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Polenta con Ragù di Carni Bianche

That sounds so much more impressive than polenta with a white meat sauce, doesn’t it?!? But that’s exactly what the fancy named dish is – a really good meat sauce made with milk and chicken stock – and a mere 2 tablespoons of tomato paste – in place of copious amounts of tomatoes. Northern Italian…

I headed down to the local library today to get a new book on tape. Well… An audio book. On CD. You know what I mean. Old habits die hard around here.

But after getting my book – Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith – I perused the stacks and found a Lidia cook book we don’t have – Lidia Cooks From The Heart Of Italy.

I’ve been back to the library a lot more, recently. Have you noticed that Kindle books – electronic, digital, nothing-but-electronic transferring – are becoming more expensive than print books? It truly is the scam what am. I really like my Kindle, but I’m also a cheap SOB when it comes to stuff like this. I can wait the two days for the print copy – or just head to the Library a few blocks away.

I guess he has to pay for that Whole Foods acquisition, somehow…

But back to Lidia…

I started glancing through the book, looking for things I could make with ingredients already in the house. No way do I walk into a grocery store on a weekend. I.Just.Won’t.Do.It.

Fortunately, our usually well-stocked larder was well-stocked enough for the white meat sauce. I had the beef/pork/veal mix in the freezer from my last trek to Reading Terminal Market and carrots, onion, and celery are always in the house. Always.

Her recipe calls for three pounds of meat – I had 1 1/2 pounds and it made a lot of sauce, so plan accordingly.

Ragù di Carni Bianche

Adapted From Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
by Lidia Bastianich.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1 medium onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 medium stalk celery, cut in chunks
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 4 cups very hot chicken broth
  • 2 fresh bay leaves

Directions:

  1. Lightly mix ground meats together.
  2. Mince the onions, carrots and celery chunks in a food processor to an even textured paste. Saute the paste in a large saucepan with the butter and 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Cook and stir the pestata until it has dried out and is beginning to stick, about 5 mins.
  3. Quickly crumble all the meat into the pan, stir with the pestata, sprinkle over it 1 more teaspoon of salt and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the meat starts to release its juices. Turn up the heat a bit, and continue cooking and stirring the meat as the juices evaporate, about 10 minutes, taking care that the meat doesn’t brown and crisp.
  4. When the juices have disappeared, pour in the white wine, bring it to a bubbling simmer, and cook until evaporated, 2 or 3 minutes. When the wine has cooked away, add the tomato paste and cook a minute or so. Next, pour in the milk and cook, stirring until it has cooked down.
  5. Ladle 1 cup of hot stock into the pan, just enough to cover the meat. Stir in the bay leaves and bring the liquid to an active simmer. Cover the pan, adjust the heat so the liquid is steadily bubbling (not rapidly boiling), and cook for 15-20 minutes, letting the broth gradually reduce. Stir in about 2 more cups hot stock, just to cover the meat again, then give another 20-minute period of covered cooking and reducing. Stir in a final cup of stock, and cook, covered until the ragu is thick and concentrated, 20 minutes or so. (The sauce should have cooked for at least an hour and incorporated 4 cups of stock in total.)
  6. Taste the ragu and adjust the seasoning.

Nonna had hers over pasta because she doesn’t like polenta – but she really missed out. The polenta was perfect with it. It was meaty, creamy, filling – very filling. Neither of us finished our bowls.

There is plenty of sauce leftover for another meal. I’ll have to think of something fun to pair this with.

 

 

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