Monday, March 8, 2010

Meat & Potatoes, Italian-style!

Let's take the "What Am I Gonna Make For Dinner?" Challenge. You know the drill, whatever kind of day you've had, no matter your mood, sometimes you'd rather sit in a dentist's chair, sans Novocain, than think about putting one more meal on the table. Well friend, I'm here to help.
Surely you have onion and garlic in the pantry. Maybe some canned tomatoes and dried herbs. If you're a true foodie, I'll bet olives and pine nuts are regular items on your shopping list, if not, no worries. I've never been in a house that didn't have pasta in the cupboard, and if you don't have vegetable, chicken or beef stock on hand, well that metal spigot thingy in the kitchen has nature's most readily available cooking liquid: water. But then there's the matter of protein. Here in Belmont, grizzled Italians still stuff sausages the old fashioned way. If you're stuck in a flyover state, even breakfast sausage will do in a pinch, or frozen chicken breasts, hamburger meat, pork chops!!! Dinner has practically made itself.
And here are Blog O. Food's failsafe secrets:
Build a flavor base - sear meat in a heavy sauté pan with a couple tablespoons of good olive oil. Don't fuss with the meat too much, let it develop a nice brown covering. Once browned on the outside, remove meat to a bowl.
Enrich the base - To the same pan, add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Scrape up the brown bits from the pan as you sweat your onions. That's built in flavor right there. Next, toss in a few cloves of chopped garlic and heat through for a minute or two. Caution: if the onions or garlic brown too quickly they turn bitter, and your flavor base is lost. It's like burnt toast. There is almost nothing you can do to correct it, so a little care with this step if you please.
Layer in complexity - Remember those olives and pine nuts? Layering opportunities. Don't like olives? Think pine nuts are a New York affectation? March to your own drummer then. How about celery and carrots? Bell peppers, bitter greens, whatever. The key is, you're building something from the ground up. Be creative. Do not fear failure. Add whole, diced, chopped, puréed tomatoes, or even tomato paste and let things heat up a bit.

Low & slow - Return meat to the pan. Add cooking liquid, seasonings and herbs. Want a one-pot meal? Toss dried pasta right into the liquid. Bring everything to a simmer, Cover and lower the heat way down on your sauce to give all the separate ingredients a chance to meld and combine into something altogether different than a mere sum of its individual parts.

Nurturing - Occasionally stir and taste your sauce. Go easy on salt in the beginning stages. It's easy to add more salt later, and impossible to remove once you've put too much in early on.
And just like that, dinner is done. I texted Jean-9, flipped through the mail, and spied on my Facebook buddies all the while not constantly hovering over a pot on the stove.
See how easy that was?
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

No comments: