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The Sauce

30 Mar

The Sauce

I can think of no better picture to accompany this blog post than the one above.  It truly says volumes about my heritage, my blood line, my handsomeness, and the true essence of Italian food.  I believe this was the first or second time Tony had eaten my sauce, and he has always done so with gusto, as should everyone.  Funnily enough, this scungillio is a picky eater (unlike his uncles and his pop), but when it comes to my sauce on pasta, he’s at the table waiting with fork in hand as we put the plates together.

I have posted two tomato-based pasta sauce recipes on here before, and in both posts I made sure to note that they aren’t MY sauce.  I have also said that most Italians have their own version of sauce (again, I never heard the term “Sunday gravy” until I saw The Sopranos), which is most likely derived from their mom’s or nonna’s recipe. I am no different in this regard.  My mom taught me how to make sauce eons ago, and after screwing with and tweaking the recipe for years, I finally got to my version which tastes like no other I’ve had anywhere.  I didn’t even write it down until about 5 years ago; a student wanted to make her boyfriend dinner and asked if I knew how to make spaghetti and meatballs.  Writing it down was the tough part because I always had just made it, kind of like singing a tune you’ve known for years under your breath as you work away.

In any case, I truly think that an Italian’s sauce mirrors their soul to a degree, and ’tis true concerning this one.  Me?  I’m sanguine, sweet, complex, thick, and intense.  And so is my sauce.

Another essential element of a good sauce is this:

The Pasta Pot

The pot (and the readiness) is all.  Notice how it’s not perfect like a Martha Stewart ad: it has chips in it, it’s discolored, the lid handle’s a bit loose.  Yet I swear by this cast-iron beast and it’s importance in making a good sauce.  My mom swore by hers, too, which was an ugly olive green monster of a pot that weighed 15 pounds at least.  A good pot cooks everything evenly, so go to T.J. Maxx, drop $20, and you’ll have this buried with you when the time comes. It’s a must.

Half of the time, I make a Bolognese-style sauce, which is with browned ground meat in it; the other half of the time I make a marinara, which is sans meat.  With either one, you can make some meatballs or sausages, of course, which will add to the overall flavor of the sauce.  Personally, I rarely eat pasta because I prefer to make a meatball or Italian sausage sandwich on some good bread.  Make a salad to round it all out and everyone’s happy.

The Sauce

One batch will serve 4 to 6 people, usually

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef, pork, or veal (turkey would work too, although ‘twould be sacrilege), browned and drained (optional)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2- 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes crushed with your hands)

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 1/2 cups water

(*or enough red wine and water to fill one of the big cans, which is what I do)

2- 6 oz. cans tomato paste

1 tbsp. salt

3 tbsp. sugar

1 heaping tbsp. dried basil

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on your spice-whimsy

and about 3 hours of time

Makin’ It:

In a large pot (like the one mentioned in my preamble), heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onions. You need to get them brown, and it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to do it.  This is the most important part, really. It’s where the flavor of the sauce comes from.  When they’re brown, throw in the garlic cloves and, if you’re using it, the browned meat.

Carefully pour in the tomatoes.  Pour the wine and water into the cans and swish it around to get as much tomato as possible from the cans.  (Note:  I wrote 1 1/2 cups of each liquid above, but I guesstimated because I usually use the equivalent of one large tomato can o’ wine and water, as noted above.) Stir.

Stir in the tomato paste, salt, sugar, basil, and red pepper flakes well.  Raise the heat to high and get it boiling.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 or 3 hours until it’s thick and happy.  Scrape the sides of the pot every 15 minutes (or so) so the sauce doesn’t stick to the sides.  Taste for salt, dip some bread in there and mangia while you cook-a.

If you’re making meatballs or sausages, put them in during the last hour of cooking and serve them on the side.  Pour the sauce over your favorite pasta and pass the parmigiano.  Pour some vino, raise the glasses, say it loud, and say it proud:

Acqua fresca, vino puro,

Fica stretta, cazzo duro.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Carol’s Burritos

19 Mar

Mom's Burritos 012

I have written before about the recipe books that I inherited from my mom after she died.  I cannot emphasize what a gift this is.  It’s a walk through the kitchen of my youth plus a lot (and I mean A LOT) of recipes she never got around to making.  But in those recipes she never made, I see my mom clearly. I see what she loved to eat, who she was friends with, who she worked with, what she was reading, what caught her eye, or what she envisioned to make for people when they came over and received arguably the most exceptional hospitality for which one could ask.  She decked out the table whenever someone came for a meal not to impress, but simply because she was a lady, and in her generation, that’s what ladies do for guests.

