Friday, August 26, 2011

Don't Go Hungry! Cook With Nicole

I'm cheating a little bit this week. My revisions for book 5, Tempest's Fury, are due next week and we just started our fall semester where I teach. So I'm going to cross-post something I did at my own blog at the beginning of this summer. It's fitting, however, as this Friday afternoon will find me making a HUGE batch of this turkey ragú to freeze. It's absolutely delicious.

I knew I wanted to make this recipe over at the New York Times the moment I clapped eyes on it. I loved a number of things about it: I loved that it looked a bit lighter than most ragús, especially with the use of turkey meat instead of the beef, veal, and pork many recipes call for. But I also loved that except for being a tad bit lighter, it wasn't too fucked with--the soffritto is the traditional onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, without any Neapolitan flourishes like dried fruit or nuts.

The first thing I did, as the recipe calls for, was to render my pancetta. Unfortunately, I no longer live in a place where pancetta is readily available. But a nice, thick-cut, bacon will do nicely. Now, this recipe is on crack with its timings, especially the fat rendering. It'll take longer than 2-3 minutes to properly render some bacon, and bacon is nothing if not properly rendered. ;-)

So plan for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how much fat is on your pancetta. Here's mine, fresh in the pan. Mmmmmm. Bacon.

While the bacon cooked, I chopped up all the vegetables. Remember to chop the soffritto finely--it's supposed to be almost like a paste as it cooks down, not like a bunch of chicken-soup vegetables. I cut corners by grating the carrots, rather than chopping. I also threw in a bunch of mushrooms I had left over from the party I'd held a few days earlier. They were delicious, giving the ragú a nice earthy flavor and chunkier texture. Here's my lovely veg all ready to go in the pot:

The next step is to take the bacon out and put it on a plate, but leave the fat in the pan. Pour in the olive oil, then add your vegetables. And here's what you want them to cook down to. They should be soft, and just starting to get golden and stick to the pan. You don't want to burn the hell out of anything, but you want some lovely caramelization happening so you can scrape up all that goodness when your wine goes in.

When the vegetables are done, take them out and add them to the same plate that you did your bacon. Then fry up your turkey, breaking it up so it's in nice small chunks and cooked through. Then you just throw all the veg and bacon back in, and add your red wine. Let that cook on the bottom of the pan for a few seconds, then start scraping all that caramelized goodness up into the sauce with a wooden spoon (be sure to use wooden as many pots are damaged by metal spoons). This is called deglazing your pan, for those of you who give a toss. ;-) When you've got all that lovely goodness off the bottom of the pan, then season everything and add the crushed tomatoes. It'll look like this as it cooks down:

To serve, spoon some sauce over pasta and add a dollop of ricotta cheese.

This sauce is super easy, super fast, and tastes relatively light for the season. But it's absolutely delicious, and you can really taste the vegetables, the garlic, and that lovely bacon.

Buon appetito!


Anonymous said...

totally making this!!! I love your cooking posts!
(Rachel Woodrick)

Nicole Peeler said...

Thanks Rachel! This one's a total keeper.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Stomach's growling over here...when will you come cook for me??? Mmmmmm.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Great recipe, and excellent instructions. Do I see a cookbook in your future?

Nicole Peeler said...

Juliet: There's a HUGE pot on the stove as I type this! Oooo I can make it for you guys in January!

Thanks, Lynn! And I'm not all that inventive, really. I prefer following other people's recipes whilst I play "Swedish Chef." ;-)

Rachael Herron said...


Nicole Peeler said...

Ragu for my bitches. Group hug!

Martha Flynn said...

I just ordered ragu from room service, damn you! I had no choice. I MUST HAVE IT NOW. (Strangely...impulse control is very low in Vegas.)

Nicole Peeler said...

What's eaten in Vegas . . . ;-)

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