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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Red Sauce

Not to be narcisisstic, but my red sauce is pretty good. My dad was the cook growing up. He is a pretty good cook, I vividly remember homemade pizza, german pancakes, quesadillas, homemade NY-style pretzels. But I hated his spaghetti sauce. The solids would sit on top of the noodles, and a puddle of red liquid would seep out onto the plate. So when I started cooking my main goal was to make good, thick red sauce. Secret ingredients change, but the fundamental technique is pretty sound.

First off, you need a s^&%load of tomatoes. Good organic tomatoes. Heirlooms and/or Romas. Strike up a relationship with your farmer at the farmer's market. Overripe/ugly/blemished tomatoes are what you want; they will be free or at least cheaper, which is key, cause we're talking reducing 40 lbs of tomatoes to 4 quarts of sauce. Seriously. Quantities are purposefully vague, adjust to taste, y'know.

Red Sauce:
40 lbs of tomatoes
7 onions
10 cloves garlic
Salt/pepper
Fennel seeds
Thyme (fresh)
Oregano (dry)
Basil (fresh)
Thai fish sauce

Dried porcinis

Cut tomatoes in half, squeeze seeds and juice into a short wide pot, put meaty halves in a big pot, cook with lid on, to steam skins loose, ~30min. If you put big thyme branches in the bottom of the pot, the tomatoes won't stick under high heat.
Let that sit a little bit, a lot of juice will accumulate.
Ladle the tomato juice out of the tomato pot and into the seed pot, reduce it to a syrup, this takes forever, but is important.
Ladle the tomatoes into a foodmill in batches to make tomato puree (get an old french foodmill off of ebay, a big one).
Cook the puree till when you stir it, the shapes hold, and minimal liquid accumulates in the valleys.
Meanwhile, grind fennel and pepper, put in a wide pan, high heat (I use 2 pans, it's alot of onions).
When the spices start smoking put in extra virgin olive oil, garlic.
Put in onions, oregano, salt, porcinis, saute a long time -- let it stick a little on the bottom, deglaze with tomato juice or wine or balsamic vinegar or OJ, let stick, deglaze, repeat for ~1 hour. This technique is from Paul Prudhomme and is why my food tastes the way it does.
Add the puree and tomato syrup to the brown onions.
Add fish sauce,
it's made from anchovies, it's epic.
Add basil.

notes: if the tomatoes are only ok (or canned), add pomegranate molasses and/or OJ and/or maple syrup to sweeten things up. if the tomatoes are too sweet (i.e. in late august), add red wine vinegar.


I freeze about 30 quarts every year, and it lasts all winter. When you defrost it, 'wake it up' by warming it in a little garlic/fennel/olive oil. Use it straight for pizza. Dilute with wine or cream for pasta, if it is too thick.

Updates:
processing tomatoes 2009

red sauce 2010
pics 2011

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