Tag Archives: beef recipes

Spaghetti Bolognese (Bolognaise) for the Busy Mom

A classic dish, Spaghetti Bolognese was difficult to categorize in this article, because its origin is arguable.  While the concept of this meat sauce originated in Northern Italy in the “Bologna” region, the French would often take food influences from bordering countries and adopt their own recipes, still naming the dish by its inspirational region.  While it’s not exactly “quick”, it’s definitely easy, and much of the time is simmering.

Clearly, the idea of saturating food in wine is French.  I could spend more time and research to ascertain which came first – Bolognaise, the French spelling, or Bolognese, the Italian spelling – but this is a cooking site and not a history blog.  So, to make everyone happy, I’ve put it both categories. And now, on with our favorite family recipe!

This version of a classic recipe began with my mom-in-law, a French native and a fabulous cook.  Made traditionally, it simply was not palatable for my American kids.   I don’t give up easily, and want them to be exposed to all tastes – so they can grow up to be foodie aficionados. 🙂  Here, I’ve reduced the amount of wine and chopped up the veggies finely enough to appeal to the kids, but have not lost the integrity of the sauce.

The most important element of this recipe is that the meat is added AFTER the sauce is almost done – this is the family secret I am sharing with you – and the results are over the top.  Don’t be afraid of not browning the meat first – it will be completely cooked in the sauce.  You will note by the photo, there is no problem getting those kiddos to eat this company-worthy spaghetti recipe.  And if you own an awesome Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus that you can get at my store,  (I use it almost every day!) you can have all your veggies chopped in a minute and have this sauce prepped in no time.  After you have poured yourself a glass of wine to begin cooking, do the following to serve 4-6 people:

GATHER THIS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for thinning, if needed)
  • 1 cup medium-bodied quality red wine, such as a Cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 15-oz can tomato puree, or diced tomatoes run through the processor
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 pounds good-quality ground beef (preferably organic, but at least sirloin)
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • White shredded cheese of your choice to serve: French like Swiss for this dish, Italians like Parm – you decide!

DO THIS:

In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot; saute for a few minutes until softened.  Add the mushrooms; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the stock, wine, tomato puree, seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the pasta package for cooking the noodles.   I prefer my noodles a minute or two after al dente, as usually recommended – just do them how you like – people are funny about texture.

While the pasta is cooking, begin crumbling tiny pieces of the ground beef into the sauce with your fingers.  Don’t worry about making anything symmetrical; the pieces of beef will shrink with cooking and just be tiny bits of meaty goodness.  Avoid large chunks of meat. This will take a couple of minutes, and will be done about the same time as your pasta, so it works out well.  Stir all the meat into the sauce until it’s incorporated.  Cover the pot; simmer another 10 minutes.  Longer is not necessary and will toughen the meat; thereby defeating the purpose of adding it at the end.

Drain your pasta, and return it to its pan.  Spoon one ladleful of sauce into the noodles. Toss to coat.  To serve, pile noodles into bowls.  Top with additional ladles-full of sauce; top with shredded cheese and minced parsley.  I like it with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping, a green salad, and an abundance of red wine!

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Filed under Budget Friendly, French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites

Premier Recipe: Julia’s BOEUF BOURGUIGNON

The first thing I think of whenever I see this recipe is “how did they manage to put so many vowels in those words?”, and I usually have to look at it to type it or I’ll spell it wrong. This recipe is not for the faint of heart – there is an ample amount of animal fat, oil, and butter. DH and I are intending to begin a new regime this week, so we figured we may as well get the last culinary “hurrah” before we have to lay off the fat stuff for a while.

I’ll preface today’s post by saying that the majority of recipes I intend to blog about won’t be nearly as rich and complicated, primarily because I just won’t have time for long posts like this on a regular basis – and, because most of us don’t have time to make recipes like this frequently – I suspect I’d lose you. But since the inspiration for me began with the story of the blogger taking a culinary journey with Julia – it seems only appropriate to begin our journey with the famed French recipe for Beef Stewed in Wine.  It’s not difficult. It’s just got a few steps, and takes a little time. Save it for the weekend, when you can be doing laundry or playing with kids between steps.

For the recipe, I’m paraphrasing here from Julia Child’s version in the “French Chef Cookbook” (her version is a little wordy). I simplified it a bit but tried not to lose any of the integrity of the real deal.

GATHER THIS:

• 3 lbs. stew meat, or a chuck roast cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
• 6 oz. of lean salt pork, pork belly, or fresh (not smoked) bacon, cut into 1×1/4 inch pieces. If you must, you can substitute thick-sliced smoked bacon, cut up.
• Vegetable oil
• A few tablespoons of butter, we’ll divide it up as we go
• 3 cups of a good tasting Pinot Noir (doesn’t have to be expensive
• 1-2 tbl. Of tomato paste
• 3 cloves smashed garlic
• ½ teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 lb. fresh mushroom, quartered and stems trimmed
• 18 white pearl onions, peeled (or a 10-oz. box of frozen pearl onions, already peeled – much easier!)

DO THIS:The Big Finish

Once all you have your ingredients ready in one spot, preheat your oven to 325F. Over medium-high heat, fry the lardons (bacon pieces) in a large skillet (I like non-stick for this) until browned. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Then add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the skillet so you’ve got a good covering of fats on the bottom. In two batches, brown the meat on all sides a couple of minutes. Then place each batch of browned meat into an ovenproof casserole dish, ideally one that has a cover (or you can use foil).

