"Ground beef is FOUR DOLLARS a POUND!" exclaimed my Loverlu as she crossed the front door threshold, plastic bags of groceries tugging on both arms in vain attempts to dislocate her shoulders.
"D'ya believe it?! Never thought I'd see the day when buck-eighty-nine beef broke the 3-dollar barrier, let alone four bucks! This is messed-UP! I mean seriously, it's 75%/25% ground what-EVER meat!" She let out a huff at the kitchen table, dropped her bags and called for the boys to porter the goods from the minivan to the kitchen counter.
My girl loves few things more than provisioning the household, but, there are days when I pray for a good deal. Beef prices have been a sore spot for the last 6 months-plus. Good golly, cuts that were for slow-cooking and cheap, now command a premium price. WTF (why the face)?! The premium cuts like ribeye, NY, and filet are laughable. And I'll be go-to-hell if I pay over ten bucks a pound for a steak. That just ain't right, it ain't flippin' right.
...what is more affordable? What does provide good value for your protein dollar? It must've been a 90's ad campaign that coined the phrase:
"Pork, the Other White Meat!"
Lisa had picked up a boneless pork shoulder (about 8 lbs) for less than $2.00 per pound and we cut it up into two-pound pieces for freezing. One piece was left out for Dad to run through the grinder for a pasta dish ($4 in meat). I saute'd the meat, onions, celery and fresh minced garlic (get the fresh heads or already peeled cloves) in, yes, left-over bacon fat. If you wanna see young men act like flies in the kitchen, do this. Seriously, they resurrect from their basement catacombs as aromas somehow waft downward. The aromas carry outside as well from our hood fan. Rhonda, the lady next-door in a motorized wheelchair was watering her yard when I ducked out for just a second to empty the kitchen garbage can.
"Dennis, I don't know what Lisa is cooking, but, it smells real good!" She had a garden hose in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
"You know, she is very talented. You're a lucky man..." she continued as she re-oriented her HoverRound to spray another patch of grass.
Rhonda has called me Dennis since she moved in about four years ago. We never wanted to embarrass her, so, we let it go. When Walt, the retired hippy across the street who won't mow his grass because it might kill honey bees, tried to correct her, we told her 'Dennis' was my middle name and that only "close family and folks from church" call me 'Dennis.' That made her happy knowing that she was part of a pseudo-Catholic secret, like the Knights Templar or Opus Dei.
Anyhoo, so upon return, I bumped the ground pork, onions, celery and garlic with a splash of balsamic vinegar, reduced it, and slugged it with canned tomatoes/puree'. From there, I added a couple tablespoons of Italian seasonings and of course, 2 tablespoons of ground, toasted fennel seeds.
Lisa had Liam's 'Bullet Blender' out and was processing some fresh basil.
"What the Hell ya doin', babe?" I asked her.
"If we garnish with fresh basil, Siobhan won't eat it. She's going through that phase of 'No Green Stuff."
"Mother o' Jesus," I said, "The same basil she planted with you, she won't eat. Fer the luv o' Mike!"
No sooner than Lisa's basil puree was ready, so too were the pasta shells. She combined the meat sauce with the basil, tossed it with the pasta and 'POOF!", dinner was ready.
We sat outside with a MicroPlane grater and a chunk of Romano Pecorino at the center of the table.
A blessing was said.
If you're ever feeling down about your cooking, invite a herd of young men to your home for dinner. You can keep the girls. Teen aged girls are a pain in the arse that will not talk about food until you leave. Usually, it's not complimentary and they tend to critique, unable to enjoy the moment. Go figure.
Boys love food and wax profane about really good food. Lisa and I said, 'Thank You' as much as we said, 'Watch your language, watch your language.'
As market prices of beef and chicken soar, look around at what is available and how you can use it.
Flexibility is key in shopping, cooking and friendships. Just don't call me 'Dennis.'
Pasta with Meat Sauce and Goodness: Serves 8.
Ground Pork.......2 lbs
Onion, diced.......2 C.
Celery, diced.......1 C.
Garlic, minced.....1/4 C.
Oil, whatever........1/2 C.
Balsamic Vinegar..1/2 C.
Basil, fresh............1 bunch, blasted with oil in the processor for a paste
Tomato Puree'.......2 qts.
Break up ground pork and saute' in oil on MH (medium-high) heat. When meat is cooked, add onions, celery and garlic. Cook till onions are transparent. Add balsamic, Italian seasoning and ground toasted fennel seeds. When vinegar is reduced by half, add tomato product, fresh basil puree', bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Cook 2 pounds of pasta and figure on left overs. Combine pasta with sauce and serve with generous amounts of Pecorino cheese. Keep the grater and cheese on the table; everyone LOVES to do their own!
Take care, God bless and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life Aren't Things!"