Cook the Books: The School of Essential Ingredients~

19 07 2010

This session of Cook the Books had us reading The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, which is the story of a chef/cooking teacher who is as gifted at blending personalities as she is ingredients in her kitchens.  Each member of the class has some emotional demon to overcome, including our intrepid chef, and each finds an elixir of recovery within the walls of the restaurant kitchen.  While not wholly masterfully written, it was a captivating and fun read!  It broke into pieces easily read in bits and pieces…excellent beach reading, and yet, emotionally touching!

As always, we’re to cook a dish we’re inspired to from the book.  I had to pass on my main inspiration…clams don’t do fresh from the ocean in the mid-north-mid-Sacramento Valley of California in July.  Not when it’s 103° outside.  No “R” in July.  While that part might be gotten around the 103° temps are too factual.  We’ll take Curtain #2 Bob!

I loved the idea of the white cake, but again…it’s 103° – baking is pretty much out of the question.   Then, there was the Thanksgiving feast…there are two of us…a bit much.  I finally settled on the bolognese sauce, because I love bolognese.  It will cook quietly without a great deal of fuss, just asking to be stirred occasionally while it absorbs the various layers of flavor, layer upon layer, upon layer.  Slowly.  Ever so slowly.  It may be cooking all day, but not a raging hot heat…it’s a mild simmer, a bare simmer…

My choice for a bolognese recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook.  I’ve made the versions from both The Classic Italian Cookbook and The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and we prefer the “Classic” version.  The “Essential” version has more carrot, celery and onion than the “Classic” and there’s a difference in the order of cooking the meat in the milk and the wine.  I’m not sure that there’s a problem with changing the order of those two cooking processes, as long as the tomatoes go in last.  I’d love to give the recipe, but it’s copyright protected.  I can tell you that if you “Google” “Marcella Hazan Bolognese sauce” you’ll find both recipes very easily!  Well…the original is harder to find…so here: Classic Bolognese Ragu.  The recipe in Essentials is really unusually sweet…a bit sweeter than I was prepared for.  Not that it isn’t good…it’s really not like anything I’d ever tasted before.  When someone complained about the sweetness and said they liked this recipe much better, I had to try it!  I understood why!

This is a sauce worth developing patience for.  It clings like sexy satin…It has depth that is utterly seductive.  It has the qualities of a siren’s song…calling you back for just one more bite…just one…more…

As for me…I’d love to take a cooking class here!  I can only imagine what fun we’d have and what deep dark secret would somehow be exorcised from my past through cooking!  What a fabulous way to leave troubles behind!



13 responses

7 08 2010

Though not your first choice, it was a nice choice. And this is a recipe you’ll probably go back again often.

1 08 2010

I loved your review of the book and this bolognese recipe! Total comfort food. Lillian would have been very proud.

1 08 2010

Good post, and I too am wanting to take a cooking class now! Sad to say, I’ve never made a Bolognese sauce. Milk? But, that will be changing soon, you make it sound so good.

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