The recipe books themselves are a marvel from the past.  They contain her own original recipes, some typed (not word processed) and some hand written in the uniform Catholic school-taught cursive of the 40’s and 50’s.  There are recipes from the neighbors that we had on our block that bring me back to the Fourth of July parties at the end of our cul de sac.  There are obsolete notecards with the “Recipe of the Month” on them from the local realtors who dropped by to chat or just to leave their information.  There are pages meticulously cut from Bon Appetit or Sunset or Better Homes and Gardens.  There are recipes that one would never see at a restaurant or house, but perhaps were the “in thing” 30 years ago.  Lastly, there are some recipes that are missing.

When I got the recipe book, my mom’s sister, my aunt Charlotte, who is just like my mom in the entertaining and lady department, said that I need to find her burrito recipe. Indeed, my mom’s burritos are legendary.  Since she had three boys and a husband from the old country, she knew how to feed large appetites and large amounts of people, especially considering that each one of our friends knew about my mom’s cooking by the time we each turned 12.  Her burritos went a long way, and you can’t eat just one.  They just didn’t last long at our house, and when you make them, you’ll understand why.

So I set about trying to find this recipe in those books and, lo and behold, there isn’t one.  My mom probably made these so many times and so often that she didn’t even think to write it down.  She told me once, but that was years ago and I have since forgotten the specifics.

So, my brother Chris saved the day with this one since he got the recipe some years back, and thus he gave it to me in a voice mail, which is how my mom would have done it too, come to think of it.  I thought about sprucing it up for the photos for this blog post with some sort of swirly sour creamy sort of thing, but if I did, they wouldn’t be her burritos any longer.  These photos, this is what they look like, pure and simple.  Still, mine are not exactly like my mom’s, but even if I had the recipe in her own hand, they never would be unless she made them for us.

Carol’s Burritos

Makes about 10 burritos

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder

1 16 oz. can refried beans

1 4 oz. can diced green chilies

1/4 cup vegetable oil

10 burritos-size flour tortillas

Makin’ It:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion.  Cook them until they’re soft, about 5 minutes.  Add in the ground beef and get it brown, making sure to break it apart as it browns.  Once it’s brown, drain off the fat. Add the paprika, cumin, salt,, and chili powder.  Mix it well.

Add in the refried beans and the chilies.  Mix this well and warm it through.  Remove it from the heat and set aside.

To make the burritos, take a tortilla and put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling at one end of the tortilla.  fold the sides in and roll it up, making sure that the ends stay closed.  Repeat this until you run out of filling (you might make more or less burritos depending on how heavy your hand is with the filling).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until a drop of water pops back at you (that’s when it’s ready).  Carefully put in two burritos and fry them, turning them once or twice to get them a golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  They’ll cook faster as you make them, so be careful to watch the coloring of the tortillas so as not to burn them.

Drain them on paper towels and serve either alone or with some hot sauce or salsa or sour cream or whatever.  These taste even better cold, in my opinion.

Mom's Burritos 007

I might suggest doubling this if you have more than three or four people because they’ll get devoured quickly.  Thanks Carol!

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Steak on Cornbread with Salsa Pesto

9 Feb

Steak, Pesto, and Cornbread 020

There’s this restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, called Highlands Bar and Grill, and, a few years back, I had a food-gasm there.  The wife and I had gone to the south to visit family and friends, and we had about 18 hours in Birmingham.  Our friend Tree took us to the aforesaid restaurant.  For my main course, I had a braised side of rabbit over dirty rice made with rabbit offal, complete with a half-bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape Vieux Telegraph (forgot the year).  It was one of the best goddamn meals I’ve ever eaten, hands down.

