Monday, September 10, 2012

Random Cookbook of the Week - How to Cook Everything

This week's random cookbook draw was Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which lately is my go-to everyday cookbook. It's pretty comprehensive, and it's more in tune with how I like to cook and eat than something like The Joy of Cooking or the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. But above all, it's available as a handy, searchable, cross-referenced smartphone and tablet app.

Since the whole point of this challenge is to try something new, I settled on one of the few quick pasta sauces I'd yet to attempt:

Thirty-Minute Ragu (a variation on Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style)

- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 8-12 oz. ground lamb or other meat
- 28 oz. can tomatoes (I used diced rather than whole)
- 1/2 c. cream

(I added some chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, since the one flaw with Bittman's recipes, IMHO, is that they run a little bland.)

Put the olive oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring and breaking up clumps, until all traces of red are gone. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Add the cream and cook for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook and drain pasta, then toss with the ragu. Garnish with freshly grated pecorino Romano and serve. (I used parmesan, since I had some on hand.)

Looks like a reasonably tasty traditional pasta, right? I suppose it would've been if I'd liked the flavor of the lamb, but I didn't. I've had a mixed reaction to lamb in the past, depending on the quality of the lamb and how well it was prepared. This? Just tasted kinda off and funky. I know it wasn't spoiled--I trust my grocer, my fridge, and my own sense of food's freshness enough for that. Plus, it's been over 24 hours, and no one at House Fraser has food poisoning. 

I guess I'm just being an American, who thinks of meat as coming in three flavors only: cow, pig, and chicken. (Well, I've had duck and rabbit in restaurants and liked them, and since I come of a rural Southern family where most of the men hunt, I've had venison and quail, and they are DELICIOUS.)  But I didn't finish my plate this time, and I won't be taking the leftovers for lunch this week. Maybe I'll try the recipe again someday with beef or pork. 

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