Saturday, February 6, 2016

All Day Meat Ragu

Heavenly meat sauce.
Every carnivore ought to have a phenomenally impressive meat sauce at the ready.  This is one of those "recipes" you don't need a recipe for. It's a formula, and can be adjusted several ways--and exact proportions are unimportant. And it is perfect and delicious every single time. You cannot mess this up.
This ragu is a hearty, richly-flavored and intense tomato meat sauce, perfect for the snowy winter weather we're having in Denver now. Incredibly rich, complex and satisfying, it is an impressive and welcoming dish for a dinner party, or you can keep it in the fridge and eat it gradually over the course of a mid-winter week. It reheats excellently and gets better over time.
It is just incredibly delicious. And, though it takes at least several hours to complete, most of that is braising time--it's really an easy recipe.
And this can be varied in a number of ways. I've made it with half of a bone-in leg of lamb, with a skinless pork butt, with short ribs, or with a beef chuck roast (the cheapest way! and always phenomenal tasting). Below is the beef chuck version, which is fabulous--but all of these are excellent. Depends what you have on hand and are in the mood for.
This recipe makes a full pot of sauce in my 6 quart dutch oven--this is enough for more than a dozen hearty eaters.

Ingredients (in order of use) 
1 beef chuck roast (3 ish pounds)
olive oil
6 or so strips of bacon (I like a smokey, thick-cut kind)
3 white onions, diced small
1 bottle of red wine
5 16 oz cans of tomatoes (I usually use 3 cans of crushed and two of diced)
2 or 3 raw beef soup bones OR a raw pork hock (these are usually quite cheaply available in the meat section of any grocery store)
2 heads of garlic, minced
Linguine with beef ragu, topped with herby ricotta. 
I like to start this the day before I want to eat it--but you could also start it in the morning and plan to have it for dinner. The flavor deepens as it sits.
First, take out your large, lidded pot and pour in a few glugs of olive oil. Unwrap your chuck roast and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the roast with salt and pepper, then dust it with flour (2 or 3 tablespoons should suffice). Turn the heat on under the pot--when the oil shimmers, brown the roast on all sides--a few minutes per side should be fine. Remove the browned roast and place it on a plate.
Dice up your bacon and add it to the pot. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, until a good amount of the fat has rendered but isn't entirely crisp. Then, add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring every so often. These should get translucent and take on a little color, but not caramelize much.
Add the bottle of wine. Dump in the whole thing, unless you happen NOT to be pregnant, in which case you can pour yourself a glass to enjoy while you finish cooking, then dump in the rest of the bottle. In my chunky sober case, the whole bottle went in. Sadness. Only a few more months.
As the wine boils, scrape the bottom of the pot. Allow the wine to boil and reduce for a few minutes. Add your canned tomatoes. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of sugar on top--this eliminates the tinny metallic taste from the canned tomatoes.Make sure there remains a few inches of space at the top of the pot--you need room for your roast and the soup bones. Mix the tomatoes and wine together and bring to a boil.
Add the beef roast and the soup bones. Submerge them in the sauce. (The bones--or pork hock--add collagen to the sauce as they cook--this results in a silky richness and a depth of flavor the sauce would otherwise lack. If you are using meat that includes bone--shortribs or a leg of lamb--it's not necessary to add bones to the braise).
Turn your oven on to 300 degrees. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Then, walk away for four hours.
After four hours have elapsed, turn off the heat, and remove the pot and leave it covered. Allow the sauce to cool completely (I just turn the oven off, and leave the sauce pot in there overnight). When the sauce is cool, skim any grease you can off the top and throw is out. Remove the soup bones and toss them (or give them to your dogs). Remove the roast and shred the meat, using forks or your fingers. Add it back to the pot, mix well. Taste for salt--you may want to add a few teaspoons more. Viola! The sauce will be deep red, meaty, and utterly delicious.
Serve over a pasta with some traction--I like rigatoni, or spirals, or linguine.
To make herby ricotta--chop up a bunch of parsley and a bunch of basil--mix with whole milk ricotta. Place a dollop on each plate of pasta and sauce.

I cannot recommend this enough. It's absolutely delicious. 

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