In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to Make an EXCELLENT meat sauce for pasta and I am not even Italian

It requires a bit of time but not much effort. There are many pasta sauces of course and at least as many pasta shapes as sauces. But this one I just learned to make and it was frightfully easy and is magically delicious and seems terribly complicated to the people you will serve it to, who might grab you buy the ankles to shake you until that Italian grandmother you've clearly hidden in your cloaks fall out. But she won't, because the Italian grandmother is you.My sister's Sicilian-American husband devoured it (the sauce, not the grandmother).

I based it on this recipe from Food & Wine, but made a few tweaks that improved it greatly, no offense to F&W.

Step 1.


-3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, a largish sweet onion, a clove or two of garlic. Chop all that up. The French call it mirepoix, the Italians soffrito. It's a useful and delicious base for soups and sauces and stews of all kinds, and this is the first place my recipe diverges from Food and Wine.

-2.5 lbs veal shoulder roast. Get humanely raised veal (raised for 6 weeks anyway). If you can't stomach the veal -- and you should because it's tasty as hell, and it did get to frolic in the fields and drink its mother's milk for a while before being dispatched for your dinner (but it was going to be dispatched anyway. Veal is the byproduct of the dairy industry, so if you're not a vegan, you're partly responsible. Just eat the veal. But make sure it's from a responsible farm that gives it a good, if short, life.) -- you can also do it with pork shoulder or beef shoulder or a mix. I couldn't get veal today, so I'm using beef. I think it will have a stronger taste.

-2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes. Toss their juice and chop up the tomatoes.

-1.5 teaspoons each ground coriander and ground fennel.

-1 1/2 cups dry red wine

- 1/2 c heavy cream (diversion 2)

-a tablespoon or so of tomato paste (diversion 3)

-the rind of a parmesan cheese wedge (diversion 4)

-a sprig of fresh rosemary

- olive oil, a little flour

Step 2
Chop the meat up into cubes -- about one inch. dredge them in flour then brown them in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Don't crowd the meat in the pan -- you want it to brown not steam. So do it in two batches if necessary.

Step 3
Take the meat out and park it on a plate. Lower the heat to medium. Add a tablespoon more olive oil and throw the veggies in. Stir them every once in a while and let them cook for 5 minutes. They should not brown. Add the tomatoes and the spices and cook another 5 minutes. Now add the wine and let the whole mess reduce. The wine should be reduced to about 1/3 a cup.

Now add the chicken broth, sprig of rosemary, the meat and the tomato paste*. Toss in the parmesan cheese rind. Let it simmer for 2 hours, at least, till the meat falls easily into shreds. Stir it every once in a while so it doesn't burn, like it did with my mom's crappy thin bottom pots and electric burners. When the meat is done, fish it out of the pot and shred it by hand (I used 2 forks actually), tossing out any unmelted fat. Add the shredded meat back into the pot, swirl in the heavy cream, let it cook for 5 minutes more. Take out the cheese rind and throw away. It's done!

Step 4
Cook pappardelle according to the package directions -- a pound will easily serve 8 people with this sauce and fresh parmesan grated over the top. Pappardelle is a requirement -- the sauce sticks to it and makes it wonderful and you'll be very happy. The end. Report back.

(* open up the tomato paste can on both ends, push out the column of paste with one of the ends, take what you want, wrap and freeze the rest. You can divide it into discs and freeze them individually and use them in future pasta sauces or soups without having to defrost the whole mess.)

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