Busy people like long, slow cooking

March 12, 1995|By Nathalie Dupree | Nathalie Dupree,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I used to think the only kind of meat dishes possible for a busy day were quickly grilled chops or stir-fries. But elegant roasts such as a rib eye or tenderloin of beef, shoulder or leg of lamb, and pork loins and hams (both fresh and cured) are much easier to cook than a steak if you also need to prepare vegetables and get everything to come out at the same time. Ground meat can also take a long cooking, either in the Bolognese Meat Sauce (which cooks unattended all day) or a savory meat loaf, which is cooked, like a roast, according to weight.

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This sauce cooks with little attention for a minimum of 3 hours. It needs a large, heavy pot. This makes 2 meals for 4 to 6 people. I usually serve one batch and freeze one.

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Makes 2 batches, 4 to 6 servings each

3 tablespoons oil

5 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck

1 1/2 cups milk

freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups dry white wine

1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

sugar, optional

salt

pasta such as tortellini, rigatoni, fusilli (1 pound for 4 people)

freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

Heat oil and 3 tablespoons butter in large pan. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Crumble beef into pan and cook, stirring, until beef starts to turn brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until milk has evaporated. Add pepper to taste and nutmeg. Add wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook over very low heat, uncovered, until liquid is evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. (You can stop at this point or any point from now on, returning sauce to boil, then lowering heat to simmer and continuing process.) This reduction usually takes 2 hours.

Stir in 1 cup water and let simmer again. Repeat this process until mixture has cooked 3 to 4 hours. Fat will rise to surface and separate -- this is necessary to coat pasta. Taste and add sugar and salt and pepper as needed. (Sauce will keep, refrigerated, 2 to 3 days, or it can be frozen up to 3 months.)

When ready to serve, toss hot sauce with cooked, drained pasta, remaining 2 tablespoons butter and Parmesan cheese to taste.

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Meat loaf doesn't take long to put together and then takes its time in the oven. I must admit I love the smell of meat loaf as much as the taste. It's good freshly made, but it's even better the next day, reheated, and leftovers also make wonderful sandwiches. I double the recipe when I am able to and freeze one of the loaves for another time. This is very good to use for leftover cooked rice.

Cajun Country Meat Loaf

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1/2 pound hot sausage

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 carrot, shredded

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

1 cup cooked rice

2 eggs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

dash Tabasco sauce

salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 strips bacon

1/2 cup ketchup combined with 1/4 cup beef stock

Combine beef, pork, sausage, onion, garlic, carrot, sweet red pepper, rice, eggs, ketchup, mustard, horseradish, bread crumbs, chili powder, paprika, mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, cayenne, Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste in large bowl. Shape mixture into loaf and place in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Top with bacon strips.

Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes. Pour ketchup and stock mixture over meat. Continue baking 30 to 40 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing and slicing. (Meat loaf can be cooled, wrapped and frozen up to 3 months.

Nathalie Dupree is the author of the newly released "Great Meals for Busy Days" (Clarkson Potter), from which this article is excerpted.

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