Sunday, January 12, 2014

Call This One A Success

One of the great things about joining the Nutrition Challenge with my gym has been all the cooking that's been going on in my apartment. In the past, I've used my spiralizer to make zucchini "noodles" for a raw pad thai that Jon particularly likes. I've also used it as a substitute for regular pasta and found it to be pretty great. Today I decided that I wanted some kind of meaty and saucy dinner, so three zucchinis were quickly turned into this beautiful mess of goodness in preparation for what has easily become one of my favorite new-to-me recipes.

I went to Smitten Kitchen and found a recipe for a bolognese that seemed doable. She uses it as part of a lasagna but in my opinion, the recipe for the sauce can stand completely on its own. Happily, I didn't have to make any changes or substitutions in order for this meal to be completely within the guidelines of the challenge. The ingredients are simple and the prep is easy and quick. The only thing you need is some time and patience. The flavors deepen the longer the sauce simmers on the stove. There was plenty of sauce left over for future dinners. I've never been so excited for leftovers.

Bolognese Sauce

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1-inch pieces are fine)
1 large or 2 slim carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination (I used 1 pound ground chuck and 1 pound ground bison)
1 1/4 cups tomato paste (from 2 6-ounce cans)
2 cups red wine, preferably hearty but really, anything you like to drink
Water as needed
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle

In a food processor, pulse onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until finely chopped. Heat a moderate-sized Dutch oven (4 to 5 quarts) over medium-high heat. Once hot, coat the bottom of the pan with two to three tablespoons of oil. Once it is hot, add the chopped vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until they are evenly brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.

Add the ground beef and seasoning again with salt and pepper. Brown the beef well and again, don’t rush this step. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the red wine, using it to scrape up any stuck bits in the pan. Cook the wine until it has reduced by half, about 5 more minutes. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything, bringing it to a low simmer.

Here’s how the next 3 to 4 hours will go: You’ll keep a pitcher of water near the stove. You’ll stir the sauce from time to time. As the water in the sauce cooks off, you’ll want to add more but you don’t want to add more than 1 to 2 cups at a time or you’ll have boiled meat sauce rather than something thick and robust with flavor. Taste it from time to time and add more seasoning if needed. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Makes about 8 to 8 1/2 cups of sauce.

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