Moreover, I tripped out because in California, we usually “share” a dessert, you know, to be “good,” in the caloric sense.  In Alabama, everyone gets their own dessert, and fuck off if you want to “try” someone else’s; you should have ordered it to begin with.  I had banana pudding, a southern staple, and I think the other patrons noticed my eyes rolling back in my head and the table shaking.  This is yet another reason I have a love affair with the south.

Upon leaving Highlands, I bought the chef’s cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table (http://www.highlandsbarandgrill.com/southern-table.php), and I have used it for years.  There’s a shredded potato cake recipe in there that alone will make you want to put the book in your pants for the evening.  To be honest, though, a lot of it is pretty highfalutin and chef-y, so I can only get so deep into it.  But I have wanted to make the steak on cornbread with salsa verde meal for years.  Tonight, I made it.  I made it for you, kid, and I made it easier.

First, he has a cornbread recipe that sounds awesome, in that you should make it with bacon grease.  I made it with veg oil and, well, I would have preferred a Jiffy Corn Bread instead.  I can’t bring myself to use bacon grease in anything, now that I have a kid and all.  Also, he calls his sauce a “salsa verde,” which it is, to be sure. But to me, its more of a pesto sans pine nuts, and it is wonderful nonetheless.  Lastly, the steak I made was a Trader Joe’s Flat Iron marinated steak.  It’s prepackaged and one of the best cuts of meats around for the money.  I sliced it thinly, seen above thusly, and it was a rock star with everything.

Make the pesto in advance, and then you’ll have time for the sides and the steak.

Steak, Cornbread, and Salsa Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 steaks, filet, flat iron, rib-eye, New York, whatever

4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 red onions, sliced into 1/2″ slices

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Corn Bread Slices (use the Jiffy recipe on the side of the box)

Salsa Pesto (my name for it), recipe after

Makin’ It:

Rub the steaks with the garlic and drizzle with the olive oil.  Let them get to room temperature.  Then, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet over high heat.  Drizzle olive oil over the onion slices and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Sear these (meaning grill them) for about five minutes on each side, until they’re charred and soft.  Transfer them to a separate plate, cover with foil, and let them hang out.

Remove the garlic from the steaks, and cook them to your liking.  I’m a medium to medium rare guy myself.  Once done, let them sit for a good 5 to 10 minutes, and then slice them against the grain.

Place a few slices of the corn bread on the plate and top with some steak slices.  Top that with some seared red onions, and then top THAT with the Salsa Pesto.  Serve the Salsa on the side, too, for people who want more of it, which they will because it’s a sack-fondler.

Salsa Pesto

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tbsp. capers, rinsed

2 tbsp. chopped cornichons (or small dill pickles)

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped chives or green onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I omitted this because the wife hates it and it worked fine, but I would have liked it for sure)

1/4 red wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Makin’ It:

Combine the garlic, capers, cornichons, shallot, and fresh herbs in a food processor and pulse it until it’s chopped up well.  Then, add the vinegar, olive oil, zest, and salt and pepper (take it easy on the salt…you can always add more later).  Pulse this until it’s like a pesto.  Note the picture:

Steak, Pesto, and Cornbread 022

We both remarked that the flavors are intensely rich, yet light and herby (herbaceous sounds dickhead-ish).  I served it with brussels sprouts and potatoes, but next time I would probably make a side salad with a light vinaigrette to balance it all out.

I had this again tonight to complement it:

Trentatre Rosso

This is one of the best reds I’ve had in its price range from Trader Joe’s.

This is just an interesting way to serve a steak, and only the south could make it so elegant.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

Meatballs and Sauce #2

27 Jan

Meatballs and Sauce #2 006

Nothing says “I love you” like sauce and balls, except maybe when you say “I love you” out loud.  Go figure.

As I have said previously, I have a few versions of Italian sauce with meatballs.  The meatballs in this recipe are mine; I winged it (I wang it? I had wung it?) based on my go-to recipe, and I came up with a keeper.  Like a lot of Italian cooking, it’s a matter of talking to people, trading ideas, yelling to some degree, drinking more wine, and then putting it all together to get a kick-ass meal for which everyone wants to give you a reach around.

The sauce recipe is from a book my brother bought me for XMas called The Meatball Shop Cookbook (http://www.themeatballshop.com/).  Like all of the cookbooks I get from my brother, it’s exceptional.  And today is his 105th birthday, so I figured I’d make it a tribute of sorts.

