Tuesday, December 8, 2009

{Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce from Chef Academy}

have any of you watched the new bravo tv show-Chef Academy? the show features a renowned Michelin award-winning Chef Novelli, who opens a culinary academy in Los Angeles that teaches/trains aspiring cooks to cook like professionals {would love to learn how to cook like a professional!}. it is not a competition perse, but, if the students {major characters} fail 3 challenges, they then fail the academy. anyways, the reason i enjoy watching the show is because each episode, Chef Novelli briefly demonstrates a classic technique/recipe or cooking method.

the one episode that caught my attention was "Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce". i've always wanted to know how to make a kick-butt tomato sauce. honestly though, i've never even thought of trying it, especially with inexpensive jars of tomato sauces available at the market in every imaginable flavor. i did venture once to try and make it with canned tomatoes--it turned out ok, but not better than the ready-made sauces. but, since i've been married, i've been made aware that my husband has a mild aversion to jarred tomato sauces {wah?!}. in all fairness, the acidity of the tomato sauce is sadly reminiscent of a bad bout of gastroenteritis. {share too much? heehee. eeew...} anyways, so my quest has been to find a way to make a tomato sauce that he enjoys since i want to make my husband's tummy happy and also because i personally adore tomato based foods. hence, i decided to try and make this tomato sauce. as you can see from my photo of the dish below, it has a deep, rich color with chunks of tomatoes. mmm....now how good would that be over a plate of pasta?

My personal thoughts on the recipe: it is actually more expensive to make this tomato sauce from scratch compared to the jars without question {3 dollars for a jar on sale versus 6 dollars for just the tomatoes (excluding the anise/vanilla/basil)--although maybe i paid too much for the tomatoes at trader joe's}, i only used 2 anises since i'm not a super fan of licorice-y foods, i used vanilla bean paste since it is less expensive instead of a fresh vanilla bean, and added 2-3 chile pods for spice. The flavor is quite intense and one must be patient for it to develop into that paste-like consistency {1.5 hours!}. my sauce ended up being a little bit tart in the end, so i probably should have added more sugar for balance.

the wonderful thing about the sauce is not only the multiple layers of flavor with the anise, vanilla bean, chile, garlic, and basil, but the incredibly intense showcase of the tomato. {it sings tomato} ultimately, i felt like the sauce was quite lovely and am willing to make it again, with a couple more tweaks.

making a tomato sauce from scratch? {check!}

The link for the recipe is here; Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce
The Original Recipe for "Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce" {with my side commentary}

6 lb (2.7 kg) Beef or Heirloom tomatoes
4 Star anise {i only used two}
1 Vanilla pod {used vanilla bean paste-purchased at Sur La Table}
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to season
White sugar
2 Sprig fresh thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
{i added 2 dried chili pods}

Fresh garlic
28gm bunch fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Place a heavy cast pan to heat up.
2. Wash the tomatoes and halve roughly.
3. Place into the hot pan and season with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar.
4. Add the anise and vanilla.
5. Allow the tomatoes to start to cook then press them gently with a masher to help them to release their juice.
6. Reduce the heat down to just simmering and continue for about 1-2 hours until a thickened paste. This slow evaporation of the moisture from the tomatoes will produce a deep color concentrated flavor without any bitterness.
7. Crack the garlic and add along with the basil which is just halved and throw in.
8. Combine with the warm paste and finish with a good amount of olive oil to finish the infusion. Allow to cool before storing ready for use.

• If you have added too much sugar to start this can be balanced out with a touch of vinegar.
• Always taste the tomatoes uncooked to determine their natural sweetness before you add the sugar.
• The amount of garlic to infuse with greatly depends on its strength; again make your own judgment.
• Additional seasoning such as cumin, fennel seeds, chili etc can be added this is of course personal taste again.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin