Sunday, October 5, 2008

Turkey Bolognese to greet the winter

It's a weird time in New York. Officially, it's just turned fall, and in fact, the leaves haven't even begun to change color yet. They seem to be hanging onto their emerald green as stubbornly as the New Yorkers still popping around the village in flip flops and shorts despite the temperatures hovering around 50 degrees this weekend.

Well not me. Ask this Texan what time of year it is and I'll tell you it's winter. Because despite the natives (both human and botanical in nature) insisting otherwise, it FEELS like winter. Case in point - it takes a lot to make me drag out my winter clothes from our attic and swap them out for my summer clothes, but it was so chilly yesterday I had it done within an hour.

So it's no wonder I was craving something hearty, homey, and warming for dinner. What I really wanted to make was short ribs, but I thought it was a little too early to go to something that filling (i.e. fattening.) After all, there's a lot of winter left. Instead, I opted for a lighter bolognese made with ground turkey. Two things separate this dish from your everyday bolognese. One - I sautedd a thinly sliced fennel bulb along with the onions to give it a hint of sweetness (don't worry if you hate fennel - Kris does and had NO idea it was in there - it loses its distinctive licorice taste after hours of simmering.) Two - I add a pinch of provencal sea salt along with each addition of new ingredients. Provencal sea salt is just regular sea salt with provencal style herbs added to it. If you can't find it in stores, you can blend up your own using whatever dried herbs you like, but the key one for me is dried lavender. This and the fennel keep the dish from getting too bogged down by its rusticness.

I hope winter (or fall) finds you well!

Alisa's Turkey Bolognese with Bow Ties

Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon provencal sea salt mixed with 1/2 teaspoon plain sea or kosher salt (you will add this gradually throughout cooking and may not use all of it)

1 carrot, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
2 tspns tomato paste
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil, parsley
1 bay leaf
2 cups low sodium chicken stock

1/4 cup whole milk
parmesan, to taste

2 cups bow tie pasta

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add about 3 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to coat the bottom, and let warm through a minute before adding the onions and fennel. Season with a pinch of your provencal sea salt mixture and saute, stirring occasionally until completely softened, about 7 minutes. Add the carrot and garlic along with another small pinch of your seasoning mixture, and saute another 5-7 minutes.

Add the ground turkey, along with another pinch of seasoning. Gently toss and cook until no longer pink, stirring occasionally (but not constantly or you will toughen your meat) for about 10 minutes. Add the wine, peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh herbs, bay leaf and chicken stock along with another pinch of your seasoning and stir to incorporate. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours or until thickened.

After two hours, fill another large pot with water and bring to a boil for the pasta. Season the water with salt, add the pasta, and cook until JUST al dente, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, take your bolognese off the heat and add the milk, stirring to incorporate, then putting back on the burner on low. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, strain the bow ties and add them to the bolognese (you might not want to add all of the bow-ties - I happen to like a high pasta to bolognese ratio.) Taste for salt, adding any more if necessary, then serve with grated parmesan.

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