>I saw two food documentaries last year that affected me profoundly: Fast Food Nation and Food, Inc. Both contained footage that have stayed with me, haunting me as I walk down the supermarket aisles or lift up a quarter pounder to my gaping mouth. They’ve really made me think about how food gets to us nowadays, and have inspired me to really think when I shop for my family, and to strive to eat locally grown and raised food as much as possible.
I’ve joined a CSA and am counting the days until Spring when I begin receiving my weekly box of goodness. I can’t wait to be challenged with what recipes to create for huge quantities of kale and other vegetables I’ve rarely eaten.
But I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about meat and specifically, ground beef. I just can’t get the images out of my head of seas ground beef from hundreds of different cows being comingled together on speeding conveyor belts. Reports of E. Coli contamination of beef are so common now that they barely make the news, but just this November, two people probably died as a result of contaminated ground beef sold at Trader Joes, BJs, Acme, Shaw’s, Price Chopper, and Giant on the East Coast.
Yesterday I stood at Meijer in front of the meat case, marveling at the fact that nearly half of their offerings were ground beef in different quantities, including these huge value packages of four pounds or more. I almost reluctantly grabbed a small package before I had an epiphany.
I would grind my own beef. Steve has ground meat before to make delicious hamburgers, but I left this distinctly manly task up to him. But it suddenly seemed to be the solution, the way to at least make sure the hamburgers or spaghetti sauce I would feed my children would come from only one cow and would not be mixed with any other preservatives. Of course it would be much healthier to buy all of my meat from organic meat buying clubs or websites, but as this is just a new trend, there just isn’t the selection or convenience to do all of my meat buying.
And don’t even try to suggest that we become vegetarians, I love my steaks probably more than my chocolate.
So I grabbed a nice pack of chuck steaks and brought home my bounty triumphantly, ready to take this small step to feeding my family better. Of course my manly husband had thrown away the instructions to the food grinder attachment for my Cuisinart (real men don’t need directions!) so I spent the greater part of the afternoon playing the Butcher of Seville with chunks of meat flying everywhere. But finally, I figured out that I needed two types of blades in the contraption at once and miraculously gorgeous red ground beef started flowing out.
But next time around, I will have gorgeous hamburger meat in less than five minutes. Meat that I can feel pretty good about serving to my kids.
I used my beautiful ground meat to make this creamy Bolognaise Sauce that I served with a heaping pile of spaghetti and garlic bread, nothing French and fancy, just a comfort food my husband loves to ease our first day back in the post-holiday routine.
Creamy Bolognaise Sauce
1 pound of ground beef (lovingly, painstakingly home ground)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of chicken stock
1/3 cup of shredded parmesan
2 24.8 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of tomato paste
1/2 cup of heavy cream
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
5 TBSPs of olive oil
- Grind your beef. Come on, you know you’ve been dying to try it.
- In a large chef’s pan with high sides but a relatively flat surface, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. When it is shimmering, but not smoking, add your onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute on medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
- Add in your white wine now and continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is evaporated and has gotten any bits unstuck from the bottom of the pan.
- Now add your tomato paste and chicken stock. Add a little more chicken stock if some of the tomato paste is still clumped up and not mixing with the veggies. Then turn off the heat and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, pour another 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add your ground beef and saute until just browned.
- Turn the heat back under the vegetables. Fold in the beef, including all of its juices and mix so the meat and vegetables are thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the two cans of tomatoes, mixing well. Add the parmesan cheese, and mix well. Then it’s time to season to your liking with salt, pepper and a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes (or more if you like some heat). Don’t be shy, this is the time to taste your sauce.
- Set it to simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the heavy cream and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Season again before serving. This is a great sauce on top of spaghetti and is also a fantastic base for homemade lasagna.