Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tomato and Beef Sauce

Spending a decent part of my childhood in Texas,  I can confirm that meat truly is a way of life. Don't get me wrong, I love my produce, but fresh greens can't beat the roadside smoke house. There is something innately human about pulling over to a cart on the side of the road for a true sloppy joe. 

Unfortunately, I do not often buy meat as it usually takes more care to cook and runs a hole in my wallet pretty fast. This sauce is a great way to eat some beef without spending more than a couple of dollars. The ingredients are all fairly cheap, especially from Trader Joe''s. Although I would recommend using a tomato paste and/or sauce, but Trader Joe's does not carry this item. 

I am starting to realize that the majority of my recipes are either adaptations from Martha Stewart or The America's Test Kitchen. Both sources are very reliable and allow for a solid base to play around with. There is nothing worse than having a momentarily brilliant idea in the kitchen only to discover 30 minutes later it was the biggest mistake of your life. Maybe someday I'll be able to fiddle from scratch. 

This recipe is a combination between The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook's bolognese sauce and basic tomato sauce. As expected, it pairs marvelously with spaghetti, but it is so rich I wanted to let it stand on its own, hence the polenta. I seem to be eating a lot of polenta these days. Fist of all, the color is amazing and it is incredibly cheap. Also it is a good gluten free base. Gluten free food isn't a necessity, but I believe everything should be taken in moderation (except dark chocolate, of course). 

Makes: roughly 4 cups
Total time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup milk, preferably whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce or paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Oregano
  • Parsley 
  • Marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper

Use a large saucepan with lid or pot. Heat pan and then add olive oil and garlic. I used fresh garlic from the farmers market and I am definitely going to use it again.

Cook chopped onions in olive oil until clear, but do not burn. If you wish to add vegetable such as carrots and celery, add them with the onions. Once the vegetable have been cooked, add the ground beef, smashing it with a wooden spoon to create small pieces. Continue chopping the meat with the spoon until the pieces are small and cooked all the way through. 

Then add milk and cream. Stir and boil down the milk, cream mixture until only fat is left. Add the wine and simmer. Once the majority of the liquids have evaporated add the diced or chopped tomatoes. I would go for the chopped tomatoes with juices. If you do not have over 2 hours to spend in the kitchen, add the tomato paste at the same time. Now add all the herbs. I usually decide how much to add based off of taste. 

At this point you are supposed to let the sauce simmer until it reaches the correct consistency (I prefer my sauces on the thicker side). However, you could be waiting for hours considering how much tomato juices were added. Turning up the heat will decrease the cooking time, but you will compromise flavor. I usually turn up the heat and compromise for the loss of flavor by adding extra herbs. The longer it cooks the thicker and more homogeneous it becomes. Let the sauce cook covered for at least an hour and then based off of taste and your preferred consistency add 20 minutes or so, when necessary. 

The sauce lasted James and I four days which is the recommended storage length in the fridge. However, the sauce can be frozen in an air tight container for several months.

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