How to survive cooking for one

Just a humble sauce recipe.

In Cheap, Easy on March 18, 2012 at 5:50 am

The other day I went to BJs, found some ground pork and veal on sale for $0.80 a pound. Yes, you read that correctly. Naturally, we bought more or less what was left, threw most of it in the freezer, and then opened a bunch of it up and started making tomato sauce.

I thought I’d put this online after seeing enough people ask how to make a basic, delicious tomato sauce. After explaining so many times, I figured I’d just redirect them here.

Now, I like to make this in massive batches of about a gallon, and use it in making everything, or put it on everything for about a week and a half. You can also throw some quarts of this in the freezer so you can have tomato sauce whenever you want/need it. Just throw it in the microwave or in a pan to reheat.

To spare you one of the great life questions of “Where can I even PUT a gallon of pasta sauce?”, I’ll just give you the dinner-for-four version.

This is sauce is not blended, by the way. I for one like the texture of it, but there are a lot of crazy people out there.

Two 14oz (standard size) cans of diced tomato
1/2 a can (3oz) of tomato paste
Half an onion, diced
Your desired amount of garlic (how about three or four decent sized cloves?)
Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and any other dried (or fresh!) herbs you see fit/have around the house (this is a to-taste thing)
an undisclosed amount of butter

(Extras: these are optional but ALWAYS make the sauce better. Use in any combination.)
1/2 pound of sausage
1 pound of mushrooms
1/2 pound of high quality ground meat
a cup or so of red wine (add this in after the meat and deglaze with it/just before the tomatoes.)
Fresh Parmesan (for garnishing)

0. Gather all your ingredients. Dice/chop as needed.
1. Get your pan to a medium heat, pour in a half-tablespoon of oil.
2. Cook the onion until it starts to look translucent.
3. Add your garlic to the pan, cook it for about 60 seconds.
4. If you have any meat, add it in now. Don’t just cook it, put some color on it! The Maillard reaction is your friend!
5. Any mushrooms? Add then after the meat is browned, cook them until they’re half the size they were when you put them in. You want them in now because then they soak up the juices the meat released. Mushrooms are flavor sponges.
6. Add the tomato, mix everything together, let it simmer for five or so minutes. Make sure you get any of the good stuff off the bottom of the pan from when you browned the meat, but with a wooden spoon or something that won’t scratch your pan if it’s non-stick.
7. Add in the herbs of your desire now. I can’t really tell you specific amounts, because different herbs have different potency. This requires some experimenting. Start with a little (a tablespoon) and stop when you think the aroma of each herb is represented.
8. Simmer for another five minutes, and then add in the tomato paste. This will thicken your sauce up. If you were worried about it not being a sauce consistency before, it certainly will be now. If you’re now worried it’s too thick, worry not and read on.
10. Now for the most important part! Salt! Start with a little (half a tablespoon) and don’t stop until it’s delicious. For a batch about this size, that’s probably about two tablespoons or so.
11. Now, add in the butter! As much as you like, but a tablespoon or two is most sensible. This will make your sauce slightly less thick, and will slightly negate the salt you added. Taste it and see if you think you should add a little more salt.
12. Looks like I missed a number, there. That, or seven eight nine. Pour this over some pasta, use it to make pizza, chicken Parmesan, dip your grilled cheese in it, crockpot some meatballs in it, eat it straight! It’s good stuff.

I’ll probably follow this up with a bunch of recipes that you can use this sauce with. Until then, I guess you’ll just have to eat it straight.


Osso Bucco … of looooooove.

In Easy, Food on February 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

So you’re running around picking your dirty underwear and garbage off the floor, shoving it into a trashbag and shoving that into your closet, all the while wondering if that odd stale smell will go away if you open a window and lay on the Fabreeze.

It’s Valentine’s Day or some other equally important day for you and that person you really want to impress.

Every once in a while a recipe comes along that is so amazing, it will knock your socks off.

This is that recipe.

It’s not the healthiest recipe in the whole world, or the cheapest. But it will blow your mind.

In terms of meat, what you’re looking for is a tougher cut of meat. What you want to use is lamb chops, veal shanks, lamb shank. If you were being really cheap you could use pork shoulder, I guess, if you want to go to Italian hell. Really, it’s the meat that makes this meal.

If you can’t get a whole veal/lamb shank because you went to some authentic Indian food market with a butcher shop in the back where the guy behind the counter is covered in blood and doesn’t speak very good English, and you said you wanted Lamb shank and he handed you a tray of cubed meat and told you it would be $6, and when you tried to ask him if it’s supposed to be cubed but he didn’t understand you, that’s fine. It’s alright if the meat is cubed.

Bones are a crucial part of this dish, however. The name itself translates to “Bone with a hole”, from when the marrow cooks out and into the sauce. A huge amount of the flavor comes from the bone, and there should be bones in the pot when it’s cooking. If your meat is cubed with a lot of bones that you can swallow, be wary when you eat it.

Serves 2-4, depending on portion size.

I prefer lamb myself, so so that’s why this recipe is written with lamb in mind.

