One thing that Boston can guarantee is drastic seasonal transitions – two weeks ago we were drenched in 90-degree weather with unfathomable levels of humidity. Tonight’s weather? A balmy 48 degrees, and dropping. We’ve taken the inevitable step into Fall – sweaters, scarves, and soups are making their way into our daily routine. Food becomes richer, as we dive into the depths of a hearty stew or warm ourselves with a bowl of steaming noodles. The other day I made dinner for two very close friends of mine, and decided to make a dish that would hint at the turn of the season: Turkey Bolognese.
Ragù alla bolognese, a meat-based sauce, is a fairly basic recipe. You have a distinctive “soffrito” – onion, celery, and carrot sauté – as well as wine, tomato and meat. What happens next is totally up to you – my recipe is a little more idiosyncratic than your traditional bolognese. For starters, I used ground turkey in lieu of red meat – this wasn’t actually a healthy incentive, but more of a personal flavor preference. I also forgot to buy celery…so my soffrito was a little “less so”. Since I clearly had thrown tradition out the window, I decided to throw in some cumin seeds…and WOW did that make a difference! Both flavor and texture were enhanced, and I can’t even begin to tell you how it warmed my house with the most beautiful aroma.
I am not a “very” picky chef, but there are certain brands that I trust implicitly – San Marzano canned tomatoes are my go-to for tomato-based sauces. The result is consistent, and the flavor always spot on. San Marzanos are heralded as “Italy’s finest plum tomatoes” – they are grown at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which is of course surrounded by fertile volcanic soil. Upon ripening, the tomatoes turn a deep red and are handpicked with the utmost attention. It’s quite the process, as you can imagine…so perhaps I am a little pickier than I thought 😉
The real power in this sauce comes with time – not just the cooking time (which should be close to an hour) but the willingness to put this “smells-so-wonderful-I-could-eat-a-horse” sauce into glass tupperware…and allow it to chill overnight. What this does is allow the sauce’s flavors to further develop, creating a rich outcome without the hassle of sitting in front of a stove for endless amounts of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t devour the whole bowl right then and there…but trust me when I say that this dish turns into something else entirely the next day. Click HERE to the see the recipe!
Patience has become an attenuated virtue in a world where immediate access is daily expectation. The thought of allowing a sauce to chill overnight (much less for 4 hours!) is difficult to imagine, especially when frozen dinners have gone organic and salads are the new “chic”. The musical world was and often is guilty of this hurried spirit – rushing through a practice session, taking an allegro at a presto pace, etc. And then there was Brahms – a man whose self-scrutiny created a remarkably meticulous, thorough style of composition. In fact, said meticulousness reached the point of absurdity at times. Take his Piano Concerto No. 1 – a work which evolved from double piano sonata to orchestral symphony to piano concerto, and is this blog’s musical pairing as a result. Brahms’ ambitions as a young composer led him to pour his energies into creating a symphonic masterpiece, yet the need to “live up” to the genius of Beethoven (and predecessors as a whole) instilled a powerful sense of patience by which Brahms’ composing would forever be governed. Having started the work in 1854, he would finally introduce the completed work to the public in January of 1859. His friendship with the piano “power duo” Robert and Clara Schumann, pictured left, inspired the work (and ultimately became an homage to Robert following his death in 1856). What I thought made this piece the perfect musical pairing is the maturity it boasts, both in the emotional and intellectual sense, under the auspices of a concerto. The work’s maturity can in part be attributed to patience – had Brahms chosen to unleash his symphonic ambitions, his ultimate venture into that genre may have been diminished. While it may be no symphony, this concerto achieves orchestral feats far beyond the average concerto. In a similar sense, this turkey bolognese (though not quite the original) is a dish with unexpected depth and character. The recording below is by the renowned Emmanuel “Manny” Ax, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe – enjoy!
“What’s the Deal With San Marzano Tomatoes?” The Kitchen
Huscher, Phillip. “Program Notes: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15.” Chicago symphony Orchestra
PHOTO – DeepRootsMag.org (Roots Music & Meaningful Matters)