Thursday, December 06, 2007

Meaty Red Sauce

This sauce is one of the key elements in my four part winter survival plan. The other parts, you ask? Shoe spikes, homemade chicken broth, and microwavable heating pads filled with feed corn. With this sauce, you can have a pasta dinner that feels warming, satisfying, hearty and thoroughly homemade in the amount of time it takes to cook the noodles. Or, in slightly more time, you can make a pizza that gives you the same wonderful feeling and makes the house warm and fragrant to boot. I make a big batch and freeze it in one-pint containers, which is about the right amount for one pizza, or for pasta for two or three people.

This recipe does take two days to make, but I bet there's less than 20 minutes' actual work involved, and it gets you a head start on about twenty servings of dinner. One minute per serving? Not bad at all.

3 beef short ribs (about a pound each)
4 28-oz cans ground tomatoes
1-2 cups red wine
1 tsp dried garlic (fresh is fine too of course, but dried is easier and tastes just fine)
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and sugar to taste

Brown the short ribs well on all sides. As they brown, add the tomatoes and spices to the crockpot and set it to cook on high for 8 hours. When the ribs are browned, add them to the crockpot too. Deglaze the browning pan with the red wine. Use the deglazing liquid to rinse out the tomato cans, and pour the wine and last bits of tomatoes into the crock. Now cover it up and go away to do something else all day.

After 8 hours or so, lift out the short ribs and shake off any sauce that clings to them. Refrigerate the meat and sauce separately, and have something else for dinner. The next evening before dinner, de-bone and chop the meat. Pick most of the solid orange fat off the cold sauce and discard it (leave a few bits—they make the sauce better). Combine the chopped meat and sauce in a large pot. Heat thoroughly, mix well, and add sugar and salt to taste.* Have some for dinner and freeze the rest in pint sized containers. This recipe will fill seven containers if you don't have any for dinner.

*Tomatoes vary widely in how acidic they are. Sometimes I don't need to add any sugar, and sometimes the sauce has such a harsh bite I add a whole tablespoon. I have used pureed cooked carrots instead of sugar, which works very well, adds a nutritional boost, and is undetectable in the finished product, but I'm usually too lazy. As for salt, if you used canned tomatoes that contain salt already, you might not need to add any. If you used salt-free tomatoes, you'll probably want some.

Now, to define "some." I've always wondered, as I stood over my huge pot of sauce, guiltily wielding that salt shaker, how homemade sauce compared with commercial, and how many actual teaspoons of salt were in those jars at the store. Well, now that I have you people to please, I figured I'd actually, finally do the math and quit just wondering about it. So I googled "nutrition facts" "tomato sauce," recorded what I found for sodium, standardized the serving sizes and units of measure, did some number crunching, and found out that typical commercial sauce (not salt free or low salt) has about a teaspoon of salt per pint of sauce! If you can't visualize this, go measure out a teaspoon of salt. And then think of the volume (depending on your preferred indulgence) of a pint of beer or cream or chocolate fudge ripple. A whole teaspoon! Per pint! If I made my sauce as salty as commercial sauce, the recipe would call for more than two tablespoons of salt! I can't even imagine that tasting good! Sorry for all! the! punctuation! but I am shocked. And, I suppose, consoled. No matter how much salt I add to my sauce, it would still end up with a big "reduced sodium" sticker on it if I were selling it in the grocery store.


Anonymous said...

I was pretty excited till I reached the crock pot part. I don't have one:(
Sounds delicious though.

Another Anna said...

No worries, Anonymous! Before I had a crock pot, I'd just make it on the stove. Same recipe, just 3 or 4 hours of simmering on the stove instead of all day in the crock. I bet the oven would work well too.

Anonymous said...

Hello Northern Galloway child this is Southern Galloway child. I have been rereading your old posts to find inspiring recipes before I go shopping today. Awesome. You are freakin' hilarious and have great ideas, who knew you would evolve from a snotty nosed toddler into the 'Big Brain of the Kitchen'.Speaking of snotty noses there is one very little and very little snotty nose in our home, still adorable! Do you think I could substitute pork ribs for beef short ribs in the hearty tomato sauce?