The wife and I are in the midst of doing Weight Watchers, so most good Italian food is out the window.  But, for tonight, I made a low-carb veggie pasta, and the sauce and balls aren’t bad.  We controlled the portions, so we won’t be too off for indulging a bit.

The Sauce (basically the “Classic Tomato Sauce” from The Meatball Shop Cookbook):

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped with their juices

Makin’ It:

(Note: I have a big-ass cast iron pot/ Dutch oven that I got at T.J. Maxx that does the trick for everything, especially sauce).

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions.  Cook them for a few minutes, and then add the bay leaf, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper.  Cook this for 8 more minutes until the onions are soft and translucent and happy, stirring fairly often.  Add the tomato paste and cook this for a few more minutes, stirring often.  Add the chopped tomatoes and get this to a simmer.  Lower the heat and cook it for another hour, stirring every so often to keep it from sticking to the pot.  If you want to time it right, have the meatballs done after 45 minutes of the sauce cooking, and have the pasta cooked by the time the hour’s up.  Taste the sauce for salt before you serve it.  Pass the parmigiano.

The Balls:

1 lb. ground beef (I even used 90% lean and it was awesome.)

3 cloves garlic, minced well

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. dill

1/2 cup parmesan

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup dried bread crumbs

a drizzle of olive oil

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 450°.  In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the meat and the breadcrumbs.  Add in the meat, and then add in 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Wash your hands and then mix this with your hand by squishing it all together with reckless abandon.  The key is this:  meatballs need to be wet, to a degree.  If it’s too dry, add some water or milk.  If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  If it’s right, your hand should be wet a bit after you squish…you’ll know when you feel it.  If it feels paste-y, it’s too dry.

Take a 9″x 9″ baking dish (or something like it),  and spray it with cooking spray or grease it.  Take about a 1/3 cup of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball, about the size in between a golf ball and a baseball.  Keep a glass of water near you to moisten your hands as you do it.  Repeat this until you’ve rolled all of the balls and have them fairly snug in the baking dish.  Drizzle them with olive oil.  Bake this for 20 minutes.

When ’tis done, remove the dish and put the balls in the simmering sauce for another 15+ minutes.  To serve, remove the balls to a separate dish and top with some of the sauce.

These are great for sandwiches or for pasta, so knock yourself out.  Pass the parmigiano.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Pasta Genovese, or Genoise

11 Jan

Genovese 012

Throughout the years that my wife and I have been together, I have loved the times where I’ve busted out a dish with which I grew up, only to have her give me that “Holy Shit!” sort of look that one gets when tasting something unforgettable and required regularly from that point forward.  What titillates me even more is that she lived in Italy for some months, studying abroad in Florence, so she is far from naive about Italian food, having indulged in her travels.  She was there and I’ve never been.  But I got the father from the old country, so I have some tricks up my sleeve that travelers might not get to experience.  Genoise, a pasta sauce made primarily of onions flavored with beef, is one such dish.

Genoise, or Pasta Genovese, is as Neopolitan as it gets.  I have never learned why it’s called Genovese  after the city of Genoa.  I know that my nonna was originally from Genoa, and she made this often, and she taught my mom to make it regularly as well.  But the region of Campania, of which Naples is a big part, claims this dish as their own.  I doubt my  nonna was the reason for this, but she would probably claim it if she were alive, the tough, proud lady that she was.  In any case, this is yet another dish I had every week or two until I was a big boy.  I have never made it for anyone except my wife, and I know of no one outside of my family who has tasted it.  Of course, I’m from California, so first generation Italians are about as common as nuns at a rodeo.  In New Jersey or New York, many probably know Genoise.

I learned to make Genoise from my mom and my pop both.  As usual, there is a book I have read, called Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz (http://www.amazon.com/Naples-at-Table-Cooking-Campania/dp/006018261X).   The first time I read this book, it validated that my family is indeed from Naples because it has a great deal of the recipes I have enjoyed since I could hold a fork.  One of its recipes for Genoise is almost identical to my family’s.   It’s peasant food.  It means to take the little meat a family could afford and make it go a long way to feed everyone, which is what Italians do best.  It’s good for you, too. Besides the fat on the meat flavoring the dish, no oil or butter is used to make this, just good ingredients and love.

