January 2012

This one’s for ma famiglia. All our collective years in the kitchen at home and on Bridge Street, and I don’t recall any of us ever making Bolognese. Given our love of all that is delicious–and Italian, for that matter–it’s just not right.

Since I couldn’t learn to make this dish from anyone in the fam, I found someone named Marie of Food Nouveau, Anne Burrell and the fine folks at Fine Cooking to guide me. With their help, I made the richest, meatiest sauce EVAH! I just know you’d love it. If only you were here so we could have Sunday dinner in the kitchen as we did when we were kiddos. I think it would taste much better with a bottle of wine than it did with a glass of milk back in the day on 216. CENT’ANNI!

as taught to Katty’s Kitchen by Marie of Food Nouveau, Anne Burrell and Fine Cooking

1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery finely diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
Extra virgin olive oil for the pan
Kosher salt
2.5 pounds ground beef/veal/pork combo
1/3 “ thick slice of pancetta, diced (about ¼ pound)
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (give them a quick chop in the food processor–you will use both the liquid and the tomatoes)
1 cup beef stock
fresh basil (for serving)
Pecorino Romano (for serving)
1 pound hearty pasta–I picked up something fancy from Public Market, of course!

Let’s check out the ingredients first. I don’t think I ever bought this much meatloaf mix in my life–and yes, for those of you who don’t make meatloaf or meatballs this way, it’s a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal that Middletown’s Public Market will gladly grind for you on request. That’s a generous 2.5 pounds, amici! MEATY!

Now about that fancy pasta. You’ll often see Bolognese served over tagliatelle or pappardelle, but I was drawn to these lovely shapes at Public. I researched a bit and was tickled to see mafaldine is also known as reginette (Italian for little queens). Won’t Queenie be honored to know there’s a pasta shape named for her?

All right, let’s get cookin’! Marie’s recipe calls for a fine dice to make a basic soffritto, but I used Anne’s technique. Chop the carrot, celery and onion, run the garlic through a press, add ½ teaspoon salt and don’t worry about your knife skills ’cause a food processor will do the work for you. I had to process in batches using the mini food processor, but no problem. Puree to form a coarse paste like this. Transfer to a separate bowl because you’ll need the food processor one more time to give the San Marzanos a quick buzz.

Now the pancetta!

Dice like so!

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven (or large pot) with olive oil, bring to medium-high heat and add the vegetable puree. Cook until all the water has evaporated and the mixture becomes nice and brown. Stir frequently–this step takes about 5-10 minutes.

Next, add the pancetta and cook 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and pancetta is golden.

Now it’s time to add the ground meat mix. Season with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and add to the pot in thirds. Turn up the heat to medium high and brown the meat, cooking another 15 to 20 minutes (helpful to set a timer). Stir and stir and stir and stir so it browns, but doesn’t burn. Marie says you want your meat to caramelize and even become crispy in spots. Lower heat to medium toward the end of your 15-minute sautéing time (check after about 8-9 minutes). Anne Burrell says not to rush, so I took about 5 extra minutes for a total of 20 minutes as Anne suggested!

Add white wine and use it to help you scrape the brown pieces at the bottom of the pot. Stir and stir and stir. By the time you’ve gotten everything incorporated (about 2-3 minutes), the wine will have evaporated. Be careful not to let the meat stick again; lower the heat if necessary.

Add milk, cream, diced tomatoes (with liquid), beef stock, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat so it can simmer, half-covered, for about 4 hours. Here’s where my new friend the pot moose was very helpful.

Mr. Moose perches on the edge of the pot to vent the lid.


Everyone should have a pot moose! Mine was handmade just for me. I ♥ him.

Give the pot an occasional stir. I cooked this batch in just under 4 hours total. Toward the end of your cooking time, boil the pasta, reserve some of the water when you drain, and toss pasta with a few pats of butter and some of the pasta water, then the Bolognese. I snipped fresh basil over the top and added Pecorino Romano as well.

BUON APPETITO! Enjoy a Sunday dinner with your family! As always, wishing you were here, Nanny and Poppy. Love and miss you, Hopey

Over the weekend, Katty’s Kitchen cranked out some homemade Hennessy ginger hooch–OK, ginger liqueur. While it may not be less expensive than buying a bottle of Domaine de Canton, it sure is a whole lot more fun and very flavorful! WHEEE! Instead of brandy, I hooched it up with Hennessy Privilege VSOP Cognac. Wait till you see how easy!

adapted from Marcia Simmons (no relation!), Serious Eats

2 ounces ginger root
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups water
zest of one orange
1 ½ cups Hennessy Privilege VSOP Cognac

This ginger root kinda looks like the shape of Vietnam, does it not?

Peel ginger and slice thinly. I used a vegetable peeler to slice most of the ginger and a paring knife for the rest.

Cut a vanilla bean in half, then slice each half down the middle and scrape the insides. All of it goes into a saucepan with water, sugar and ginger.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer about 20 minutes till ginger is soft.

While that’s boiling, zest an orange into an airtight glass container. I grabbed the Microplane and my biggest Glasslock container so I’d have plenty of room for the ginger, syrup and Hennessy.

Ready for how easy this is? Pour ginger/syrup into glass container with orange zest; add Hennessy. Seal the container and give it a gentle shake. Let it steep–just on the counter is fine. I spaced and put it in the fridge. That’s fine, too. After 24 hours, remove the vanilla bean pods.
Hint: don’t throw the pods away–put them in your maple syrup bottle!

24 hours after that, strain out the ginger using a fine-mesh sieve. My fine-mesh sieve is not quite as fine as I needed to get the job done completely. The original recipe calls for straining through a coffee filter. Oh, let me tell you, that went over like a giant lead balloon! What worked purr-fectly, though, was to rig a tea strainer into my drinkin’ jars.

Now it really does look like I’m makin’ hooch! YEEHAAAAAAAAAA!

This concoction is said to last a year, though I’m sure this batch will be but a distant memory by then. No need to refrigerate, either.

I can’t wait to make some seriously sexy adult beverages later this week–either The Gold Rush or a straight up ginger ‘rita! It’s gonna be time for a good time come quittin’ time on Friday! Cheers, amici!

Everywhere I turn, seems there’s salted caramel something going on–salted caramel apple pie, fleur de sel caramels and so on. The right combination of salty and sweet is so appealing. I wanted to see what it was all about, but never made caramels before, nevermind salted ones. Could making them at home really be as simple as it looks? Well, not completely! But it was a great learning experience, culminating in the tastiest turtles I ever tried, so all was not lost.

I adapted a tried and true recipe from the online community. Aunt Emily, whoever you are, I thank you for teaching me to make these tasty treats–even tho’ I don’t think I got it quite right the first time. I used the best butter I know, some Australian flake salt for good measure and bourbon–BOOYAH!

Adapted from Aunt Emily’s Soft Caramels

8 oz. Vermont Creamery cultured butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup whole milk (here in the Land of Steady Habits, I ♥ The Farmer’s Cow)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon bourbon (how ’bout some Maker’s Mark?)
3/4 teaspoon Australian flake salt

Have you tried Vermont Creamery cultured butter? I’m not sure I ever had a better butter. Locally, you can find it in Stop & Shop in the cheese section near the deli counter.

First things first: butter a 13 x 9″ baking dish and set aside.

Next place all the ingredients–EXCEPT the vanilla, bourbon and salt–in a large pot like this:

Set the pan on medium heat and set a timer for 15 minutes.

Stir occasionally till the butter melts and the mixture begins to boil. We hit the boiling point here in Katty’s Kitchen around the 14-minute mark.

The caramel needs to reach 244 degrees F (a.k.a. the “firm ball” stage) before we’re done. You’ll feel like you’re stuck at 220 degrees F for the longest time (well, I did!), so here’s where using a timer can be a huge help. Once the caramel begins to boil, set a timer for 25 minutes. 25 to 30 minutes is about how long it will take to get to that magic number. Wait for it. Don’t give up. I know it will feel like the thermometer will never rise above 220, but trust me, it will happen. Be patient. It’s a good lesson for both caramel-making and life in general. 😉

Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark, 1/2 teaspoon Australian flake salt. Pour into buttered pan. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 teaspoon flake salt, crumbled between your fingers. Let cool, then cut and store in the fridge.

My mom loved the caramels in their original state. I thought they’d be softer, however delicious. After they were in your mouth a bit, they’d soften, but not before your jaw would make that annoying popping noise. How was I gonna make these into turtles? That’s really why I wanted to make my own caramel in the first place. Hmm.

Undaunted, I melted down the caramels with more cream in hopes of creating a caramel sauce. This was just the ticket to getting the consistency I needed to give me turtle power. A l’il more Maker’s might have made its way into the mix, too–how else are we gonna make ninja turtles?! Once the caramel sauce is cooled, it’s just right for scooping and making turtles. Don’t forget to store the sauce in the fridge!

I melted a tablespoon or so of butter and tumbled pecans to coat them, then roasted them over medium/medium-high heat on the stovetop. On a sheet of parchment paper, I formed clusters of four to give the turtles legs. In fact, for those who don’t like pecans, you can give the turtles alternate legs. I made “Italian” turtles with almond legs, too.

Once the caramel sauce cooled, I used my small cookie scoop, half-filled, to grab a gob of caramel to press onto the nut clusters, then topped each one with two Valrhona dark chocolate feves. Can you say turtle-icious?!

Last but not least, “The Italian Jobs!”

You might think they’re just too cute to eat. You’ll get over it once you have a bite, though.

Important lesson learned:
You really CAN do anything you set your mind to doing, even if it (literally) does not take shape the first time. Keep trying!
Here’s to a delicious 2012!