Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poor Man's Porcini Pink Sauce

Serves 2, 5 minutes prep, 50 mins cook

* two slices smoked ham or turkey, shredded fine
* pat of butter
* one garlic clove, minced
* one whole boiler/pearl onion, peeled
* one teaspoon dried porcini mushrooms, crushed
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper, salt to taste
* one 8oz can Hunt's tomato sauce or similar; make sure it has no sugar or corn syrup
* 8oz whole milk

Fry meat in hot butter in small pot, until a little crispy. Add garlic & let fry for a minute. Add tomato sauce, pepper, salt, onion, mushrooms and half a can of water. Let boil down, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Remove onion. Slowly stir in milk, reduce heat to medium-low, stir until thickened.

Pour over your favorite pasta, top with cheese.

What's going on here

I hate recipes that just tell you to do this and that without the why. This recipe is all about fat and glutamate and "umami", or comfort savory flavors. Each step is designed to release those flavors from the ingredients. The result is very heavy & strong and basically what people mean when they talk about the taste of home cooking.

Frying the meat in hot butter crisps it up and releases some glutamate. You add the garlic for aroma, but don't let it cook more than 1 minute because it burns very easily. Next you want to slowly cook the onion, porcini, pepper, salt and tomato. Tomato sauce is usually sweet and tart and the longer you simmer it the mellower it gets. You leave the onion whole and take it out because once the flavor is leached out the texture adds nothing. Then you slowly add milk and reduce the heat to medium-low. The reason is that milk is fat and protein and sugars suspended in water. If milk gets too hot it separates. You want that fat to mix with the other fats and good stuff.

NB: Dried porcini costs about $15 for 100g (3.5oz) but you only need a few small pieces (1g) for most recipes. It's really worth it.

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