Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Gay Cookbook" - Italian Meat Sauce - Gay Pride 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 24, 2017 –  (Gay) Pride Festival

The Gay Cookbook – The Complete Compendium of Campy Cuisine and Menus for Men...or What Have You by Chef Lou Rand Hogan
Published by Sherbourne Press, Inc.
© MCMLXV (1965)
Recipe – Italian [Meat] Sauce – p. 45-50

I wish I could tell you that I absolutely planned to use this cookbook during Gay Pride week in Minneapolis but that is not what happened.  Instead, I was on the hunt for another book when I spotted this one and coincidentally, it was Pride week/weekend and so how perfect!

I cannot recall exactly when or where I purchased this cookbook , but the minute I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Had. To.  I had to have this because of the cover art which is adorable ("Campy cartoons by David Costain") and because it was old – 1965.  And then there's the "tag line:" "the complete compendium of campy cuisine and menus for men...or what have you."  Could I pass that up?  No. 

You should also know that once upon a time, "gay" was the term used to describe someone's personality i.e. "he/she is so gay [happy, fun, or good spirited], or to indicate that a good time was had by all as in "Oh, we had a gay old time at the Frost's function this past weekend."

If not for the cover art and the tag line, I might have thought this book referred to that kind of "gay" but one look most certainly suggests not and that is all fine by me.  Sadly, I did not have a gay old time cooking from this book. Did not.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a book in "narrative" form i.e. story-telling, but there is something wrong with recipe instructions being written in the same vein.  The recipe I made, for example, started on page 45, ended on page 50, and was pretty much one solid block of text and so I had to parse each and every sentence to figure out ingredients, cooking times, and whatnot.

And for this folks, I'm going to have to "ding" them which is to say "deduct points."  Not that I award points, but you get my drift.

And I have to tell you that every single recipe was like this and so I almost put the book aside for another day (i.e. after I'm dead) but no.  No.  I fortuitously found the book and so I soldiered on but nobody said I had to be "gay" about it!

Your chapter and food choices are as follows:
  • Chapter One – Canapés, Hors D'Oeuvres and Aphrodisiacs (This is a long title for only 9 recipes, one of which is not a recipe at all as it was for sherry: To prepare sherry, open the bottle and pour!)
  • Chapter Two – Soups...That Juicy Stuff (Apparently that saying comes from Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen from Verona.  There are four recipes here.  Four.)
  • Chapter Three – Salad and Dressings; including Le French
  • Chapter Four – Chili, Curries, Spaghetti Sauces and Other Blood Tinglers
  • Chapter Five – The Shell Game; Oysters, Lobsters, Shrimp and What To Do With Clams
  • Chapter Six – That Tired Old Fish (By which the author means the usual suspects – sole, trout, salmon, cod)
  • Chapter Seven – What To Do With A Tough Cut Of Meat (There are many recipes here for stews and braised meats and roasts and the like.)
  • Chapter Eight – Chicken Queens, Chicken A La King and Our Other Feathered Friends
  • Chapter Nine – Sauces, Gravies and Other Brownish Delights
  • Chapter 10 – Vegetables; Plain and Fancy
  • Chapter 11 – Loose Ends; Including Potatoes and Other Weight Lifters
  • Chapter 12 – In Your Oven! (As you would imagine, this is the cookie, cake, other category)
  • Chapter 13 – Drunks and Drinks

After much consideration and much skimming of the narrative to suss out potential recipes, I settled on the very long recipe for Italian Meat Sauce.  Six pages long, in fact.  Six pages long in teeny, tiny print.  I felt like I was editing a short story!  The first four pages are all about the basic sauce and then if that wasn't bad enough, the guy added two more pages about how to turn your basic sauce into a meat sauce.  Surprisingly, this recipe did not call for any wine which is sometimes used in Italian sauce cooking, but I decided that I needed a drink and so I had one!

Now then, time for true confession:  I was so done in by the time I got done with the basic sauce that I had no patience to deal with the meat portion of our program and so did this instead:  I fried up the last bit of Trader Joe's Bacon Bits and Pieces and added that straight to the sauce without following a single direction for the meat sauce.  Not only did the sauce taste good with that addition but I saved myself several hours in the process.

Also?  The full recipe was supposed to make about 3 quarts (12 cups) and although the author froze some of it, we don't freeze in this household and so I cut the recipe way, way down.  We are a small family of two, not 22.  Sheesh.

