Saturday, March 31, 2007

Happy Birthday Steph!

Yay! Today is Steph's birthday! To celebrate, he's wearing two sweaters and currently has a thermometer wedged under his tongue. Oh dear.

His request for this birthday was to make my favorite family recipe - Ragu sauce. In honor of his birthday and the memory of my dear old Dad, I'm going to share it with you today, including Dad's own commentary. Enjoy!

Click "Tell me more!" to read the recipe!

Fred's Old Time Ragu
"Now That's Italian"

In order to really appreciate this recipe you must spend two weeks in Italy during the wine making season. Your entire time must be spent stomping grapes until your feel are stained the same color as some hockey team's mascot. If this is not feasible, you can use your toilet bowl filled with grape Kool-aid.

Now that you're in the right mood, let's begin:

  • Tomato Puree 26 oz cans, 2 ea
  • Crushed Tomatoes 26 oz cans, 1 ea
  • Cubed Meat, 1 pound
  • Chopped Meat [aka ground beef], 1 pound
  • pork (spare-rib or Chop, mostly bone), 1 ea
  • Grated cheese, 1/4 cup
  • Grated cheese, 1/4 cup
  • onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • egg, 1 ea
  • bread crumbs, 1/2 cup
  • six pack beer, 1 ea
  • olive oil, 4 tablespoons
  • olive oil, 1 tablespoon
  • medium onion (finely chopped), 1/2 ea
  • garlic cloves (finely chopped), 6 ea
  • oregano, to taste
  • sweet basil, to taste
  • thyme, to taste
  • rosemary, to taste
  • parsley, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
(Notes: here are some changes we've made in France. The first time I made this on my own, Dad was here to help me out. For tomatoes, I use large cans of whole tomatoes and squeeze them as I add them to the sauce. This time I'm going to use two 2kg bottles of puree with 2 cans whole tomatoes - yes this recipe is constantly changing! Dad often added a few links of Italian sausage - or what Americans know as Italian sausage - and since this is something I've never found here, we cook up a few merguez and toss them in. Instead of using separate herbs, we use a generous portion of Herbs de Provence. Of course, for grated cheese, always try to get your hands on some Parmesano Reggiano!)

Take all ingredients plus 1/2 can of water (Leave out the Beer) and put into a pretty large pot. Place on low to medium heat, stir occasionally. Open 1st can of beer and begin to drink. After you finish the beer stir again. Repeat this step until you complete the six pack. By this time you should be sleepy so turn the heat down to low and sleep several hours. When you awake your ragu will be done. The following is the alternative or long way method of preperation:

To prepare the sauce properly you must be prepared to spend several hours toiling over the pots and pans.

  1. Chop 1/2 medium onion and garlic cloves finely.
  2. Remove Pork and Cubed Beef from packages and remove excess fat. Cut beef into smaller cubes, approximately 1/2 inch each.
  3. Place pot on stove and set heat to low-medium. Wait 3 to 5 minutes then pour in 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil. (I personally don't do this, as the temperature on our easy-bake oven is difficult to control.) Place pork, beef, onion and garlic in pot. Turn heat down to low and stir. Put cover on pot and saute until onion and garlic are quite cooked.
  4. Add the three cans of tomatoes, open first, use a small amount of water to rinse out cans and add to sauce. Add 1/4 cup of grated cheese and each of the spices, its too difficult for me to measure, so you must use your judgment. Whatever you do, don't add too much in the beginning, you can't undo and you may be sorry! Stir, then cover. Continue to stir every fifteen minutes until done, approximately three to four hours.
  5. Prepare meatballs - In a large mixing bowl put the chopped meat, one egg, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of grated cheese and each of the spices including onion and garlic powder. Again you must do according to taste. Mix thoroughly. If mixture seems too dry, add a small amount of water, if too moist add bread crumbs. It's better if it ends up on the dry side.
  6. Roll into small rounded shapes, similar to head, and place on a steel rack. The rack should then be placed on an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for about 1/2 hour. Be careful to not overcook. When you feel they've cooked long enough add to sauce. Remember, the meat will continue to cook in the sauce.
  7. After three hours or so start checking the cubed beef. If it tastes dry, it's not done. When beef is well cooked, Ragu is complete. Enjoy!!

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