Monday, September 7, 2009
Break Fast: Bolognese Sauce on the Big Green Egg
Note: This recipe was picked up by www.saveur.com in its Best of the Web series!
After not cooking for over two weeks, it feels SO NICE to break my cooking fast by firing up the Big Green Egg.
Basking in the perfume of wood smoke and the light of the afternoon sun, I occasionally check the bubbling bolognese sauce in which grilled pieces of chuck roast are slowly softening. When they are tender, I will shred them, add a dollop of half and half and make a hearty meat sauce to go over rotini with a good measure of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Shredding the beef is a piece of cake after a slow cook in tomato sauce on the grill.
This is our first weekend HOME since July 4th weekend and my kids' first weekend home in two months, so I'm particularly grateful to trade a ride in the car for the feel of a knife in my hand and the heat of the grill on my skin.
I burst with the pride I feel in my children as I watch them learn new cooking skills to put this meal together.
My youngest Christina practiced dicing onions, celery, and carrots, the aromatic workhouse of soups, stews, and sauces, for this recipe. She then browned some pancetta in my cheery orange dutch oven and cooked the mirepoix until it was lightly browned and translucent. We added some beef broth, red wine, and tomatoes to make the base for the bolognese sauce.
"Why do we need to brown the onions, celery, and carrots if we're just going to cook them a long time in the tomato sauce?" I queried?
Christina said, "To add flavor."
Exactly. Browning adds flavor and cooking the aromatics to help them shed some of their moisture also concentrates their flavor.
My oldest daughter, Lizzy, joined us to learn how to fire up the Big Green Egg. We cleaned out the soot from the bottom, added a fresh new mound of lump hardwood, and lit the grill. As we waited for the grill to come to heat, we talked about how air flow is critical to controlling the heat of the fire. The more air flow through the vents, the hotter the fire. We also talked about the importance of introducing air slowly when opening the Big Green Egg by slightly opening it for 5 seconds before fully opening it. Otherwise, the fire will rear up at you and rush at you like a wild banshee if you open the lid with abandon.
The Big Green Egg
My kids then learned how to put a nice sear on meat by placing the 1 1/2 inch strips of a 3 lb. chuck roast I had cut for the sauce and rotating them when appropriate. The grill was HOT and little red sparks were floating in the air, but they persevered and succeeded in turning out some beautifully charred meat.
"Why do we brown the meat before we add it to the sauce if it's just going to cook in the sauce for a long time?" I asked.
Lizzy said, "To add flavor."
My smart girls.
I then added the grilled pieces to the sauce, put the ceramic plate into the Big Green Egg to turn it into a convection oven, and slow-cooked the meat in the dutch oven at 350 degrees.
Grilled pieces of chuck roast are added to the tomato sauce and begin their long soak in tomato sauce on the Big Green Egg.
And now I wait for the alchemy of heat and time to work its magic.
And magic it was. Smoky, beefy, concentrated, and hearty, with a little cream and parmesan cheese to soften and round out the flavors. A perfect ending to a lovely weekend and the end of summer, at home with my family.
Ragu alla Bolognese on the Big Green Egg
(Can also be done on a regular grill or in the oven)
6 oz. pancetta, diced
Olive oil or butter as necessary
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups of red wine
1 1/2 cups of beef broth
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 lbs. chuck roast, dried off with paper towels, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips and salted and peppered
1/2 and 1/2 or cream
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
Parmigiana reggiano, freshly grated
Heat up the Big Green Egg or your grill to 500 degrees or more. If you're going to use your oven, heat it to 350 degrees.
Cook pancetta in a dutch oven over medium heat, slowly rendering fat and crisping up the pancetta. When the pancetta is crispy, remove from the dutch oven and set aside.
Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the rendered fat, adding butter or oil if necessary, and cook over medium heat until lightly browned and translucent, about 7-10 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the minced garlic, italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
Add beef broth, red wine, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes to the sauteed vegetables. Add back the pancetta to the sauce. Turn heat to low.
If you're going to use the oven to slow cook your sauce, heat up a saute pan over medium high heat. If you're using the BGE or your grill, check if it's hot. When you're preferred method of cooking is ready, please the chuck roast strips on the grill or saute pan, and sear on all sides.
When the meat is seared on all sides, place in tomato sauce. For the Big Green Egg, put in the placesetter (legs up) and adjust the heat to 350 degrees. For a regular grill, put the middle burner (if you have one) on indirect heat and adjust to 350 degrees. If you're using the oven, it should be preheated by now.
Put the dutch oven in your grill or oven and cook for one hour, uncovered, and then covered until the meat shreds with a fork (a few hours). Stir occasionally while it's cooking.
When the sauce is done, shred the meat with two forks and add parsley and additional water to the sauce is the sauce is too thick. If you're going to eat all the sauce, add cream or half and half to taste. If you're going to freeze some of it, place the sauce you're going to freeze in containers and add a little half and half or cream to the sauce you are going to eat and freeze the rest. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with a short pasta such as rotini or penne and freshly grated parmesan cheese.