Here then, is my best attempt to filter the ridiculously long and involved instructions and the ingredients I used.  Please note that I cut this recipe into 4ths and still had plenty left over for more servings, so for the first and maybe last time ever, I'll do the math for you so that you don't end up with 3 quarts/12 cups on your hand because you never know, you may hate it and then where would you be?  With a freezer full of spaghetti sauce, that's where!

Italian [Meat] Sauce – Ann's Notes: The revised amounts, shown below, likely made 3 cups of sauce instead of the 12 the recipe called for.  That should be enough for about 4 servings, depending on how much sauce is used per serving.
  • ¼ cup celery
  • ¾ cups chopped onions
  • 1/16 cup chopped garlic (Ann's Note:  I think I chopped one large clove of garlic and threw that in.)
  • 1/16 cup (optional) grated carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped Leeks (optional) (Ann's Note:  I added the carrots but left out the leeks.)
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • A few small mushrooms (optional) sliced
  • 1 large can "standard tomatoes" (Ann's Note:  I used a 14 ½-ounce can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small can tomato puree (Ann's Note:  I didn't have puree on hand but I had tomato paste and so I mixed some paste (maybe 1-2 T) with some water and used that instead.  I just now noticed that the author said some cooks like to use this instead of puree.  Count me as one of them!)
  • 4 cups stock or water (Ann's Note: Eyeball this.  I think I added a bit more water later.  Or maybe it was wine?  I was too stressed out to keep track!)
  • 1/16 cup mixed Italian herbs (Ann's Note:  If you have "Italian Seasoning" mix on hand, just use that.  If you don't then mix together some basil, oregano, rosemary leaves, tarragon, a half a bay leaf and if desired, some whole cloves.  Or—just use whatever floats your boat!)
  • 3 chilis tepenos (Ann's Note:  I have no idea what a chili tepenos is but I left it out as it is better to be safe than sorry.  If you want a little heat, throw in some dried red pepper flakes.)
For the meat sauce (Ann's Note:  I did not make this portion of the recipe but these are the amounts to use if you are making 3 quarts.  If you aren't making 3 quarts, cut this way, way down.)
  • Salt, pepper, oil, flour, MSG
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 lbs. (good) ground meat (or more)  (Ann's Note: I know what the author meant by "good" ground beef but I laughed anyway.)
  • 3 cans consommé
 Okay then, sorry for all the notes but hopefully this will help you get set up. I think I just eyeballed a lot of things because I could and you can too!

As to the instructions, here, to the best of my ability are the instructions, parsed for your reading enjoyment.

1. Finely chop all the vegetables you plan to use. 

2. If you want, wrap up your seasonings in a cheese cloth, simmer the mixture with them and then throw the seasonings away.  Or, you could do what I did which is to add them to the sauce, sans cloth or other protective covering because it is the only way I know. 

Then, and I am not kidding, a page and a half later, we get to how to actually put the thing together.  "We" (the author uses the royal "We" all the time) will make this as simple as possible – moving on...

3. Put some fat or oil in a heavy pot, add the fresh vegetables, cover and cook for a few minutes then add the prepared vegetables (canned mushrooms), then your ground beef (if you are using it), then the tomatoes, salt, sugar, herbs and bring it all slowly to a boil. 

If you are using ground beef, sauté your vegetables first, brown the meat and then add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and herbs. 

4. Regardless of whether you made this with meat or went meat-less, reduce the heat to simmer and cook 1-2 hours, stirringly occasionally.  Add more broth or water if the sauce starts to stick.

Ann's Note:  Since I used bacon instead of ground beef, I cooked my bacon, then added it (bacon bits only, not the fat) to the pot after the sauce mixture had been cooking about a half an hour.  I think my sauce was pretty much done after about an hour but I let it go a bit longer to let the flavors settle in.   

If making the meat sauce:
Skim off the fat that rises to the surface while cooking and reserve it.  Add some flour to the fat then cook that mixture in a small pan over medium heat until you have a dryish paste or mash. 

Add some tomato sauce from the pan then add that mixture back into your pot and continue cooking.

Ann's Note: "We" use this as a thickening measure so if you want to skip it, my guess is you can but you'll still want to skim the grease from the sauce so it's not a big greasy mess.

If you wish, you can add canned mushrooms, some salt or MSG, and continue to simmer until you're satisfied that it is done and the flavors are incorporated.

Now then, was that hard?  No! This concludes my tutorial about how you go about parsing a recipe so that it can work for you.  As I said, we loved the finish product and now that I know what's involved, this sucker is a snap!  The best thing though, was that it was tasty.  "We" (our author) noted that the carrot tends to make the sauce sweeter but I think that's true if you were to make the full recipe using ½ cup grated carrots.  Here, I grated one carrot and that was that!

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