grilled Polenta

Flank steak is my favorite steak. You have to marinate it for a good long while and with the right ingredients. My mom ALWAYS used soy sauce and...vermouth. It may seem like an unlikely candidate for marinade but there was always a good stock of it in the house - for the martinis - and it adds a distinct flavor and helps tenderize the meat. I often throw the meat in a velcro bag with the marinade before heading off to work in the morning. By the evening, it's perfect!

This recipe is great because you can either grill the steak or do it in a pan, which actually works well. We had to resort to pan frying our steak this winter after Paddy went to flip some burgers one night and found our grill engulfed in flames in the backyard. But that's another story for another time...

The other part of this is polenta. I don't bother making it on the stove, I buy the tubes of it at the grocery store and it's great grilled or fried stovetop. I just recently got into it, it's effortless and it goes REALLY well with this steak. Don't skip it!!

Marinade:
1 TB vermouth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2-4 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
black pepper
1-2 lb flank steak

*marinate for at least one hour and better if marinated for the whole day

For the steak and polenta:
4 tsp canola oil, divided
salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tube of polenta cut into 8 slices
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup queso fresco (it's worth getting for this)
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa


1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Combine 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt, cumin, chili powder and pepper and rub evenly over the steak.

3. Put your stove fan on!! Add the steak to the pan and cook for 6 min. on each side or until desired temperature.

4. Remove from pan and let stand for 5 minutes with some foil over it.

5. Turn the heat down to medium and add some more oil to coat the pan if needed. Add the polenta slices and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, until softish and slightly browned.

6. Cut steak across the grain into thin slices.

7. Serve the steak and polenta with slices of avocado and sprinkle with queso fresco and cilantro and a little salsa on the side.