Musing: Mystery Meals

Our Mystery Meal

During this pandemic and while sheltering in place, my husband and I have been struggling to make room in our over packed freezer. One by-product of this effort has been the “mystery meal,” something frozen so long ago that we don’t know what it is. Sometimes even after opening the container, we’re not able to identify it.

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Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

This Saint Patrick’s Day was the first time I ever made corned beef and cabbage. Its debut at our table can only be attributed to our supermarket’s almost giving it away at a ridiculously low price and my better-half’s sneaking it into our grocery cart.

Being Italian and having attended a predominantly Irish parochial school in the 50s, I remember that Saint Patrick’s Day typically led to some kind of minor altercation between the Irish majority and the Italian minority, with the latter opting to celebrate their saint’s day, Saint Joseph, two days later on the 19th.

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Musing: Cleaning out the Fridge

Baked Orecchiette

Frequent cooking at home typically yields a variety of odds and ends in the fridge: a handful of mushrooms, a small piece of cheese, a few herbs, a cup of sauce. For us, ingredients like these usually wind up in a frittata or a pasta. Such was the case the other night when, while cleaning out the fridge, I found some uncooked tomato sauce and a three-ounce piece of mozzarella left over from making a pizza a few days before.

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Pork Rib Ragu

pork ragusmall

One of the dividends from slow cooking is definitely the leftovers. Even if you’re simply reheating them, they can often be even better than the first time you served them.

Yesterday, I pulled from the fridge some slow-cooked pork ribs in smoked Spanish paprika sauce that we had on Sunday. On their own, there wasn’t enough left for two portions, so I decided to turn them into a ragu for pasta. (See my May 26th post for more about the ribs.)

For almost any rich, meaty sauce, my favorite variety of pasta is pappardelle. The name for these broad, flat noodles comes from the Italian verb “pappare,” which means “to gobble up.” Their heft and shape make them the perfect carrier for a thick ragu.

pork ragu3small

After skimming the congealed fat from the ribs, I removed the meat from the bones and shredded it, discarding any thick pieces of fat. I placed the meat and the sauce into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a little water and heated it over a low flame, with occasional stirring, for about 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, I also added some milk to the sauce for a creamier texture.

I then transferred the sauce to a skillet wide enough to accommodate the pasta and placed it over a low flame

I cooked the fresh pappardelle for 2 minutes in heavily salted water. Just before they reached the al dente stage, I transferred the pasta from the pot to the skillet with a spider-style strainer and tossed the noodles with the sauce for about 30 seconds to coat and finish cooking.

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Off the heat, I added a handful of grated Romano and some parsley.

Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc