The Apotheosis of Ground Beef

May 17 – May 23, 2021

Monday:                              Salad of Arugula, Pancetta and Roasted Tomatoes

Tuesday:                              Rigatoni with Midnight Bolognese

Saturday:                             Pizza from The Upper Crust

Sunday:                                Grilled Steak, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

At the risk of offending vegans, vegetarians, Bhuddists and omnivores too sophisticated for their own good, I assert that ground beef is among the greatest of ingredients for palates world-wide.  I mean, is there anything better than a medium-rare Cheeseburger with a slice of onion, tomato, lettuce and ketchup?  How about a lovely plateful of moussaka, or a Korean rice bowl, or stuffed peppers?  And let us pause a moment and think about the comfort of meatloaf.  No – I mean really, take a moment to think about that.  Could you, on the other hand, turn down lasagna on a cold winter’s night?  And, if you’ve ever tried Bobby Flay’s Sloppy Joe recipe, you know that it must be included.  (To the gourmands of this world, them are fighting words, but hell, they stopped reading at ‘ground beef’.)

All of the above dishes are great, but I will brook no argument on the following statement (if you disagree, you might want to find a new blog or challenge me to a duel – squirt-guns at one pace are the weapons of my choice):

Ground beef reaches its zenith, wins the blue ribbon, the gold medal, keys to cities around the globe, takes the cake, captures the hearts of women, children and dogs, and to be even more redundant and grandiloquent, achieves its apotheosis in Alex Guarnaschelli’s Midnight Bolognese 

It takes a bit of work to cook down and incorporate the various ingredients and let them come together – but this is infinitely (well – 4 to 6 hours or so) quicker and simpler than the stuff they make (for which may they ever be praised) in the red-tiled city of Bologna.  If you follow this approach, you’ll have an irresistible Pasta dish within 90 minutes of getting home from work, the golf course, the casino, walking the dog, weeding the flowerbeds, writing a blog post, studying physics or whatever it is that fills your afternoons.

P.S. You will notice that much of last week is a blank and that there is not even a picture of the featured dish.  This is due to Bill’s being under the weather.  You can expect less slim pickings in our next post along with a slew of pictures.

MIDNIGHT BOLOGNESE WITH RIGATONI

(adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli, The Home Cook)

Timing:                                                                                 One Hour

Ingredients:                                                       Serves a lot of people – 8?

1 ½ pounds ground beef (Alex suggests chuck)

1 can (28 oz.) whole, peeled tomatoes (If your budget allows, San Marzano – not

“San Marzano Style”)

1 pound dried Rigatoni

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

2 small inner celery stalks (the yellowish ones), sliced thin (we use the tops as well)

1 medium carrot, grated

2 medium shallots, finely sliced

5 garlic cloves minced (we use 2)

1 teaspoon sugar (important)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup dry white win

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Kosher Salt

Cook:

Make the Sauce

Heat the olive oil over medium in a medium skillet, add the pancetta and cook stirring for about one minute, until it browns a little.  Add the carrot, celery, shallots and garlic.  Season with the sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.  (Alex calls for 0ne tablespoon here – we found that too much and you can always adjust the seasoning later.)  Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the shallots become translucent.

Now add the tomatoes with the juices and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Cook until the tomatoes break down – about 15 minutes.  (We usually help them with kitchen shears and crushing with a spoon.)

While the tomatoes are cooking, cook the beef:  Use a large skillet (large enough to accommodate the sauce and the rigatoni).  Heat the skillet over medium and then add the canola and when it begins to really shimmer, add the ground beef, season it with 2 teaspoons of salt and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until browned – about 8 minutes.  Now stir in the red pepper flakes and the white wine and simmer for about 8 minutes to cook out the wine.  Correct the seasoning, if needed, then add the tomato sauced and the cream and stir to blend.  Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and let rest while you cook the pasta.

Bring water to boil in a large pot and season with a1/2 cup of salt.  Add the rigatoni and stir to make sure it doesn’t clump.  When water comes back to a boil cook for about 7 minutes.  Reserve some of the pasta water for the sauce, then drain the pasta.

Toss the pasta with the sauce in the skillet and add some pasta water and cook some more until the pasta is just al dente.  Serve with Parmigian-Reggiano on the side.

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