Gather ye round, friends, and hear the tale of a ragu that cooked for five hours, perking away on the stove as the many pieces of meat that went into it–lamb shoulder, pork ribs, short ribs–slowly broke down and contributed their fat and flavor to the tomatoes and onions and garlic that made up the sauce, along with a secret ingredient (anchovies) we best not tell our guests about. Unlike Sunday gravies that I’ve made before, this ragu–which comes from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 2–asks you, at the three hour mark, to shred the meat by hand and return it to the pot. What happens then is that the meat continues to break down over the next two hours, as the sauce thickens, and what you have at the end is something so remarkable, so utterly delicious, you may as well throw away any other ragu recipe you possess because there’s no topping this one.
We’ve got two internet luminaries on our show this week: the first, Rebecca Lando, is co-creator of Working Class Foodies, the viral web show with a devoted following that’s recently become a handsome and useful cookbook from Gotham Books. Our other guest, Jeffery Self, played Liz Lemon’s nephew, Randy Lemon, on 30 Rock and co-starred with Cole Escola on Logo’s Jeffery and Cole Casserole. He’s also the author of Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide and 50 Shades of Gay. ALSO: he’s doing a live show tonight (October 23rd) here in L.A. at the Neon Venus Theater on Melrose at 8 PM (tickets $10). Go see him!
Dinner was five-hour meat ragu (recipe to come next week) and chocolate pear cake. Click ahead to see a picture of everyone at the table, a list of all the things we talk about, and some clips of Rebecca’s and Jeffery’s work.
Cooking without a recipe. How do you do it?
You start with ingredients. My favorite way to do that is to open my refrigerator to see what’s there: on Friday night (when Craig was working late and his parents were flying in from Seattle) I saw carrots, I saw celery, I saw onions. I decided to cut them all up into big chunky pieces.
Growing up, if I visited a friend and that friend’s mother was cooking dinner, one word would make me run away screaming. That word was “lasagna.”
Theories for why this was the case: (1) I grew up in a non-lasagna household; (2) it was a non-lasagna household because (a) my dad hates cheese and (b) he grew up in a semi-kosher home where meat and cheese were never mixed. Therefore, not only was lasagna exotic to me, it was scary. If I did have to stay at a friend’s for dinner and lasagna was served, I’d do my best to peel it apart and to eat some of the noodles, some of the filling, but to mostly mush it around on my plate.
Last we spoke, we made an eight-pound brisket.
Here’s the thing about making an eight-pound brisket. If you make it? You’re going to have leftovers. And then you have to ask yourself: “What should I do with those leftovers?” That’s why I’m offering you this follow-up post, a quick recipe for leftover brisket ragu.