Back to Basics Beef Sauce

Hey all! Long time no see! Before the complaints begin rolling in, I am aware that I have completely failed in my daily posting.  Sadly the summer is over, which means I no longer have vast swaths of free time to shop, cook, take pictures and blog every single day.  So, I will do my best to post something new and exciting once a week for your culinary pleasure.

Anyway, updates! Since my last post, I finished my thirty meals in thirty days. If you want the recipes for my stab a chili, toppings-in burgers, hearty veggie sandwiches, pizza rolls, chicken cacciatorre or cold orzo salad, please let me know and I would be happy to oblige.

In other news, I finally made the hajj to Mario Batali’s Eatily. Let me just say, I am very lucky that I went with my boyfriend because I would have spent all of my money on gourmet cheese and pasta. As it was, I managed to pick up the most beautiful cremini mushrooms and the best looking onion I have been able to find in weeks. (One of the most heart wrenching trade-offs about the end of summer is that I lose my tomatoes but gain squashes and zucchini.)

With these gorgeous vegetables, I planned out a beef sauce.

Warning: This may be the best thing I have ever made

I supplemented my findings with two pounds of chuck meat, a small jar of tomato puree and some fettuccine from Shop Rite.

I decided that I was going to make this sauce while actually using the proper cooking methods for each individual step. Which, in this particular case, means lots and lots of butter.

Like, seriously, a lot.

I hate the idea of using butter in cooking, but you can’t argue with the results.  While a touch more finicky than oil, (it has a tendency to burn) the lower boiling point of butter means that foods cook more evenly.

I caramelized the onions and browned the mushrooms at the same time in two different pans.

To caramelize onions: This is a time consuming process but simple enough to do. In a pot, melt about three tablespoons of butter (on medium heat, it will burn!). Mix in salt, pepper, a crushed clove of garlic and a touch of basil. Pour into the pot a largish onion sliced in quarters and then across the grain so that you have strips of onion about 10 cm in length by 1 cm width. Keep it on medium or low heat, stirring occasionally. You want them to turn clear, and then wilt, and then turn a light brown.

To brown mushrooms: Slice the onions into 1 mm pieces and place in one sparse layer in a dry pan. Turn on the pan to medium low heat and let the mushrooms “sweat” out their moisture. Stir occasionally but try to keep them in one layer.  A common mistake when preparing mushrooms in this style is to “crowd” the mushrooms in the pan. The trick is to give them plenty of room between each mushroom, due to the minuscule size of my pan, I ended up doing them in three batches. After the final batch was completed, I put all of them back in the pan with a small pat of butter on high heat to sear in the flavor. When they are finished, throw them in the pan with the onions.

When you are finished, your onion pot should look something like this:

I’ll give you a second to roll your tongue back into your mouth
Let that keep cooking on medium while the mushroom pan (with all of the lovely mushroom juice) is busy cooking a slab of chuck meat, cut into 3 cm cubes. I specifically used chuck meat because a) it is cheap and b) the high fat content lends an increased flavor to the overall sauce. But mostly because it’s cheap. Cook it on high heat to sear the meat and brown it quickly. Toss the beef into the ever softening onion/mushroom mix and add in your can of tomato puree and one can’s worth of water.
Suddenly, sauce!
Bring that to a boil and let it reduce while you put a pot on for the pasta.  Season well with more salt, pepper, basil and some parsley. By the time the pasta is finished cooking, your sauce should have thickened nicely. Place a healthy dollop of your concoction over your pasta and enjoy!
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