You will need:

2 lbs of lamb shank
1/4th cup of flour
A metric shitton of butter
A bottle of a very dry white wine (Pinot Grigio is great of this, but any dry white will do)
One 14oz can of diced tomato, drained
1/2 cup chicken stock
Two gloves of garlic, minced
One smallish onion
One medium sized carrot
One rib of celery
A small bundle of thyme

Optional: Gremolata garnish
1 lemon, zested
1/4th cup of chopped Italian parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced

0. Gather all the ingredients. Trim the fat.
1. Small dice the onion, the carrot and celery. Pat the lamb dry, put it in a plastic bag with some flour and shake it like a Polaroid picture.
2. Get your pan up to a medium-high heat and melt the butter in it.
3. Brown the lamb. It’s important to note that you aren’t trying to cook them, you’re just trying to get some color and fond (hickies and bits on the bottom of the pan). If your fond starts to or gets close to burning, immediately turn off the heat and pour a splash of the wine in, scrape the fond off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Wait for the pan to get up to heat, add more butter and keep trying to brown the lamb.
4. After your lamb has some beautiful color on it, pull all of the lamb out of the pan, and deglaze by pouring more wine in the pan, scraping the fond off the bottom and reducing it until the pan is almost dry (au sec).
5. Put another pat of butter in the pan, start sauteing your onions, carrot and celery, and garlic.
6. After five or so minutes, go ahead and add in the drained can of tomato, about a cup of wine, and your chicken stock.
7. Let that simmer for another ten or so minutes, and then go ahead and put in your lamb, turn the heat down to medium low, put a lid of it, check on it every twenty minutes to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
8. If it is sticking to the bottom, use some water to deglaze with.
9. If you find it keeps getting too thick, add water as needed.
10. After about two and a half hours of cooking, go ahead and add in your small bundle of thyme. Keep it bunched together, that’ll make it easier to remove later.
11. Season with salt! This is the most important part.
12. Pull out the thyme, and serve with the rest of the bottle of white wine, some white rice, maybe some vegetables, a basket of bread and some dim lighting. Garnish with the gremolata.
13. Fall in love with food, fall in love with the person you’re sharing it with.
14. Don’t choke on a bone and die.
15. Have sexy-times after impressing someone with what has to be literally the most delicious meal ever designed

Root Soup: potato and leek (and bacon)

In Easy, Food on September 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm

It’s that time of year again! The time of year when the leaves fall, the apples grow, and the supermarkets sell pineapples and avocados.  The perfect time of the year for warm soup.

Leek and potato soup is a pretty traditional soup, and in the past it was often served cold (more often known as Vichyssoise). This recipe I found on AllRecipes and thought it looked amazing, so I tried it, with some slight variation.

The only tricky part to this (if you could call it that) is figuring out how to cut the leek.

Fortunately, you have me to show you!

Take a look at your leek. It kinda looks like this, right?

Like that, except it doesn’t turn green all at once. You’ll have to find a place in the middle where the white starts to fade. Now, at an angle, cut away all the green.

You could save that for stock, but since I take you for the type of person that doesn’t make their own stock (that’s another blog), just toss the green stuff in the garbage.

Now, cut away the root end of your leek.

Cut your leek in half, lengthwise, down the center.

Now cut each half into slices.

If you’re having a tough time visualizing, this might help you:

After it’s all cut up, break the half moon slices apart into a bowl of water, and make sure they’re all separated, there’s usually a lot of dirt in between the rings (just something that happens as the leek grows) and floating them in water for a few minutes gives the dirt time to settle at the bottom. Carefully scoop the leeks out of the water, do not dump it all at once, or this will defeat the purpose.

Now let’s get cracking!

Leek and Potato with Bacon Soup

You will need one pot, and some kind of blender. (Stick/hand/immersion, counter-top, or food processor.) If you don’t have one, don’t worry, this will just be a very chunky soup.

8 medium sized potatoes (I use Yukon Gold but Russets will do fine.)
4 cups chicken broth (I often buy these canned, or you can get a jar of “Better than Boullion”)
1/2 pound large diced bacon
3 leeks, sliced
1 cup heavy cream (or milk)

1.  Take your bacon and dice it up. To do this, remove it from the package, and cut across it in one-inch increments.
2. Get your pot up to medium-high heat
3. Put your bacon in.
4. Cook it to your desired done-ness (I like it crispy!) and make sure to give them a stir every few minutes.
5. While you’re cooking that, cut up your leeks (as described above).
6. Remove your bacon from the pot, and most of the grease (leave about a tablespoon).
7. Put in your sliced and cleaned leeks.
8. Saute them until they’re soft and half the volume they were before. Stir them every few minutes.
10. Cut up your potatoes.
9. Deglaze your pot by pouring in your chicken stock and scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula, being careful not to scratch away the teflon (if you have a nonstick pot).
10. Put your potatoes in the pot, and cover with a lid, turning your heat down to medium
11. Co0k them until they’re soft (a fork will go through with little effort)
12. Blend your soup. If you have a blender or a processor, this might take a few batches.
13. Add in your cream and your cooked bacon.
14. Season it with some salt, but be careful, the stock you used might have had salt added.
15. Grate some cheese over the top
16. Serve

I first time I made this, I didn’t have cream, so I used milk. If I know I’m going to be making this, I’ll usually buy cream just for the occasion–it makes it that much more delicious, though it does bring up the calorie count.

Enjoy your soup!

Polka music provided by the voice in your head.