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Friday, March 23, 2012

Vat of Tomato Sauce

I was kind of lax in grocery shopping over the last few weeks, and I've neglected to restock what I've come to realize is a veritable staple in my cupboard.

Tomato paste.

I think I've talked about how I used to stock both tomato paste, AND tomato sauce, until I realized that they're the same thing just sauce has water added to it.

I think I've ALSO talked about the virtues of some good, organic, tomato paste in the pantry.

It's insanely good for you, and insanely free of bad things.  I love anything that lists, as its ingredients, ONE item.  In this case: Tomatoes.  Awesome stuff!

Anyway... I had been aware of the need to restock the pantry for the last week, but just creatively avoided it.  Until today, when I decided to just F it and used my last remaining, extremely large, "emergency" can.  This thing was large.  Easily like 4 or 5 of the small ones.

So, I had no choice but to mix up a huge vat of tomato sauce.  I had all the other ingredients I could have wanted (except perhaps some fresh fennel and/or oregano), so why not?  I even had, on-hand, some fresh bay leaves that I managed to find a couple weeks ago... which was a boon.

This follows very closely to my standard "ijj's famous tomato sauce" recipe, but tweaked for preparation 'en masse'.

So, in order of concentration (roughly), and not all of which is pictured here, we've got: tomato paste, garlic, onion, bay leaves, green onion, jalapeno pepper, dried oregano, dried parsley, fennel seeds, and two leftover shriveled-looking tomatoes which needed to be used up so I threw them in for good measure.

Some good fixins, I'd say.

Now, often I'd just chop the veggies finely and saute them a touch before mixing in the tomato paste.  Today, and because there was so much of it, I decided to puree instead.

I mean, this was going to take at least an hour of prep time ANYWAY, so I might as well bring out the immersion blender.

I positively LOVE my immersion blender, but I think I've talked about that before... ;)

Anyway, the trick to immersion blending is coverage, and lubrication.  So, make sure you've got enough to actually cover the blender, AND that there is sufficient enough liquid in the mix to get it goin'.

In this case, because one of the ingredients I needed to add eventually anyway was water I just felt free to pour enough water in with each of these veggies to suffice.

So, here follows my pureeing of the above ingredients, in my trusty immersion blender:



Green Onions, Jalapeno and Tomatoes:

After that all got mixed in my slow-cooker pot, I gradually stirred in my huge amount of tomato paste.

Next came the bay leaves, counting them as always, so you know how many to remove later. Then the dried herbs: oregano, parsley and fennel seeds.  Milled slightly in my m&p.

At this point, it was almost ready, but first comes a pretty cool step which I always enjoy doing, despite being a little bit tricky and time-consuming.

Just like a mayonnaise, or an egg-based sauce like hollandaise or bĂ©arnaise, I slowly, and gradually add extra virgin olive oil until the emulsion has taken as much as it can hold.  I know that sounds kind of vague, using words like "taken" and "hold", but this is something which you have to pretty much be there to monitor.  

You'll see though, it's not really hard; as long as you keep your oil stream a trickle, you'll be able to keep stirring IN the oil for a while, and have it essentially incorporate, before it hits a point where the sauce can not hold any more.  

Again, and as always, I like to bring it back to chemistry all the time, right?  Well this is a classic case of concentration gradients, wherein you'll be able to diffuse the oil only up until the point where the solution is in balance.  After that, you'll just have oil floating on top and unable to mix.

Anyway, you should be able to tell when it reaches this balance, and especially if you're trickling the oil in, you'll have time to stop when you need to.

At this point the sauce was ready to simmer in my slow cooker all afternoon.

I like this stage in the prep time; just do the dishes, clean up the counters, and then supper is made a breeze.

In today's instance however, I did add a couple of steps.

MOST of this huge vat of sauce got jarred and frozen, but I ladled out a few cup-fulls and added it to a leftover sausage I had from a few nights ago (it IS leftover night, after all!) :D

So, after quickly boiling some spaghetti al-dente, and mixing in the garlic tomato italian sausage sauce, supper was delicious, I used some leftovers, AND I ended up with a huge amount of sauce leftover!

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