Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday Sauce

I just got a copy of Michael Symon's cookbook, Live to Cook, and of course I was excited to try some new recipes. And of course, I was thinking that I'd find something to write about for the Left Hand Valley Courier, for my "What's Cooking?" column.

I've adapted a lot of baking recipes for the column, so I thought it would be a nice change to make a savory dish. I settled on the Italian Braised Beef with Root Vegetables.

It sounded good, the recipe looked simple enough, it didn't require any strange ingredients or special equipment.

Better yet, the beef recipe uses celery root, which is a little different, but readily available at our local grocery stores. I like the idea of introducing a new ingredient or method or gadget in my articles, so this recipe seemed perfect. I was about to gather ingredients for the test recipe, until I noticed that the recipe required 2 cups of Yia Yia's Sunday Sauce.

What the heck is that?

A little more reading enlightened me. It's Simon's grandmothers's red sauce. The sauce is the base for several recipes in the book, but Symon wrote, "But of course it's fantastic just served on pasta and topped with torn fresh basil."

But of course.

The sauce is a long-cooking one - eight hours - so it's not like I was going to be making the sauce and the beef the same day.. For a brief moment, I considered substituting something else in the beef recipe, but Symon said that the sauce was critical to the dish. If I'm going to evaluate the recipe, I'd better make it right. I decided to work on sauce and think about the beef later.

Since the Courier column has a limited amount of space, I doubt I'd have enough room to write about the sauce and the beef. But, oh, that beef looks tasty. There's no way I'm abandoning that for a simple sauce. So I'll be making the beef later, for an upcoming issue of the Courier. Meanwhile, I made the sauce.

This was the first time I ever made a red sauce from a recipe. I learned how to make my mother's sauce, which is a toss-and-taste sort of recipe. This is completely different. In a good way.

Yia Yia's Sunday Sauce
Adapted from Live to Cook by Michael Symon

Makes about 2 quarts of sauce.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon kosher salt (to taste)
1 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds meaty beef bones
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes.(optional)

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add garlic and salt and cook until it is all soft, but not brown.

Squeeze the tomatoes one by one into the pan, smashing them well. Add the remaining juice to the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer, then reduce to the lowest possible setting and cook for 8 hours. During that time the sauce should reduce by 1/3.

Remove beef bones and bay leaf. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.

This sauce is pretty chunky, so if you prefer a smoother sauce, you can blend it with a stick blender or in a blender. (Let it cool a bit before you put it in your blender, or it can explode out of the blender if it's too hot.)

If you're not using it right away, let it cool a bit before you refrigerate it or pack it for the freezer.

I used about 2 cups of this sauce for my homemade spaghetti. I've got more in the freezer waiting for more pasta and for the upcoming braised beef. I'm tremendously glad I made this sauce. It's completely different from the family recipe, which made it worth making. It's really meaty, even without any meat remaining in it. And the meaty beef bones that you remove? In my house, that's the cook's treat.