Without further ado, I give you a taste of me and my family (not literally, of course).

Genoise or Pasta Genovese

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 lbs. chuck steak, or a chuck roast tied (you can use stew meat, too, if you’re in a pinch)

4 lbs. onions (yes, 4 lbs.), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 12 to 14 cups)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper (freshly ground always kicks everything else in the nuts, you know)

2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley, or 2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried marjoram

8 cups water

1 cup dry white wine (I used flat, dry sparkling wine, which is wonderful)

1 tbsp. tomato paste

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. ziti or penne, cooked to your liking

Lots of parmigiano (parmesan, wise guy)

Makin’ It:

Place the meat on the bottom of a big ol’ dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot that can hold 8 to 10 quarts. Surround and cover this meat with the onions, carrot, celery, salt, pepper, parsley, marjoram, and the 8 cups o’ water.  It looks like this before I put in the rest of the onions and the water:

Genovese 001

Get this to a slow boil, lower the heat to medium/ medium-low, and simmer it steadily, uncovered, for about 3 hours.  Stir it every 20 minutes and turn the beef so that it cooks evenly.

After three hours, most of the liquid will be evaporated, and the meat should be somewhat tender.  The onions will be very broken down and silky looking.  Remove the meat to a separate dish and keep it warm (like, cover it in foil, dude).

With the pot full of the onions, raise the heat to medium high and add the white wine.  Boil this and stir it often for about 10 minutes until the wine evaporates (and thus leaves the sauce with its kisses).  Continue to boil this for another 10 to 20 minutes and stir it almost constantly.  When it’s done, it should be thick enough to where you can almost see the bottom of the pan when you run a spoon through the sauce.  Add the tomato paste when it’s like this and stir it for another minute or two.

Taste for salt.  I usually add another 1/2 teaspoon or so.  Add lots of black pepper to taste.

Spoon the sauce over the pasta and serve with more pepper and parmigiano.  Slice the meat and serve it on the side with some of the onion sauce on it.  It should look like this:

Genovese 008

And thus I share with you a bit of my life and heritage.  Welcome to a bit of true Neopolitan cooking and enjoy.

Acqua fresca, vino puro,

Fica stretta, cazzo duro.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Rib Roast and Yorkshire Pudding for a Night of Good Wine

23 Dec

Rib Roast 2

Christmas is two days away, so the smell of roasting meat should be in many homes all over the world.  Deals for good cuts of meat and large birds abound throughout the marketplace, as well as people whistling, smiling, giving the finger to people who drive slowly or park in stupid places, telling the Salvation Army guy to piss off…ah!  the spirit of Christmas!

The picture above is of a 5+ pound rib roast that I made last night for my family and our friend Marcy, who owns the famous Big Belly Deli in Newport Beach (if you haven’t been there, go and you’ll be a regular).  She has a knack for bringing up some pretty fancy wines, and last night was no different.  It is also the reason that I write this post today rather than right after I made it, like I normally do.

I think about my late mom every day of my life, and this is especially true during Christmas.  This was her season, and she could have faced up to Martha Stewart with aplomb any day of the week.  My mom’s favorite meal was prime rib, and Christmas was one of the times she made it.  It’s so simple to make and such a crowd-pleaser.  When I went outside to find my child in the afternoon, I reentered the house to the wafting aroma of beef roasting with salt and pepper.  I welled up a bit for the memories, of course, but mostly because I was going to eat that damn beast in a few hours with Yorkshire pudding.

One last thing:  in yesterday’s preparation, I made a major mistake on the Yorkshire pudding, that I will explain later.  Did it piss me off?  Yes it did.  Did it ruin my evening?  No, it didn’t.  But I will splay my stupidity before you on Dinner with Jonny to make a point:  fucking up during a special meal happens, and while ’tis disconcerting, I’ve learned to move past it very quickly, make my apologies (which are seldom needed), and continue drinking wine like a medieval lord.

Rib Roast

Ingredients:

a 5 to 10 lb. bone in rib roast

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Rub the rib roast all over with the salt and pepper.  Set the rib roast bone side down in a baking pan or dish that’s big enough to hold it well.  You did it!  Sing the Dora song!

