A Quick & Easy Bolognese

As the temperatures begin to drop our need and desire for hearty and comforting dishes begins to rise. There’s nothing like coming in from the cold with a nice hot bowl of soup waiting for you. That’s my usual go-to after a morning of shoveling, but let’s not talk about snow so early in the season. We haven’t even had our first frost yet! And just as comforting as soup is pasta and today I have a recipe for you for a quick and easy Bolognese. I came across it in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine where they coined it Weeknight Bolognese. I’m calling it quick and easy because I was able to make twice in one day without breaking a sweat. Why did I make it twice in one day you may be wondering? Well, it’s not because it was so delicious I finished it one sitting – don’t get me wrong, it was delicious – but, it was because I made a MAJOR snafu! If you didn’t know I am more of baker than a cook. The cooking thing is still fairly new to me and I have a lot to learn, like you shouldn’t substitute cooking wine for a dry red wine in any recipe. That’s why I made this recipe twice. The first time I used cooking wine in lieu of dry red wine and it was atrocious and incredibly salty. At first I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but, a quick Google search let me know. I believe I may have made this mistake once before with another recipe but, it’s not coming to me right now. At least I know for future cooking endeavors!

So, on my second go around I had a delicious dinner to eat and with the temps a little cooler in the evening it was quite comforting.

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A Quick and Easy Bolognese

  • Servings: 4 to 5
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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef*

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cups dry red wine**

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and black pepper

3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

*I used a 93% / 7% split

** I used Merlot

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon until the meat has lost its pink color and has begun to brown. Add in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Pour in 1 cup of the red wine, the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking finish the sauce by adding in the nutmeg, basil, cream and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and continue simmering for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl and top with the sauce and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with extra Parmesan on top.

Recipe from Food Network

A Quick and Easy Coq au Vin

The first time I had Coq au Vin was at a cooking demonstration class at Williams Sonoma. I purchased the braising base that was used at the class but unfortunately my result was nothing like the one I tasted at the class. I think part of the reason was that I still wasn’t all that comfortable with cooking – I’m more of a baker, but, slowly but surely my cooking ability is starting to even out with my baking ability. Recently I came across a recipe for Coq au Vin in a magazine and decided to try making it once again, this time from scratch, and I had much better results. And in case you are wondering, Coq au Vin is a French dish of braised chicken in red wine and normally contains bacon, garlic, onions and mushrooms.

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Up first I sliced baby bella mushrooms, minced 2 cloves of garlic and chopped some fresh thyme.

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I then cooked three slices of bacon, which I cut into half-inch pieces, in two teaspoons of olive oil until they were brown, but not crispy.

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After removing the bacon from the Dutch oven and setting it aside I browned four chicken thighs which I seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Next I cooked the mushrooms along with a 16 oz. bag of frozen white pearl onions for a few minutes until they began to soften.

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Following that I added in the thyme, garlic and a tablespoon of tomato paste.

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And then red cooking wine. I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes until the wine reduced by half…

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And then added in chicken stock.

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And finally I returned the chicken to the pot, reduced the heat to low and partially covered the pot and allowed the chicken to cook through and the onions to soften, about 40 minutes.

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And for the final step, I dissolved three tablespoons of cornstarch in an equal amount of water and added it to the cooking liquid after transferring the chicken to a plate. Once the liquid thickened I returned the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat the chicken. I must say I have used cornstarch to thicken cooking liquids before but I normally just add it directly to the liquid, dissolving it in water is a much better method as it eliminates the possibility of any clumps forming in the liquid.

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Final Verdict… Definitely something I will make again, although I think next time I won’t add the cornstarch.

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Easy Coq au Vin – Slightly modified from here

Ingredients:

3 slices center cut bacon, cut into half-inch pieces

2 tsp. olive oil

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

16 oz. frozen pearl onions

10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 tbsp. tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red cooking wine

2 cups chicken stock

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

1. In a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven, cook the bacon in the oil over medium heat until browned but not too crispy. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl lined with a napkin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (I used about 1/2 tsp. each). Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Stir in the tomato paste, thyme and garlic. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and gently simmer, turning the chicken once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in tbsp. water. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the cooking liquid to a bowl. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat.