Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Allen's Tomato Sauce and Fettucine

We tease my brother mercilessly that the only thing he knows how to cook are these nachos that the rest of my family thinks are amazing....I think they are gross and have since my parents fed them to us when we were children.  They are topped with canned tomatoes and scrambles eggs....

Go ahead and say it....that doesn't sound is the caveat....

they are cooked in the microwave to melt the cheese...I can't take it...eggs in the microwave kind of freak me out!

Anyway, the point is that my brother rarely frequents the kitchen before the dishes need to be done.  The truth of the matter is though that he is really quite competent and capable in the kitchen.  Like me, he can follow directions and has enough common sense to know when something looks burned.  In all honesty, that is the most basic building block of learning to cook.

My could I describe someone who has been my best friend my entire life?  How do I put into words the phrase that would totally encapsulate what his love, friendship, protection and loyalty have meant to me over the years?  I guess he might be the only person I know that the only way I can describe is to smile.  He is certainly the best best big brother I have....oh wait, he is the only big brother I have but he really rocks that position!

The point is that it came as quite a pleasant surprise when Allen said while we were sitting on the beach, sipping a beer, trying to figure out what we wanted for dinner, that he would like to cook.  We came up with a menu, we headed to the store to get the groceries and when we got home he was ready to make a feast!  And a feast it was with a fabulous food coma to follow!  Here is his fantastic creation...

Fresh Tomato Sauce
as adapted from

4 pounds sad, unloved tomatoes (some swear by romas, I’ve had success with all varieties)
1/4 cup olive oil
Small onion
2 to 3 small cloves of garlic
1/2 medium carrot
1/2 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
Slivers of fresh basil, to finish
1/4 cup vodka
1 shallot, minced
1 package cajun style andouille sausage
1-2 packages sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 bunch green onions, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream

Peel your tomatoes: Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath.
Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. If one gives you trouble, toss it back in the boiling water for another 10 seconds until the skin loosens up. Discard the skins.
Finish preparing your tomatoes: If using plum tomatoes, halve each lengthwise. If using beefsteak or another round variety, quarter them. Squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. Either coarsely chop you tomatoes on a cutting board or use a potato masher to do so in your pot, as you cook them in a bit.
Prepare your vegetables: I finely chop my onion, and mince my carrot, celery and garlic, as does Bastianich. Batali grates his carrots. Burell pulses all four on the food processor to form a paste. All of these methods work.
Cook your sauce: Heat your olive oil in a large pot over meduim. Cook your onions, carrots, celery and garlic, if you’re using them, until they just start to take on a little color, about 10 minutes. I really like to concentrate their flavor as much as possible.

Add your tomatoes and bring to a simmer, lowering the heat to medium-low to keep it at a gentle simmer. If you haven’t chopped them yet, use a potato masher to break them up as you cook them.

In a separate skillet over medium high heat, saute the shallot and sausage until the sausage is browned on all sides.

Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have absorbed the liquid from the sausage.  At this point you may need to add a little butter...about 4 tablespoons should be fine!
Add green onions and keep cooking over medium heat.
Back to the sauce!  If your sauce seems to be getting thicker than you want it to be, add back the reserved tomato juice as need. If your sauce is too lumpy for your taste, use an immersion blender to break it down to your desired texture. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and more to taste.
Simmer your sauce, stirring occasionally. Add the vodka and stir to combine; simmer some more!  
(we call this the "glub glub" affect)

At 30 minutes, you’ll have a fine pot of tomato sauce, but at 45 minutes, you might just find tomato sauce nirvana: more caramelized flavors, more harmonized texture.  Add the shrimp and stir into the sauce.
The shrimp will not take long to cook so keep an eye on them. Add the cream and stir.
Combine the sausage/mushroom mixture in with the sauce.

Let sauce simmer over medium low heat until ready to serve.  Serve over fettuccine.  Toss the sauce in with the pasta and serve with fresh basil as the garnish!

For the record I had an absolute BALL cooking with my brother!  Definitely a treat fit for vacation!
"Love me forever and I will love you longer"
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