For about 30 minutes, roast that guy at 450°.  After 30 minutes, turn the oven heat down to 350°.  Cook it at this temperature for (according to Emeril) 18 minutes per pound for rare and 22 minutes a pound for medium.  I wanted in between that, and I had a 5 pound roast, so I guessed 20 minutes a pound, which turned out to be 1 hour 20 minutes.  It came out medium, too, which was perfect.  I took the roast out of the oven and transitioned it to a serving dish.  I let it rest for about 30 minutes while I made the Yorkshire Pudding. When you’re ready, slice thinly and serve.

Yorkshire Pudding:

Note:  Before I tell you the recipe (which I got from Alton Brown on foodtv.com), I will tell you how and why I flubbed this one.  A Yorkshire pudding, if you didn’t know, is an oven baked pancake thingie made with the leftover beef drippings from the baking pan.  I had salted and peppered the roast generously in the baking pan (rather than on a cutting board), so all of the excess salt and pepper was at the bottom of the baking dish.  Thinking that I’m hot shit, I decided to put the batter directly into the baking pan, which would have worked had not so much salt been in the pan.  The result was awesome in texture, and my sodium intake for the next week is covered.  It was bloody salty and I was quite bummed because that is what I look forward to when eating prime rib.  Alas.  SO, if you make this, either make sure the roasting pan is not all salted up, or use a different pan altogether.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

4 eggs as close to room temp as you can get them

2 cups milk

1/4 beef drippings, divided

Makin’ It:

Heat the oven up to 400°.

Take 2 tablespoons of the drippings and put them in the pan you will be using for the pudding.  Put it in the oven to get it smoking hot as you make the pudding batter.

In a food processor, blender, or with a quick-whisking arm, blend all of the ingredients plus the other 2 tablespoons of beef drippings.  It should be a bubbly fluffy batter when it’s ready (in a processor or blender, about 30 seconds).  When the drippings and the pan are hot enough, pour this batter into the pan, like this:

Yorkshire Pudding 1

Bake this 30 to 40 minutes while your roast rests.  When it’s done, it’ll look like this:

Yorkshire Pudding 2

(Mine could have been browner on top, to be honest)

Cut this into slices and serve immediately with the meat and the juices from it.

Horseradish Mustard Sauce (this is based on Ina Garten’s “Sunday Rib Roast” recipe)

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish (less if you’re scared of horseradish)

1/4 tsp. salt

Makin’ It:

Mix all of the ingredients together well and let it chill in the fridge for a while until you’re ready to serve.

Horseradish Mustard Sacuce

Serve this with the roast beef slices.

Drinks!  Holy mother of god did we have good wine with this:

Stags Leap Justin Daou

Stags Leap 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon:  This needed to open up in a decanter for a while.  In fact, we all agreed that it needed to not be opened for some years, but it worked well with the food after it aired a bit.  It’s got a lot of tannins and pepper.  Very full bodied.

Justin Temperanillo:  This wine brought me to my knees.  If you get the pleasure of ever trying this, embrace the opportunity.  If you like European reds, this is for you.  Well balanced, peppery, but tempered with a good plum-ness.

Daou Reserve Zinfandel:  Again, just a testicle masseuse of a wine. Big berry flavors but light on the palate.

The exact details of each wine are bit hazy today, truth be told.  Still, I remember feeling more jubilent as the evening wore on…

All three just made this meal a memorable one, but the company of my wife, kid, and Marcy made it unforgettable.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs #1

18 Dec

Sauce and Balls 2

The picture above displays a bit of my soul. I have had meatballs and sauce on a weekly basis since I was born, I think.  I remember my mom starting the sauce around noon, and then the house would smell of tomato and garlic for the rest of the day.  As we came in and out of the house while playing, the aroma got stronger the closer we got to dinner.  My brother Chris had (and still has, I would guess) a penchant to take whatever bread was around, drench it in sauce, and then eat it with gusto, maybe even with a meatball on it.  In time, I acquired the same habit.  Simply put, this spaghetti sauce and meatballs is THE representative Italian-American dish.  We all do it in some shape or form.

(On a side note, The Sopranos got the “Sunday Gravy” idiom into the American vernacular when referring to sauce; I myself had never heard it called thus until I watched The Sopranos. Then again, my family emigrated from Naples straight to Los Angeles, so perhaps if I lived in New Jersey or Brooklyn, I might have a different experience of this.)

