Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tomato Sauce Challenge: Part Two

I've made many a long cooking spaghetti sauce (or "gravy" as Tony Soprano would call it) in my day -- but Mark Peel's Bolognese recipe pretty much takes the cake. No matter how good this turned out to be I knew right at the start it was unlikely I would ever make it again. Good thing it makes a hefty amount -- plenty enough for dinner and the freezer.
Peel starts with brisket cut into 2" square pieces and marinated overnight in red wine and aromatic vegetables. Then the brisket is seared and added to a dutch oven. Seared pancetta, and the vegetables from the marinade (with the red wine reduced by half) join the brisket, along with 4 larges cans of whole Italian tomatoes (drained) that have been seasoned and roasted in the oven for 45 minutes. Once chicken stock and a cup of the drained liquid from the canned tomatoes are added in the pot is left to simmer for about 3 hours until the meat is fork tender. The brisket is removed from the pot -- left to cool and shredded (not cubed or ground as most Bolognese sauces require). The sauce in progress and the meat are held separately over night so the fat can be skimmed off the surface of the sauce. The next day, after the sauce has been passed through a food mill, just when you think you must be close to finished, the meat is added to the sauce. In a separate pan finely diced celery, carrots and sliced garlic are sautéed in olive oil and added into the sauce along with a bouquet garni of parsley and thyme and the whole thing is left to simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour. Presto. Mark Peel's version of Bolognese.
Was it good? Yes. Better than my usual "long-cooked" sauce that only takes about 3 hours? Probably not. Was the fatty mouth feel and rich taste better than Arthur Schwartz's Neopolitan style pork neck sauce? Not really. Somehow the bones in those recipes seem to add the same richness as Peel's lengthy preparation.
Not only was the process difficult to swallow (sorry) but the instructions as written in Peel's otherwise fairly well scripted book made following his lengthy instructions even harder.
The verdict? Pretty good. Nothing a resident of Bologna would recognize as that city's famous sauce, this rich sauce brought the area around Campania or Abruzzo more to mind than the Emilia-Romagna countryside. All in all try it once for fun (and to fill the freezer) but don't switch recipes just yet.

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