Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Secret Recipe Spaghetti Sauce

This is not by any means a complicated tomato sauce, but several little secrets make it one of the best I've ever tasted. It has evolved from the sauce taught to me in the Italian restaurant kitchen of a good friend, whose cooking I adore. Prepare to cook, for I am about to share with you!
In a large heavy pot, start with a pound of lean ground beef and one sweet onion that has been turned to mulch in the food processor. I want it to melt into the sauce, adding flavor but no detectable pieces to speak of. And yes, that's a potato masher you see in the pot because it's my favorite tools for mashing the meat into tiny pieces as it browns. Start this over medium heat and finely grate (or use food processor) one peeled carrot into the mix also as the meat browns. Add the crushed garlic cloves also and stir in well.

When the meat is completely brown and the juices have cooked away, it's time to make the sauce.

Use your favorite brand of the following. Mine is Muir Glen organic, but Hunt's is also good. Also add 1 can water to the pot.

Add some fresh thyme, if you have it, stripping the tiny leaves off the stem by sliding it through your fingers from the top of the stem downward (doesn't work well the other way, you'll see). If you don't have fresh use about 1 tsp of dried and twice that much oregano and basil. Also add 1 Tbs salt and 2-3 Tbs sugar. Now, your sauce is almost ready to very slowly bubble along, being stirred occasionally to be sure it isn't sticking. Don't cover it completely but you'll want to set the lid ajar or use a splatter screen unless you'd like a speckled kitchen.

Add 1-2 TBS of this magic powder
You're very sharp, aren't you, and caught that I said it's "almost" ready? Now, I will tell you one of my favorite secret additions to oh-so-tasty sauces, soups, meat rubs - I could go on, but we have work to do here. This is dried mushroom powder, a powerful punch of "umami" which the Japanese consider one of the mysterious food elements that has the power to improve all the other flavors in a dish, sort of like a natural MSG. And if you're wondering about the mysterious packaging of this wonder product, it's because I made it myself and put it in a leftover toothpick bottle. Here's how you can do the same and perhaps choose a more elegant container:

Get yourself a dried mushroom blend and whir it in the coffee bean grinder. That's it. You'll have umami powder in about 30 seconds. It's easy to find these dried blends at most any grocery, usually placed in or near produce, often close to the fresh mushrooms. If you've noticed the industrial size box I buy them in, then you've begun to realize their importance in my kitchen. Sort through the pieces and choose the crispiest, driest ones for the best grinding. *Note: this grinder is for spices and such only. Coffee beans never touch it for I fear their harsh oils will be impossible to remove.*

When the sauce has bubbled for about an hour, taste it, use it or give it another 30 minutes or so. Obviously this is a sauce I make on a day when I'm home piddling around in the kitchen or nearby doing other things since it simmers a good while. If you want it to be even better, make it a day or two ahead and let it improve in the fridge a bit more. Better yet, double the recipe and freeze several quart bags of it for a happy, later day!

Lg Sweet Onion
1 Carrot
5-6 Cloves Garlic
28 oz Can Tomato Sauce
28 oz Can Tomato Puree
10 oz Can Tomato Paste
thyme, oregano, basil
dried mushrooms, optl not really

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