Any Italian who makes sauce has their own variation (kind of like how everyone has their own version of meatloaf, as I noted a few weeks back).  We might have learned it from our moms or grandmas or pops, but at some point we diverge from them and start playing, as Italians are wont to do.  I have my own recipe for sauce and for meatballs based on the one my mom taught me, which she learned from my nonna.  My brother Andy has his recipe for sauce and meatballs, probably based on my mom’s, and then suffused with his own interpretation.

My brother Chris gave me the recipe below a few weeks ago.  He has a few recipes for sauce and balls, but he told me that I need to make this and then, after I taste it, to try not to play with myself.  Go figure, I changed it a bit when I made it yesterday, and it is quite different from MY sauce (I will post MY sauce sometime in the near future…all good things to those who wait).  Still, I stayed pretty close to what he sent me and, no joke, it’s one of the best I’ve ever made and/or eaten.  What is superior in this recipe compared to mine is that it takes 1/3 of the time, which is a beautiful thing for people who are busy.  He told me that he got it from a New York Times cookbook, and I tried to find it online.  Alas, I found nothing near it, but my mentioning it here will serve as the equivalent of documentation.  If I come across it in the future, I will notate it then.

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

Note:  Start making the balls when the sauce has been cooking for about ten minutes or so.

The Balls

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground veal (you could probably use beef if you’re in a pinch or if you’re anti-veal)

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried dill, crushed, or 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsely, or 1 tsp. dried

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (use dried if needs be)

1/4 cup flour

2 to 5 tbsp. of oil (veggie or olive) for frying

Makin’ It:

Heat the 2 teaspoons o’ olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the onion and garlic.  Cook this until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes, and then set it aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the veal, dill, parsely, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cheese, egg, and bread crumbs.  Add the cooled onion and garlic mixture now.  Wash your hands well.  Then, mix this puppy up with your hands (it’s the only way) and don’t be afraid to handle the meat too much.  Just get it all mixed together very well.

Have a glass of cold water next to you for you to keep your hands moist as you roll the balls.  Take about a 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and shape it into a ball.  Repeat until you have roughly 15 to 18 balls of fairly equal size.

In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  When it’s ready, a drop of water will sizzle and pop; don’t put in the meatballs until this happens.

Dredge each meatball in the flour and shake off the excess.  Put in half of the meatballs in the hot oil in a single layer, and cook these guys until they’re quite brown on every side.  Use a fork and tongs or some combination like it to move the balls around in the oil.

Shake off any excess oil (or drain them on paper towels) and put them directly into the simmering sauce.  Once they’re all in the sauce, cook them for about 30 minutes longer and they’re ready to go.

To serve, remove the balls to a separate bowl and pass them around the table with a serving spoon.

The Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife

1/2 cup white wine (or red, if that’s what you have)

2 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes (if you have diced, put them in a bowl and crush them with your hands)

1 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt (and then to taste as it cooks)

1/2 black pepper (and then some more to taste)

Makin’ It:

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan or pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat until hot.  Add the onions and cook them for a few minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic.  Cook the onions and the garlic slowly for 20 minutes or so until the onion is golden brown (note:  This is KEY!  Browning the onions is where a lot of the flavor comes from, so don’t rush it).

Once they’re golden, raise the heat to medium high again and add the wine.  Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan if there are any.

Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper and get it boiling.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes.  Stir it once in a while. Add the meatballs and cook for another thirty minutes or longer, until the pasta is ready.  If the sauce gets too thick, add some water to it.

Make whatever pasta you want according to the package instructions, drain, and then put it back in the pot.  Immediately add about a ladle or two of sauce and mix it well into the pasta.  It coats the pasta.

Fill a bowl with pasta, top with a ladle of sauce, and pass the parmigiano and the meatballs.  Serve it with some good Italian or French bread, and end it all with a light salad.  Everyone’s happy.

Drinks!  You drink red wine with this.  The chianti with the basket around the bottom of it?  Go for it.  It’s made for this meal.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

p.s.  Thanks to my brother Chris for sharing the love by throwing this recipe our way.

©Jon Marino 2012