I don’t know what type of meat sauce to call this…

…but I really don’t want to use Rachel Ray’s name for it. She calls it “Not-A-Boar Meat Sauce and Pasta” and she subtitles it “Can’t find wild boar in your neighborhood? Neither can Rachel! She created this “fake-out” dish instead”. Ughhh is that a pun on the word “bore”? Could the caption be more cheesy? She really irks me. So last night, when my mom described this amazing pasta dish she made that didn’t have tomatoes and had cocoa powder (among other ingredients, none that caught my attention like those two) I was intrigued and thought it sounded fun to try. When she revealed it was a Rachel Ray recipe, I was quite dismayed (sweet Jesus I hope I’m not ruining my culinary career before it even starts by bagging Rachel Ray so much). My mother was still quite happy with her meal, and after assuring she too isn’t Rachel Ray’s number one fan, I downloaded the recipe and got to cooking (well perhaps I stopped at the store first).

Here’s the link: http://www.rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=3174

Ingredients:

1 pound rigatoni

2 tablespoons olive oil (or if you’re Rachel Ray EVOO. Ridic)

3/4 pound ground pork

3/4 pound ground beef

1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic (seems like a lot, but given the quantity of pasta and meat, really not. Go for it!)

3 sprigs thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped (I omitted this at the request of a fellow diner, I didn’t miss it)

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 pinches ground cloves or allspice

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup whole milk (I used 1/4 c. skim milk, and 1/4 c. of half and half  b/c that’s what I had in the fridge)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Prep: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it add the pasta and cook it until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is working, in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium-high heat, until smoking. Add the pork and beef and cook, stirring, until browned, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, cocoa and cloves; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute, then stir in the wine. Stir in the chicken stock and milk, lower the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Stir the pasta into the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the cheese, to coat. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls.

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I will give Miss Ray that this dish is very easy to prepare. Took maybe 45 minutes to prepare, and nothing was more complicated than chopping the onion and grating the carrot. The only advice in terms of preparation I’d give is to make sure all the ingredients that go in once the meat is cooked are ready to plop right in; I found myself scurrying to get them all in!

The cocoa powder was an interesting addition – I wonder how they came up with it. I accidentally bought cocoa powder w/chocolate chips (presumably for hot chocolate drinkers), but they melted right into the sauce, you’d never know. I initially thought that when my mom mentioned no tomatoes and chocolate sauce that it reminded me of a mole sauce, but it really isn’t anything at all alike. And in the sense that there are no tomatoes, there’s still tomato paste, adding a red color to the sauce. I think the best way to describe it is a variation on a bolognese sauce, sans the tomatoes. It has the same texture, with the meat doing the staring of the dish, and the other flavors backing it up. The sauce coats the pasta, and the meat hides in the hollowness of the the rigatoni.

Recently I’ve been using a lot of recipes that call for a dry white wine (I used Chardonnay, seemed to work!) and milk. I love the richness the wine adds, giving the sauce another dimension. I always feel like my recipes are extra fancy when the wine aromas float up right after you add it. The other smell explosion was the addition of the garlic, onion and carrot to the pork and beef. That’s the point when my worries about this sauce melted away as the dish moved away from ground meat into an actual dish.

I thought when I added the chicken stock that 2 cups seemed like a bit much – it didn’t thicken as much as I’d like it, but it didn’t seem to dilute any of the flavors. I’d maybe try to see what cutting it a bit down does, but in the end it turned out alright. The sauce just looked too fluid in the pot, it made me a bit nervous.

It’s a hearty dish that fills your belly and warms you up, great for a cold night (or a mild night in October, you know, just maybe not great for a scorcher in July). It’s a huge recipe (4 servings according to Rachel, but that must be why America is leading the world in the obesity race), and I’d say you’d get about 6 servings that won’t leave you feeling peckish after. All in all, I really liked this dish. It’s gotten the “repeat” seal of approval from others, and I’m looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow! xxx

Sauce, right after adding the stock. A bit too liquidy?

Don't be shy with the Pecorino - adds a nice sharpness to the dish

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Apple picking and Boeuf Bourguingnon!!!!!!!!

Hello friends! I realize I’ve neglected you for such a long time. But never fear, (actually I don’t think any of you are scared) but I was still eating and experiencing the most lovely meals. Some of my favorites were from my summer vacation, where I had the privilege and pleasure of dining at Stella! in New Orleans, and the recently Bon Appetit named best new restaurant in America, Husk, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Anyways, I think it would be too hard to recap the past lovely months – that or I don’t really have the patience to type up everything!

                                                  

Today was a lovely fall day – cooler, so you need a fleece, but not too brisk, and sunny with blue skies and a rainbow of tree leaves. I had the lovely pleasure to get to venture out into the country (okay, it may have been South Jersey, but it was actually really beautiful, and I loved the green pastures with the horses grazing) and  visit an apple orchard. Due to the bad weather that came upon us late summer/early fall, the apples were scarce, squash plantings ruined, and the pumpkins were imported from Ohio. As a result, our apples were free! 🙂 I’m not sure the type of the few apples we got, but they were a bit lighter colored, a light green/yellow with a hint of red. They were perfect for the apple crisp we (overseen by Carolyn) made, not overly sweet or tart. They also had brussel sprouts available for picking – it was the first time I’d ever seen sprouts in the wild! Okay, I realize a contrived orchard that imports it’s pumpkin patch isn’t exactly the wild, but the brussel sprouts were growing on actual plants! They grow on the stalk, between the leaves!

After picking out some decent apples and my lovely orange pumpkin (yep, I’m going to carve it and have a lovely centerpiece for Halloween) we left for Carolyn’s house. Why is this relevant you ask? Well, this is where the best part of the day happened. Upon arriving at Carolyn’s house, she served us this amazing bread with fresh rosemary (from her garden!), bacon and blue cheese! Ahhhh-mazing. The bread was soft and a bit doughy (not like it was undercooked, just perfect). After a bite or two (okay, I ate the whole piece of bread, and quite quickly as well) I may have been admiring Carolyn’s crockery on the stove, only to find out she had made boeuf bourguignon – for us!!!!!!! Oh the smells that filled my nose when I lifted the lid to peek in! My eyes took in carrots, mushrooms and beef, while the smell of dry red wine that had been simmered all together drifted up. Heaven. Carolyn has prepared Julia Child’s recipe, but in this instance she used Ina Garten’s, as it is considerably less time consuming and less complicated, but still gives you the wonderful same meal. As a side to soak up the juices, Carolyn had also prepared mashed potatoes for us, red skins left in! She also served a salad with mesclun greens, walnuts, blue cheese, and freshly picked apples, with a raspberry vinegarette. I think there’s a spot in heaven for this girl! The meal was amazing, the flavors so rich, the meat was so tender, it just broke apart when you bit in.

    

   

After dinner (with thoroughly cleaned plates as shown above, mine perhaps a little more dishwasher ready than others) we got up to prepare an apple crisp Carolyn had planned. Peeling, coring and slicing the apples proved to be a bit more risky than anticipated – a slippery little apple got away from me and the knife into my finger! My job with the knives was over for the night. Chelsea and Kimmy carried on, while Carolyn and Vince worked on the crumble bit. Apple crisps are quite easy – slice the apples, mix in the sugar and cinnamon, and cover with a crumble made of brown sugar, oats and quite a bit of butter. Set in the oven to bake! Marc and Kimmy ran out to get vanilla ice cream and we sat down to the most amazing apple crisp, far surpassing any restaurants. Must have been those freshly picked apples, farm to table. Oh, and a little bit of love. 😉 xxx