Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - World Famous 2 Pound Meat Sauce

In honor of International Eat An Animal For Peta Day, I present:

The World Famous Two Pound Meat Sauce


2 pounds extra lean ground beef (80/20 is best for this. 70/30 is a bit fatty)
2 Pounds coarsely chopped stew beef (you may need to add more butter to the sauce with this)
Mix 1 pound of chopped beef, with 1 pound of 70/30 ground beef (for more flavor and texture)

2 pounds of mixed hard Italian cheeses, fine ground (parmagiano, romano, asiago, grana padano etc...)
2 pounds flavorful italian sausage (garlic, basil, and cheese is best, other italian sausage acceptable)

2 pounds fresh seeded, diced, salted (to de-water them a bit) and crushed sauce tomatoes
1 large can (24-32 oz depending on brand) crushed sauce tomatoes (san marzano, roma, etc...)
1 large can tomato puree (sauce tomatoes preferred)

12-24 oz unsweetened tomato paste (depending on thickness, sweetness, and your tomatoes)
1/2 cup olive oil (strongly flavored, but extra virgin isn't necessary unless you want to use it)
8 tblsp of butter
1/2 cup cream


2 large onions diced fine (optional)
2 large peppers diced medium (1/4" or a bit larger - optional)
2 cleaned and trimmed celery stalks, diced fine (optional)
1/2 cup of diced dried mushrooms (shitaki, porcini, something with strong umami. Optional)

Cooking liquid:

1 cup red wine
1 cup strong beef broth (from concentrate is fine)
1 cup louisiana vinegar hot sauce (Franks red-hot, Louisiana hot, Texas Pete etc... to taste)
1/2 cup balsamic, red wine, cider or malt vinegar (balsamic will be sweeter with more umami)
1/2 cup of vodka
1/4 cup soy sauce (natural brewed only)
2 tblsp worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 whole lemon

Fresh Seasoning:

4-8 cloves of garlic (crushed and minced very fine, to taste)
6 tbslp fresh oregano, minced fine (about 1 whole supermarket refrigerator case package, to taste)
6 tblsp fresh basil, minced fine
4 tblsp fresh parsley, minced fine (yes, fresh parsely. It's not a garnish, it's a very nice herb)
2 tblsp fresh rosemary, minced fine

Dried Seasoning:

6 tblsp fresh cracked black pepper (or more, to taste)
4 tblsp chili flakes
4 tblsp smoked paprika (hot is fine if you can't find smoked. Either are preferred to sweet)
4 tblsp hot mustard powder (this is not for mustard flavor, it's for pungency and emulsification. to taste)
2 tblsp powdered chilis (to your own taste. I use cayenne, chipotle, serrano, or arbol)
2 tblsp whole fennel seed
2 tblsp ground fennel
2 tblsp ground cumin
1 tblsp celery salt
1 tblsp onion powder
1 tblsp garlic powder
1 tblsp dried oregano
Salt to taste


Prepare your tomatoes, by washing, seeding, chopping, and salting them, then letting them drain. Reserve the tomato water from draining to add to your flavorful cooking liquid. After 20-30 minutes or so, crush the drained tomatoes, then blend or process them into a medium puree with some chunkiness to it (obviously, if you start with canned crushed tomatoes, only the final step is necessary).

Season your ground beef with about 1tblsp each of all the dried seasoning (including all the celery salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried oregano); thoroughly mixing the seasonings in with the meat. Leave your seasoned meat to the side to let the flavors meld (you are almost making a ground beef loose sausage here).

Finely grind, or microplane, your mixed italian hard cheeses, to the texture of cornmeal or finer.

Crush and mince the garlic, and dice the onions, peppers, and celery.

Heat half the oil in a 6-8qt thick bottomed sauce pot (all-clad or equivalent, with cover), large saucier (if reducing the recipe, or if you can find a saucier that large) or dutch oven (heavy enameled cast iron is excellent for this).

I personally tend to use one of my enameled cast iron dutch ovens, as I think they produce the best results with my cooktop.

Add half the butter into the sauce pan, and cook it out to a nutty brown stage (cooking off the water), being careful not to overbrown or burn the butter solids.

While the butter is browning, put the sausage on a rack with a drip pan, and set it to broil in the oven or broiler. You should time the sausage so that it will be lightly broiled (get some char or at least deep color, but do not crisp the skin too much, and be sure to turn the sausages to cook evenly without drying out) by the time your meat is browned. Remember, you will be collecting the drippings for use in the sauce, so you don't want them to burn (you can put a skim of water in your drip pan to avoid burning if necessary)

Add the crushed and minced garlic to the sauce pan, and sautee in the oil and butter, until it's very fragrant and lightly browned. As you should have crushed and minced the garlic very fine (I use the palm of my hand pounding the garlic under the flat of my chefs knife, then mince fine, then crush again), it should half way disintegrate into the oil, with a bunch of small golden brown bits.

Once the garlic is lightly browned add the rosemary whole fennel seed, and half the chili flakes; and toast them in the oil for a few seconds (until they become fragrant).

Add the onions, peppers, celery, and mushrooms if you are using them, and sweat them out in the oil and butter 'til the mushrooms are soft, and the onions and celery are soft and translucent (you can carmelize them for additional sweetness and depth of flavor).

I'm allergic to onions and don't like mushrooms, so I don't bother with them; but they do add depth of flavor and umami.

