Thursday, September 29, 2011

Self-Harm Meat Sauce-Sharing a Secret Recipe

My psychotic ex-boyfriend was dead-on about one thing. I make meat sauce when I'm in flux. Always when I'm steeped in anxiety. The meat sauce takes all day to make from scratch. It's complex, cathartic and so worth the effort. I make a huge batch and freeze a lot of it, or give it to loved ones, and it's really fucking good. If it were a man, I'd pour it on the floor and roll around in it naked.

Somehow, the sauce got the moniker of "Self-Harm Meat Sauce" some time after I quit cutting and turned to cooking as a coping mechanism because I couldn't cut myself in the arm anymore. (Cooking, not necessarily eating, as a coping mechanism. If eating were the mechanism, I'd weigh more than 115 lbs.) Still, it remains one of the few things I'll eat with some degree of vigor.

Historically, the sauce is produced when I anticipate some major life stressor, or I'm in the middle of difficult decisions, or when I'm acutely depressed. In trying to figure out what to do while my family is away, I'd toyed around with the idea of drumming a lot, hanging out with as many friends as possible, et al, to pass the time in a healthful way.

Then the sauce idea hit me. Badda-bing!

I had an even better idea. Since TOC and I had dinner plans next week anyway, and he has had the sauce before and loved it, I thought I'd invite him over for dinner to share it with me at my house. I so rarely get to have friends over, since I live with my mom and Luke, and I think the atmosphere will be cozy and relaxed and give us a chance to just be "us," without worrying about what we talk about in public, who might run into us, or whatever. We can put on the iTunes, share a meal and chat up. I told him to book me for Tuesday night after work, that I'd planned on making something special and wanted to share it with him. He was, as usual, agreeable and inquisitive about the idea. Some friends warned me that he might be "uncomfortable" in my house alone with me, but I refuse to see why. We're friends, and friends have been known to eat dinner at other friends' houses. What makes the two of us any different, knowing our dynamic as well as I do, mystifies me. So onward with the plan.

Naturally, when I told my mom about the sauce plan and the TOC coming over plan, she freaked out about the cleanliness and presentation of the house. "I'm not ready for company," she said. Yet the company is not coming over to see her. He's not coming over to critique our house, which is clean and tidy enough. He's not coming over to judge me or my mother's decorating style. He is not the uppity type who will snark at our middle-class living situation. He's coming over to be with me and have a meal, point blank.

And yes, I plan on sending him home with a container of it to share with his wife. Happy now?

So here's the no-longer-secret recipe for the sauce. My ingredient estimations are loose. It's easy to make; it just takes hours and hours to simmer and stir and whatnot.

3 cans of Dei Fratelli imported Italian crushed tomatoes (It has to be Dei Fratelli. If you use Hunt's or other American tomatoes, shame on you.)
2 cans full of water from the tomatoes
A large can of tomato paste to blend in for thickness
A Fucking Crapload of Garlic--4BULBS, painstakingly peeled, and put in the mini-chopper to a fine grate (not CLOVES of garlic, BULBS, trust me. The garlic cooks down so the sauce isn't overly-garlicky)
A handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley
A Mass of chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
A couple of teaspoons of sugar to take the acidity out of the tomatoes
1.75 lbs of ground sirloin (90/10 fat or 96/7 leanness)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You'll need a mini-chopper or a food processor. Now, my mom hasn't unearthed her new food processor from it's box, so I can use the chopper, but I have to do the meat with my hands. Great.

In a big fucking stock pot, saute about 3/4 of the garlic in olive oil until it's translucent and a little golden brown. Stir constantly. Add the tomatoes, water and paste and stir again. Add at least half the basil and parsley and stir that in too. Leave on medium heat so it can begin to boil.

Separately, make the meat mixture. In the food processor or by hand, mix the sirloin with the remainder of the garlic, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, and perilously brown it in a large pan into tiny bits until it's pretty much cooked through. Pound it down until it's in as small of chunks as possible. Add the meat mixture to the sauce, which should be close to a rolling boil by now, including the fat from the meat (don't drain the beef). Stir that in really well, bring it to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Simmer the fuck out of it for the next 4 hours, stirring very frequently. Taste it to check the acidity and salt-pepper ratio and add as needed. Have a loaf of crusty bread handy to dip and taste while you're making it.

For the love of Christ, don't put onions or wine* in the sauce. Ick. Ick. Ick. (*Wine goes well WITH the sauce, not IN the sauce. This is how Polacks make an Italian speciality. Trust me, again.)

Once you've simmered the hell out of it, serve over your favorite pasta (mine is Barilla Plus--easier on the carb load, enriched with protein and other nutrients, and stays al dente and not mushy like whole-wheat pasta tends to get if you overcook it by 2 minutes). Have a bitchin' salad to go along with it, and more crusty bread to sop up the rest of the sauce from your plate. Serve, if you're so inclined, with a nice cabernet (or, if you're an alcoholic, let your guest pour him or herself a glass or 2 and dump the rest down the kitchen drain). (NO, the plan is NOT to get TOC buzzed and take advantage of him. It's just that wine goes really fucking well with the sauce and let's face it, the guy works hard all day and deserves a relaxing chill out. And no, it wouldn't bother me in the slightest if he were drinking while I couldn't.)

The recipe should yield approximately 5-6 medium Tupperware/Ziploc containers of extra sauce that you can freeze easily. I split it up into meals large enough for 3 people per container.

The best part about making the sauce is the simmering part. You can smell the sauce all the way down the block if the windows are open, and it's fun to taste as it simmers with a skoash of bread dipped in it. But you have to keep stirring it or it'll all stick to the sides and the bottom of the stock pot, which is a bag of dicks. The real reward is when you sit down for a plate of it and all the work pays off.

Most likely, it'll be the most I eat in one fell swoop while my family is away.


No comments: