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Bolognese Sauce

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Some dishes are simply classics. They are the go-to recipes that you return to over and over again. In my family bolognese sauce is one of those recipes. Rarely does a week go by without our eating a steaming plate of pasta topped with rich bolognese sauce for dinner. Its comforting, satisfying and when I make a pot of the sauce over the weekend, becomes the perfect fast weeknight dinner.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of ItalianIts taken me years to find my right balance of meat, vegetables and sauce but I think I’ve finally found my magic combination. The key to a good sauce is long and slow cooking. The process just can’t be rushed if you want to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and texture. I’m also a fan of including a piece of parmesan rind in my sauce. Most people discard this hard remnant of cheese but I stash my leftovers in the freezer then pop one into my sauce while it simmers. It adds a richness and complexity that you just can’t find any other way. If you don’t have a parmesan rind on hand that’s ok to. Skip it for now but save it the next time you use up your hard parmesan cheese. Try it once and you too will be a convert.

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 leek, quartered and thinly sliced

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup drained and chopped plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 beef bouillon cubes

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 parmesan rind

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • Melt the butter in a large heavy pot set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the pancetta, carrot, celery and leek. Stirring occasionally, cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the ingredients are golden brown and tender.
  • Add the ground pork and ground beef to the pot and stir well.
  • Raise the heat to medium and stirring often in order to break up the meat, cook until the meats are lightly browned and crumbled with most of the juices having evaporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
  • Add the wine to the pot and scrape up any browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, bouillon cubes, water, milk, parmesan rind, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well.
  • Allow the mixture to just begin to simmer then reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally for about 1 hour. If the mixture becomes too thick you can add in a bit more water.
  • Partially cover the pot and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and dark brown, an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Skim off any fat that floats to the surface of the sauce and serve over hot pasta. Alternatively, let cool, cover and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat, additionally additional water or wine as necessary to get the right texture.

Yields 4 cups

Butter Chicken

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I love the classic Indian dish butter chicken. It is simultaneously spicy and creamy and is one of my favorite comfort foods. In fact I judge an Indian restaurant on the quality of their butter chicken. Prior to their arrival of a ho-hum Indian restaurant in Albania I resorted to fulfilling my cravings when we traveled abroad. But that just wasn’t enough so I decided to make my own and much to my delight, it is so easy to make.
This recipe is adapted from Maxine Writes. I prefer my chicken to boneless so use boneless chicken thighs instead of the bone in chicken suggested in the original recipe. For the most flavorful chicken, marinate for a minimum of one hour but longer is preferable. I like to put the chicken in the marinade in the morning and let it sit all day. As with most dishes, you can adjust the seasonings to match your palate. Serve the chicken over rice, which absorbs the yummy sauce, and you are good to go. For an extra special treat, add some Naan.
BUTTER CHICKEN
For the chicken:
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted butter of ghee
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Serrano chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup heavy cream


In a large plastic zip top bag, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour but preferably longer

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the chicken in a single layer in a foil lined roasting pan and pour all remaining marinade over the chicken.

Roast 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.

To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat.

Add the ginger and garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade, the salt, Serrano chile, fennel seeds and chicken. Mix well.

Simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another minute.

Serve immediately over rice.

Serves 4

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