Slowly crumble the seasoned ground beef into the pot, browning as you go. Depending on your burner, your pot, and your beef, you may need to do this in several small batches. If you do it in small batches, you can reserve them off to the side, then toss them all back into the pot at the end to brown and combine flavors for 2-3 minutes.

You can also brown the beef separately in a large skillet, or cook the beef by spreading it into a 1/2 layer on a sheet pan, and broiling 'til crusty brown on top (be careful not to overcook and dry out the meat), then crumbling it fine.

Once the meat is browned, reserve it off to the side (leaving the drippings in the sauce pan). If you cooked the meat in a separate pan, drain the drippings into the sauce pan.

The sausages should now be done. Slice them into uneven slices from 1/4" to 1/2" thick (this will add textural variation), and add them to the reserved ground beef; draining the sausage drippings back into the sauce pan.

Add the remaining olive oil and butter into the sauce pan with the meat drippings, and cook the butter out to nutty brown as before.

While the butter is cooking out, prepare your flavorful liquid as above (adding the reserved tomato water if you drained fresh tomatoes).

You'll note, most of these liquids are fermented (wine, vodka, louisiana hot sauce, vinegar, worcestershire), which is a HUGE umami booster, and is important to the flavor characteristics of the sauce. Also, the alcohol in the vodka and wine are important to releasing additional flavor from the seasonings and the tomatoes. 

This liquid should be strongly acidic, sweet, fruity, peppery, salty, and beefy all at the same time... Essentially it's a combination of big umami boosters, alcohol, and acid to cut through the sweetness of the tomato paste, and the fattiness of the meat, cheese, butter, and oil.

When the butter is finished cooking out, add 12oz (or 18oz if you have a smaller can of crushed or pureed tomatoes) of tomato paste to the sauce pan, and brown the tomato paste in the butter and oil, stirring constantly to avoid burning.

Yes, you want to brown the tomato paste. This builds even more umami, and converts some of the sugary sweetness of the tomato paste, to a richer, more complex carmel like sweetness, with some bitter and nutty notes.

Just before the tomato paste goes from "browned" to "oops I think I screwed it up", add about 1/4 of your cooking liquid, and thoroughly deglaze the sauce pan, making sure to scrape the fond off the bottom and sides. Then add your reserved meat (and whatever drippings may remain with it) back into the pan, stirring vigorously to thoroughly coat the meat with the thick liquid.

Continue cooking this out until the meat takes on almost a glaze, then add another 1/4 of the cooking liquid.

Turn the heat back up to a medium high flame or burner, and add 2/3-3/4 the tomato puree; reserving 1/4-1/3 for later.

Stir in half the fresh the herbs and half the remaining dried seasonings and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occaisonally to let the flavors incorporate. You are reserving the remaining fresh herbs and seasonings to add 20 minutes before serving.

Turn the heat down to a very low simmer, and slowly stir in about half the cheese, thoroughly mixing as you go. If the sauce is too hot the cheese will clump up and could stick and burn to the sides and bottom of the pot. Simmer out for about 20 minutes.

At this point you have to judge the thickness of the sauce. Depending on the cheese, sausage, meat, and tomatoes you are using, the sauce could be too thick, too thin, or just about right. Remember, you are going to simmering this sauce for about another hour to two hours, and you want to make the major thickness adjustments now so the flavors will remain consistent.

If the sauce is too thick, add a half cup of your cooking liquid and a cup of your tomato puree, and judge again. If the sauce is too thin, add in another can of tomato paste, and more cheese (or just one or the other for flavor balance).

Leave on a very low simmer for at least another hour stirring occaisonally. We don't want the sauce to thicken too much here, we are mostly trying to render the meat and incorporate the flavors thoroughly. Be careful not to let the cheese burn to the bottom or sides of the pot.

The longer this cooks, the deeper and beefier the flavor will be. The shorter, the brighter and sweeter it will be with stronger tomato flavor. 

When done, the ground beef should be disintegrated down to very small pieces, and the sausage should be completely saturated with the sauce. Adjust thickness as necessary throughout, using your cooking liquid, tomato puree, and cheese.

If the sauce is too sweet (which it can be depending on the tomatoes used, and if you included onions), you can add more butter, pepper, chili flakes, and cooking liquid. Not sweet enough, add more tomato paste, or puree. Too salty (it shouldn't  be, if you used decent cheeses they aren't very salty, and the only salt we've added is to the seasoned beef, and from the salty components of the cooking liquid) you can add more cream. 

During the simmer, the fats will tend to separate and rise to the top. If the sauce is too thin, or too fatty (it shouldnt be if you used good beef, sausage, and cheese), you can skim this oil off, but I usually jsut stir it back in whenever theres enough to bother with.

20 minutes or so before serving, add the remaining cream, and most of the remaining fresh herbs; which will allow them just enough time to bloom and meld a bit. Reserve a small amount for flavorful garnish on the plate.

Serve over ziti, rigatoni, or another pasta that stands up well to a thick and chunky sauce. Use the remaining cheese dusted over the top.

This sauce is thick and meaty enough to use as a sandwich filler all on it's own, or with meatballs or additional sausage. It also makes a great hot pocket using pastry dough or pie crust, and a sandwhich toaster.

You can thin it out a bit with more tomato puree, then puree it thoroughly and use it as the worlds most flavorful pizza sauce (or just as it is, for stromboli). It's also good with cannelloni, manicotti, various shells, in lasagna or baked ziti; and it's great for stuffing peppers, tomatoes, or eggplant (which I HATE, but that's another story).

Oh, and for those of you who have an italian cooking background, this is basically a sauce calabrese on steroids.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew