Saturday, December 27, 2008

Turning your leftover roast beast into a tasty pasta sauce

So this Christmas, we reverted to the traditions of my mother's New England family, and had roast beef for Christmas dinner. Since my sister has been not eating red meat for a few years, it's been awhile. (In addition to the roast beef, we had a filet of salmon, which worked out nicely — the resting time for the roast was just enough time to crank the oven heat up and roast the salmon).

However, on account of having two main dishes (our kids were also preferring the salmon), the limited selection at the grocery store we patronized last Saturday, and the general state of the economy, I ended up buying a small top round roast rather than the more extravagant standing rib roast that I've cooked in the past:

... and, between the top round's high proportion of connective tissue and my chronic tendency to undercook things, there was a lot of, well, quite rare and chewy meat which didn't get eaten Christmas day.

So last night I made the leftovers into a rich pasta sauce:

1. Cut leftovers into 1" chunks and brown them well in a little fat (I used bacon fat, because I had some on hand and was feeling decadent, but olive oil would work too). Make sure you don't crowd the meat; I did this in about three batches.

2. Remove meat from the pan, add a little more fat if there's not some left in the pan, and then add 1 cinnamon stick and 1 bay leaf; toss in the fat for 20-30 seconds.

3. Add about 1/2 cup each of finely diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until well browned. Add some chopped fresh rosemary and 1 clove garlic, minced. Sauté for 15-30 seconds.

4. Deglaze the pan with a good splash of white wine, scraping the bottom to incorporate all the browned bits into the sauce. Add any meat juices from the contained you stored the leftovers in, and enough stock to make a saucelike consistency (beef would probably be best, I used turkey because that's what I had, chicken or veggie stock would probably be ok. I've also used leftover soaking liquid from reconstituting dried mushrooms with great success). Return meat (with any accumulated juices) to the pan.

5. Cover and cook over low heat for a couple of hours, adding stock and/or water as necessary to keep it from drying out:

6. After you've basically cooked the meat into submission, remove the chunks of meat to a cutting board. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Now is a good time to start boiling the water for your pasta. Chop the meat up fine, then return to the pan:

7. Keep the meat mixture simmering until pasta is cooked. I used homemade papardelle (really wide noodles). If you're using storebought and can't find papardelle (I can't find storebought papardelle around here), use the widest noodles you can find — fettucine, farfalle, or wide egg noodles:

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