Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yummy Gift

I am sitting here with my olfactory system going haywire!! I received as a gift from good friend, former staff member and amazing chef, Yvonne Kopina, (just so happens she is also Merritt’s Mum) a giant…no wait, GIANT log of Fra’Mani Pancetta, we’re talking like a four pound log here…that there is a crap load of bacon my friends, not that there is a problem with that. I was unsure what to make first but in honor of Jeremy being home I went with “Sunday Gravy”. Now the gravy we are talking about has nothing to do with the gravy I grew up with, it is not the yummy brown stuff my mother made from roast beef or pot roast, no this is the stuff my husband grew up knowing as gravy, the stuff his Connecticut born, Italian Mother….Grandmother and Grandfather called gravy…red sauce made from various pork products and served on Sunday.

It is a simple but deeply satisfying dish that has vibrant tomato flavor but is dominated yummy pork goodness. I make it a little different than my Mother in law, really the only difference is that I deglaze the pan used for browning the pork and sausage with red wine and reduce that down before adding the pureed tomatoes and garlic, I also add a few shakes of red pepper flakes…not the way she does it, not the way she was raised eating it, but we love it just the same.

So the way she makes it, and the way the hubby made it before I took over, was to lightly brown sliced pork butt and sausage in a frying pan, puree the tomatoes with garlic and put them in a deep pot, then add the browned meat. With mine I use a Le Creuset pan cranked up to high, brown the dickens out of the meat, remove them to a plate, add the garlic and begin scrapping all the dark brown bits that have clung to the bottom of the pan….just before the garlic begins to brown I dump in about two cups of good red wine, still scrapping to collect all those delicious brown pork bits, let that reduce by half then add the pureed tomatoes, the browned meat and all the juices that have gathered on the plate they were waiting on…..from there we are back on the same page, let the whole thing simmer together for an hour or two until the meat is cooked through, easy as pie….well, easier than pie, crust is hard!

So tonight rather than use pork butt I hacked off a 4 inch hunk of the Pancetta and used pork chops…would never use those any other time as there is nowhere near enough fat on commercial pork chops anymore…oh how I miss that thick band, (about one inch thick) of fat that used to adorn the pork chops of my youth. The way the fat would mostly melt away, adding tremendous flavor and moisture to the chops and you were left with just a crispy, thin layer of tasty fat….sigh, now I just find them dry and tasteless so I almost never use them. So I cut the Pancetta into thick slabs then cut them into chunks, big-ish ones and tossed those in my pot just long enough to render some of the fat, then I pulled the chunks out with tongs and browned the chops and sausage in the rendered fat….my God, the smell was heavenly. Once the meat was really brown I removed it, tossed in the garlic, wine, reduced, added tomatoes, chili flakes and all the meat got tossed back into the pool, (including the Pancetta) where they are now simmering away filling my home with the aromas of the best gravy ever! Driving us absolutely nuts….thank you Yvonne!

So dinner is finished and can I just say…..damn. On this chilly evening a bowl of saucy pasta that is bathing in pork flavored red sauce, (oh and did I mention that I just happened to have had a chunk of parm in my fridge….so yeah, I sliced off a good nob of rind and threw that in sauce while it was simmering…..drool) the Pancetta made it so different but in a salty, garlicky way…the hubby has already had 3 bowls, (Jeremy is out with friends so I will have to wait to hear what he thinks) and I am slowly savoring mine with a glass of 2005 Stefano Farina Nebbiolo d’ Alba, ($10.99…seriously) the wine is soft and earthy with delightful plumy flavors and a soft acidity that balances the tang on the tomato sauce beautifully….yummmmm

I will say that I wont be using those damn pork chops again, still dry but the Pancetta added enough fatty goodness to make the sauce perfect….Thank you so much Yvonne for making possible a truly satisfying, porktastic meal!

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