When the meat is browned and transferred to your casserole, drain the excess fat from the skillet but don’t wipe it – leave the brown bits at the bottom. Put the pan back on the heat and pour in the wine, scraping up any bits and goodness at the bottom. Pour the wine from the skillet into the casserole, and add enough beef stock to almost cover the meat. Then add your tomato paste, mashed garlic, thyme, bay leaf. It didn’t say exactly whether or not to mix it in, so I just gently loosened up the paste in the broth and moved it and the thyme around the liquid a bit. Save the skillet for the next step.  Bring the stew to a simmer on the stovetop. Then cover the casserole, and put it in the preheated oven for at least 2-1/2 hours. I did mine for 3-1/4, but I like it falling apart.

While the stew is cooking, sauté mushrooms in a tablespoon each of butter and vegetable oil. Season with salt, then transfer to a small bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add one more tablespoon of butter, the peeled onions, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover the skillet, and cook the onions until nice and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now, I could go on with another couple of steps that were in the original recipe, but in my estimation, it would have taken twice as long for the same result. I’m sure a French culinary authenticist would argue, but I have a family, and extra steps for the sake of tradition are just not in my schedule. So, here’s what I did to finish the dish and the sauce:

About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, add the prepared onions and mushrooms to the casserole. Gently mix them into the cooking juices and return the casserole to the oven until they are just heated through, about 5-10 minutes. Then, pour the cooking liquid from the casserole into a gravy separator, if you have one. Add enough stock to make 2-1/4 full cups of liquid. Spoon off excess fat or let it stay in the separator when you add the rest to the sauce.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add 3 tablespoons of flour, whisk and cook until blended about 1-2 minutes. Then, slowly whisking, gradually add the de-fatted cooking liquid, a few tablespoons at a time, until all is incorporated. Bring to just a boil until beginning to thicken, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season well with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, and taste. Since you haven’t added any salt and pepper to the stew yet, the sauce will serve as the seasoning.

When the sauce is done, make sure the rest of the fat has been drained out of the casserole, and then add the sauce to the cooked stew. Mix around gently and heat on the stove top for a minute or two. Taste again and adjust seasonings. Keep warm until serving. IT’S DONE!

MY REVIEW:

Was it worth it?

Definitely!  Actually, I was surprised. Any kind of beef stew is not really my favorite meal. This was absolutely spectacular.  I wouldn’t have done anything differently, than what I mentioned above.     According to my French husband,  I passed the test of authenticity test, spot on. Yay for me!  I’ll be honest, though. It will probably be another year before I make it again, and I would invite company to appreciate it for all the time it took.  Oh, and did I mention, the dish has romance written all over it, especially if your guy is a “meat and potatoes” man.  So, if you’re looking to hook one in, this might be a contender…

I’ve always exposed my kids to everything I cook, so they can tolerate more flavor than most kids that are accustomed to a weekly mac and cheese diet.  They still didn’t gobble it up – so this will not get a ‘kid-friendly’ recipe tag.  My husband and I, however, had no problem. I served it with parsley buttered boiled potatoes, and a green salad and crusty artisan bread – traditional as told to me by both the book and my husband.

What I would change:

First, you should know that DH and I had ordered part of a cow this year for our supply of red meat, (the most delicious I’ve ever tasted!) so I used a chuck roast – trimmed the meat off the bone as close as I could, and then cut it into large stew chunks. I kept used the smaller bone pieces to retain the flavor from them and discarded the longest one because it didn’t fit nicely in the pan. If you don’t know this, the marrow from the bone of the cow is succulent (some gourmet restaurants even serve it as a dish). So don’t throw the bones away until after you cooked the stew with it!

I thought I was lucky to find pork bellies in my grocery store – which is the original ingredient used in place of bacon.  But, it turned into a lot of wasted time. I found it to be difficult to cut up – ended up using kitchen shears, and mid-way through frying them, I realized they needed to be smaller in order to brown, so I frantically was cutting them smaller while they were in the pan.   I would stick to ready-made fresh bacon, if you can find it, that isn’t smoked – or use regular bacon and simmer it for a few minutes immersed in water to get the smoky flavor out (as recommended by Julia).  Then dry it with a few paper towels, and fry it up as you would.  If you are just not up for the extra step – I’ve used smoked before in other recipes for this with fine results – it’s just not as traditional, and truly, the flavor is not as completely delicious.

I had already begun this recipe before I realized the only wine left in the house was a simple Columbia Crest drinking merlot, not the finer pinot noir (or burgundy) that it calls for.  But, unless I wanted dinner to be served at 9pm – I had to proceed, and at least it was a younger red.   So in went the merlot and after the casserole was already in the oven I had DH run out and get a proper wine to at least drink with the dinner.

Another thing I changed is to reduce the wine to 2 cups, and replace it with another cup of stock, which by the way, I only had chicken stock in the house too.  This toned down the wine flavor just enough so that the kids would taste it without making a face – because 3 cups really is a lot of wine flavor, even for me, and I have a very high threshold for wine consumption 😉 .  The chicken stock was perfect –  a bit lighter and allowed the flavor of the true beef to come out instead of being masked with the heavy taste of beef stock. Perhaps were I not using top quality beef from a butcher, it would have needed the extra beef flavor.

Rating with Recipe Reviewer’s Changes: 5 Stars

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Filed under French Recipes, Low & Slow