My Mom’s Meat Sauce

I really enjoy a hearty meat sauce. Simple ingredients, almost…plain. More than that though, I love my Mom’s meat sauce.

Growing up I remember her browning the meat as I would get ready for school, chopping the veggies quickly and throwing all the ingredients into her crock pot. It’s one of maybe ten dishes I distinctively remember from my childhood. Another one is a three bean chili I refused to eat for no good reason. (Sorry, Mom.)


This is my back yard at home! Meat sauce makes me think of (and miss) home...a lot.


I made a batch of the meat sauce this weekend for friends who came over to enjoy the Oscars and was proud when, in the final taste test, it tasted just like I remembered. I even called my Mom to tell her, “No worries…I’ve done right by your meat sauce. Everything tastes as it should.” People went back for seconds. Leftovers were handed out for lunch the next day. It was a rare moment when dinner seemed to come together effortlessly and everyone was content and full with food.

I told you when I made Alton Brown’s meat sauce that my Mom’s is better (and much easier). So here we go. The recipe is like a mom’s recipe should be…from memory and loose. Don’t get frustrated when I say for the 500th time, “to taste.” Just…keep tasting…and adjusting slowly but surely.

Recipe after the jump!

PS – Okay, so I realize I haven’t been posting actual pictures of the food lately. Like most people, I go through phases. Right now, thanks to winter light (dark by 6pm) and my general desire to eat the food I make as quickly as possible, or that I’m taking the food I make to parties, I haven’t been snapping (pretty) pictures of any of it lately. For this I apologize but I hope you’ll stick with me through this fickle phase. I promise. I’ll get back photographing my creations soon. Until then, I’ve gone the way of Apron Anxiety with a Kitchen Porn twist, which I don’t think is all that bad.

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Alton Brown’s Meat Sauce

Talk about a case of culinary excess.

Okay, here’s a question. You’re faced with a recipe that has an ingredient list the size of the New York phone book. Not really…but 23 ingredients. TWENTY THREE! What kind of food do you think you’re about to make? Thai? A complex, authentic Chinese dish? A deep, rich Mexican mole?

No. Alton Brown’s meat sauce.

Alton Brown...he's smirking because his meat sauce is ridiculous.

Why was I making this in the first place? Twitter. It’s a beast. @DarthGarry had tipped me off that he’d made the sauce and thought it was delicious…and basically challenged me to make it. I’m always up for a challenge and after he reminded me several times to make it (especially after I had announced my purchase of a dutch oven) it was on like donkey kong.

I reserved this adventure for a Sunday evening. I resolved to follow the recipe to the “t” as much as possible – even though I thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever. Ever. After reading the recipe and the time it would take to complete each step, I realized, this was a FIVE HOUR endeavor.

I know what Alton was trying to do here. With each step he is trying to extract the fullest and richest flavors out of each ingredient going into the pot.  He also has a touch of delusion mixed in there. Because I hardly tasted the 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce or the 1 tablespoon of ketchup. If unnecessary ingredients like this make or break your dish, well, you have bigger issues to tackle. Other steps just felt fussy and unnecessary.

There is an upside to all this complaining though. The sauce is delicious. I just don’t think it’s worth five hours of my time. My mother has an equally delicious meat sauce recipe that calls for a day of slow cooking in a crock pot. Prep takes about 20 minutes of opening cans of various tomato products, browning meat and chopping veggies. Dump it all in the crock pot and you’re done for the day. That’s my kind of meat sauce!

I’m not going to publish the recipe, because you can find it here. Also because I’m going to make my mom’s meat sauce for you all and publish that recipe instead. Be on the look out!


Basic Braised Short Ribs

My buddy Evan authors a lovely food blog, The Carnivore and The Vegetarian. (He’s the carnivore.) He recently asked me to guest post so, in the spirit of his carnivorousness, I thought I’d share a basic braised short ribs recipe I tried last weekend.

Go check is out! And add Evan to your RSS reader or subscribe to him – he makes some very cool food! If you’re on twitter follow him! He’s @EvanHalperin.


Albondigas (or Spanish Meatballs)

I’m a dork. So when I decided to make albondigas (pronounced al-bon-dee-gahs) earlier this week I ran around saying, tweeting and emailing “Cloudy with a chance of ALBONDIGAS!!!” to everyone I knew. I thought it was funny…so did my Great Great Boss who, in a very Sabado Gigante voice says, alllllBONdigaaas!!!, every time I say I’m going to make them. It’s fun times all around when albondigas are made.

The first time I made these bad boys it was a bit of an experiment and The BF was forced into partaking. The original recipe, poor misguided soul  whoever wrote that thing, called for a HALF A CUP of adobo sauce. Crazy pants. More like poop your crazy pants. The sauce was so spicy, so hot that The BF and I kept having to stop and breath, open-mouthed and frantically sip water in a really lame attempt to please, please stop the burning. It was too good to stop eating though. So we pretty much decimated out taste buds and ended up eating the whole pot of albondigas.

This time, my second time making them, I cut back on the adobo – just 2 tablespoons to the whole pot – and while it didn’t give you that spicy kick, it did give you that smoky flavor adobo is so well-known for. Next time, I’ll add more, maybe 3 tablespoons or 4. The lesson here though folks – add the adobo in small increments and taste along the way. Also, the original recipe included the chipotles that are almost always paired with the adobo sauce. Um. No thanks. Well, I take that back. Do it…but like, half of one.

