Catchup.com

Once upon a more productive time, I used to do a catch up blog every month. Ah, the days when life was simple, unencumbered by the wild throws of admiration and attention that sudden success and fame brings. Continue reading “Catchup.com”

Hot enough for ya?

So, we’re in the meat of summer.

It’s muggy and it’s damp and it’s the time of year where two cold showers a day become a necessity. And even though we don’t have air con in our apartment, we’re pretty lucky to now live in one the middle floors, in a space shaded by trees and built with a pretty decent cross breeze – as opposed to our apartment in Balmain, which faced the sun, had NO shade, and absolutely broiled in the afternoons. Continue reading “Hot enough for ya?”

Comfort Food, ch. 1: Bolognese for Days

Comfort eating – my favourite sport. I have a few meals in my rotation for when times get tough, or when I just need that ultimate food hug. Yes, it’s unhealthy to use food as a coping mechanism. But we aren’t here to discuss my unhealthy coping mechanisms – that’s another post all together. We’re here to talk about the food that takes you to a safe space. The meals that give you an island in a sea of bullshit.

My most craved meals are almost all from childhood, and they’re almost all amazingly unhealthy – chicken enchiladas, biscuits ‘n gravy, bbq chicken with yellow rice, brisket sandwiches, french toast, I could go on in a gravy coated, cheese topped dream.

Today, though, I’m all about bolognese. Full disclosure: I love my mom’s spaghetti sauce. It’s pretty damn good and my #1 meal of all time is her baked chilli spaghetti (coming soon!) But this sauce isn’t my mom’s recipe. I happened upon this deliciousness when I was older and living out of state on my own for the first time.

My sister’s God-brother’s wife, Mandy (yes) posted this recipe she got from her friend, and claimed it was life changing. I was an Extra Super Cooking Novice (I have since become a Kinda OK Cooking Novice) and had always thought bolognese was intimidating and too advanced for me. But Mandy made it look easy. I book marked the recipe until the one random night that I was gutsy enough to try it.

Sheeeeeew – it was incredible then, and it’s incredible now. It’s even good when I forget/swapped some ingredients (read: forgot to buy the right ones). It was the first real “adult” or “more than 3 ingredients” meal I attempted, and it was a raving success. And now, it holds a special place in my rapidly clogging arteries. Joel thinks we should have it once a week.

So, here’s the low down, complete with inevitable Audrey Mayhem (see above about forgetting/swapping ingredients) –

The ingredients:

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*aud note: I forgot to add 1/2 cup parsley. I have only ever remembered to buy it the first time I made this recipe. (Way to go, Audrey). Don’t worry, it’s not crucial.

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cube that shit up – don’t skip the pancetta. It’s next level.
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*aud note: once I was out of milk, so I used 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a spoon full of water to thin it out. It was really good
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*aud note: I’ve used $30 wine and I’ve used $5 wine to make this – and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to my gutter pallet.
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*aud note: this is a picture of pork/veal mince because it was on special for $5 and I was all “SOLD.” But let’s pretend it’s beef mince, because beef is fattier and doesn’t have that same “I killed a baby cow” taste. Also there’s no need for additional pork, because you have pancetta. Do as I say, not as I post.

 

Step 1: find some good trash TV to cook to. You’ve got some chopping to do.

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Judge awaaaay

Step 2: cook the onions in some olive oil for 2 minutes.

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*aud note: It’s easiest to make this in a deep sauce pan, like a dutch oven. But I’ve been making this meal for 5 years and I still don’t own a good sauce pot. I most often make it in our wok. Just make sure the pan/pot is deep, because you have a lot of ingredients to add.
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For example, you might start browning the onions in your frying pan before you forget that you won’t be able to stir it all up without spilling out the sides so you switch to the wok.

Step 3: Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes

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Step 4: Pour yourself a glass of the $5 wine. Hold out hope that this is the one $5 bottle of wine that defies the odds and doesn’t taste like room-temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

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*aud note: it will taste like room temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

Step 5. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes

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This is the best step. If only this was smell-0-vision.

Step 6: Add the beef and cook until brown

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Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients

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Joel gets really uncomfortable that there’s milk involved. To be honest, I was too the first time around. But once you go milk, you won’t go… bilk? Yeah.
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Yum, slop!
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Give it a big, big, stir, and watch the magic happen.

Step 8: THE HARDEST PART – let it simmer for at least 45 mins.

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The longest 45 mins ever. I’ve eaten it after 20 mins or so, but it’s better the longer it sits. In fact, it’s even better the next day.
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1 hour later… yessssss

Step 9: NOSH

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We’ve tried it with a variety of pasta, and anything you want is good. I like fusilli, Joel likes linguini – you can see who won this round. We’ve also served it without pasta, open face on toasted garlic bread – choice.

This recipe makes between 5-8 servings, depending on how big your servings are. It’s wonderful, complex, creamy and savoury, and I suggest you try it tonight. Because I’m off the store for more pancetta…

Best Bolognese Ever
From M Cubed

Makes 5-8 servings

Ingredients
– olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, diced
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– 1 carrot, diced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
– 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
– 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
– ¼ teaspoon red pepper
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
– ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
– 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
– ¼ teaspoon black pepper
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– ¼ cup grated Parmesan (plus more for sprinklage)


Directions
1. In a Dutch oven (sigh. Or deep sauce pan, or wok, or something stove-top oriented that’s deep), over medium heat, heat the oil.
2. Cook the onion in heated oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes
5. Add the beef and cook until brown
6. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce is thick.
7. Serve with fave type of pasta and top with shredded parmesan cheese.
8. For garlic bread with an extra kick – melt butter with some garlic powder and a pinch of paprika. Dip the surface of the bread in the melted butter mix, lay on a pan and toast until the edges are brown. Delish.
*I’ve been told that this sauce freezes and re-heats very well, for all you make a head types.

 

 

 

 

Searious Mussels

So Joel and I have been on a kick watching Kitchen Nightmares lately. It’s like the Hoarders of food shows, and I love it. Even if I do feel just the slightest bit shamed because the food Gordon Ramsay turns his nose at I’m usually like “DAMN THAT IS COVERED IN CHEESE AND IT LOOKS GOOD.” I have the most sophisticated pallet. Clearly.

But on one of the episodes, Ramsay was trying to choke down some mussels marinara*, and I was instantly hit with a craving for mussels. I’ve never made mussels on my own before, and I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve eaten them. But the craving was sudden, ridiculous, and insatiable. One of those “if we don’t make these tomorrow I will cry” kind of cravings – seriously, Joel came home on Sunday night after an unsuccessful mission to find fresh mussels and I did cry**.

A few years ago when Joel stayed with me in the States, we took a trip to Montauk, NY. It was November, so there were exactly 18 people in the Hamptons, and even fewer in Montauk. We stayed in a shifty motel close to the beach, and googled restaurants until we found one that was locally famous and had the most insane name ever – Shagwong Tavern. I would have eaten there based on the name alone, but the reviews boasted the best seafood on the island, so onward we went.

Being near the Hamptons, I was expecting something a little more upscale. What we arrived at was a dank, dark, tavern that had been ridden hard and put away wet. One of those old restaurants that’s been around so long and will never not smell like cigarettes and bad decisions. We were welcomed to queaky plastic seats with American Indian fabric covered booths, crappy tables, and decor that hadn’t been updated since the mid 80’s. The bar was across from the dining room, where the clientele looked like they hadn’t been updated since the mid-80’s either – a mullet or two, curls crunched up with gel, guys wearing flannels with the sleeves cut off making out with girls in high waisted tight jeans, getting drunk and rowdy and playing pool, and everyone drinking Budweiser from the bottle. Needless to say I was no longer worried about wearing a zip up hoodie to dinner.

We ordered a bottle of wine, some entrees, and the steamed mussels to start. I wasn’t sure how to eat them, but I wanted to impress Joel so I just went with it. And fuck if they weren’t amazing. We ate until we were blind and made a lot of passing judgements at people. I think there was almost a bar fight at one point. And I remember being scared to use the bathroom. It’s one of our fondest date memories.

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Yummmmmm
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all the high class restaurants have Donate Blood cards at the table. Also random baby pumpkin.

Since Monday was a public holiday (woo!), we woke up and set out on a quest for fresh mussels. And later that night, we were eating a pan full of deliciousness. Joel came up with a garlic and white wine sauce that was basically magic, we had fresh sour dough, and it was damn good. We even cleared off the table to eat like real grown ups.

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About five minutes after we sat down…

Who knew mussels were so easy to make? All in all it was about 30 minutes of prep and cook. Normally, here is where I’d post the recipe, but Joel was at the helm and I was catching up on some work, so I have no idea what happened. Except vegetable stock was included at some point. And garlic. Oh, and white wine. And it took like 14 minutes to steam the mussels.

So there you go, world’s easiest recipe. Get some mussels and some wine and go to town!

 

*Until I moved here, I always thought marinara sauce was a plain tomato sauce. Nuuuupe. Continuing the seafood adventures kick, Joel bought a bag of fresh seafood mix and made a seafood marinara on Monday, complete with this badass tomato sauce that I once again didn’t pay attention to as he was making it, because I was once again catching up on work. But it was one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. I believe stock was once again involved. And parsley. And onions. And garlic.

So there you go, another awesome recipe to try this week.

**But really, what hasn’t made me cry this week? I need a vacation.

***No shame in my pun game.