I feel like such a lame half Mexican-American. My tolerance for spicy isn’t so much low as it’s that I’m a baby about my tongue burning. What!? It’s an uncomfortable feeling!

Anyway – you guys will love this. Enjoy!

PS – These are more Spanish style albondigas – Mexican style goes in a brothy soup. Also, you can make the meatballs smaller and serve them as an appetizeror tapas, or make them the 1.5 inches as stated in the recipe and serve them as a meal. I usually serve them on a bed of long-grain rice!

PPS – I changed the order of the steps in executing the recipe. A friend alerted me that if you don’t read the whole recipe through first you lose cooking time on the sauce.

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Stuffed Peppers

You know those “Mom” dishes that always make you think of being home for Sunday dinners?

Yeah. This isn’t one of those for me…but I know plenty of people who have Moms that made stuffed peppers for Sunday dinners! :)

This recipe is in my Weight Watchers cookbook…and like I said…I’m workin’ on my fitness. It’s surprisingly flavorful thanks to all the herbs and cheese. Ok, confession, I put way more than a 1/4 cup of cheese. Suck it, Points!! A girl needs somethin’!

Can I apologize for the lack of pictures? It’s hard to take an appetizing photo of a hunk of ground beef. Go ahead. You try. Send me the best one.

Okay, moving on to cooks notes: use fresh herbs. I don’t care how much they cost! Use ’em! It’s totally worth it! You’ll thank me. Also, don’t use green bell peppers. I know, they’re cheaper! But they’re also bitter tasting, and they don’t soften well. It just makes you not want to eat the healthiest part of the whole dish.


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Carne Asada Tacos

Flank steak! When done right it’s such a great, cheap cut of meat. When done wrong it’s tough in your mouth and you have to chew, chew, chew just to enjoy it.

When we were at the beach we (and by we I mean me) really wanted to grill up some asada for tacos and a steak ‘n egg breakfast at some point. My thought was, when you’re at the beach you want to keep your cooking simple. What’s more simple than letting a piece of meat sit in delicious juices for hours on end and  then cooking it for a grand total of 8 minutes?!

Nothing, I say! Nothing!

This recipe is a mash up of Mark Bittman’s and Guy Fieri’s asada marinades. Most asada marinades are comprised of the same elements but these two each brought something special to the table. Like tequila.

A couple notes: these recipes will tell you they can marinate for as little as two hours. It’s not that two hours isn’t going to do the job…it will…it just won’t do it as well as, say, overnight. So let the flank steak hang out in the fridge while you sleep.

Second…DONT FORGET to cut the steak against the grain!! So many people cut the steak with the grain and that’s just a cardinal cooking sin. Flank (and skirt) steak are so tough, everything you do in the preparation down to the slicing is to break down those tough fibers. The acid in the marinade helps with this, slicing against the grain helps more!

I hope you enjoy the asada as much as we did. Especially when done on a charcoal grill, the smokey, charred flavors make this meal.


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Beef Stew

In case you don’t live in DC…it snowed. All. Day. Saturday. Something about a snow day like that just makes you want to cuddle up on the couch with a blanket and a book and maybe some cider or hot cocoa. Doesn’t it? Or maybe if The BF happens to be in town you get a request to curl up with a big, thick bowl of beef stew!  And as my Twitter buddy @jeffdonald pointed out, *flexes muscles* only amateurs stock up on TP and milk during a snow storm, pros stock up on stew ingredients.

I’m a regular reader of The Kitchn, a cooking and, uhm, kitchen, blog. And last week they had a really lovely post about how to make beef stew…breaking it down into totally understandable, basic steps. I don’t know about you but I always feel a little safer when I understand why and how each step is carried out in a recipe. (The exception being baking, because I still don’t understand what baking soda vs. baking powder does.) 

Let me add a few notes here before we get to the recipe. This is one of those dishes you make when you have time. Like, a whole day. Not because it’s necessarily going to take a whole day, but because it’s soothing to methodically take on the recipe one step at a time. Sear the beef. Saute the veggies. Measure and add the liquids. Let it sit for delicious hour after hour. Each step only takes a few minutes, but tending to it makes you feel like you’re adding layers of flavor to a tiny stew baby that you’re going to serve to people you love.

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Pot Roast and Popover Panoply

The BF likes meat and potatoes. If it comes from a cow and is a brown root vegetable, he’ll eat it and love it. So last weekend (Sunday to be exact) in a one-two punch to my New Year’s resolutions I took on mastering meat and rocking the crock pot and slow cooked a pot roast. I chose popovers as a side because I’d been thinking about BLT Steak’s popovers which…are…um, how do I say, other-worldly?! 

First step to tackling new recipes: get all the appropriate hardware. I didn’t have a popover pan (and in retrospect probably didn’t need one but I wasn’t about to use a muffin pan for my first popover experiment, duuhhh!) and so the hunt began. I first visited Coffee and The Works which is my go-to, in-my-hood, last-minute, looking-for-odd-ball cooking-related needs (giant pizza spatula, anyone?!)and!…they were out of popover pans. Okay, okay fine. Bed Bath and Beyond will have one right?! No. Okay at that point I felt like I was destined to NOT make popovers, but I pressed on. Hills Kitchen!! Success! Not only did they have a popover pan…they had TWO KINDS!! So I bought the one that looked like the pans BLT Steak uses (cause I’m a copy-cat like that). 

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