turkey sausage and mushroom ragu
Hi friends, it’s been awhile. I’ve miss you and I’ve missed this little space here. To say that life has taken a turn for the busiest would be an understatement. I don’t have ten seconds to myself. What I have been doing, however, is noting some funny things around me lately. Either I’ve grown more observant with the change of seasons, or the universe has grown stranger. Allow me to share.
The other day, as I was walking on my way to Andrew Scrivani’s for a day of cooking and shooting, something I do every Thursday, a dog passed me by and walked into a laundromat called “Klean and Kleaner”. I could say “wandered”, but that would imply an aimlessness; and the manner in which he entered the space was so purposeful and decisive, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was doing laundry and needed to switch it from the washer to the dryer. And then I thought to myself, “Is his doing his laundry or his owners?” I guess I’ll never know. But I have been contemplating the strange name of the shop – it is Klean or is it Kleaner? Or is it just like Alice in Wonderland – curiouser and curiouser?
My ring is at the jeweler’s again, this time we’re changing the band all together. For those of you who don’t know, I had to get the ring resized because I have, literally, children’s size fingers. I mean, they are really small. And when the band got resized, the new angle made the tiny gems loose and one fell out. I got the ring fixed, but then it didn’t look even and I had to bring it to the jeweler again. Then another tiny gem fell out, and this time I decided for a band that will be a bit sturdier on the inside, even if on the outside it looks the same.
Anyway, on my way back from the jeweler to Brooklyn, I got on the F train, looked up, and saw the woman who lives the next door over eyeing me and my Atlantic Monthly. And though she recognized me and knew who I was, she pretended not to know me. We’ve been living next to one another for almost two years and she’s not once said hello, not even in the laundry room while we’re sorting through our clothes. Oftentimes, when I pass by her apartment door, I smell pot. That’s not to say I am some kind of a square, boring, anti-pot nut, but the frequency with which I smell it makes me wonder what else she does with her time – seemingly nothing else because that smell is always there. Daily.
On Friday, New York submerged in this pensive shade of grey; it’s my favorite kind of New York – a quieter and more gentle one. In the morning, I was en route to a freelance project and I stopped by Café Falai for a coffee. I ordered a cortado, which is something I order often, and then the barista gave me a lecture on what exactly a cortado was. And in my head I was all, um, I know, that’s why I ordered it. But I took my coffee and thanked her, smiling on the inside; it was almost as if I ordered a borscht and she proceeded to tell me that it was a Russian beet soup. In any case, she meant well, I think.
Andrew is away this weekend – he comes back next Friday. And I miss him quite a bit. That’s not to say that I am unable to go on with my days; really, I quite like sitting alone and writing, so in a way, it’s almost like a writer’s retreat for me, except I’m the one staying put. But I miss the everydayness of him. I miss making him tea in the morning and going about the apartment hunting down empty water glasses he leaves behind. I miss him sitting on the couch reading the Sunday paper, and I miss seeing him pet Forrest – because for someone who, for a year, was telling me he isn’t a cat person, he sure seems like he loves that feline entirely too much.
I also spent the early portion of yesterday afternoon mad at him, mumbling to myself that while he is away gallivanting with fancy journalist-types, I am left at home to clean up cat puke and then fail horribly at getting said cat into the carrier to take him to the vet. The vet thing never happened, but what ensued was a struggle; a struggle I lost, with Forrest hissing, scratching, even growling; culminating with Forrest spending the entire day under the bed, not eating, and turning away from me when I would try to give him a treat under the bed. He looked at me with those round eyes as if to say, “I trusted you and you betrayed me.” I had a good cry in the middle of my bedroom, sitting on the floor. If it weren’t so comical in retrospect, it would be sad. But all is well now – I’ve been forgiven, and Forrest is sleeping soundly at my side, pressing his little paw against my thigh. I just might die of cute overload; that and relief that I’m forgiven for my transgressions. Next time, Andrew gets to be the bad “parent” and help with the vet visit.
So with all this rambling, there’s no way for me to segue smoothly into this, because this has been a hodge-podge of loosely strung thoughts (and thank you for humoring me, that is if you’re still reading!), but you must make this ragu. I say must and I don’t use that word lightly. If you at all like a good ragu, then just get ready because you’ll be shocked a ragu made from turkey is this good. Blasphemous – maybe; good – definitely. But I’m okay with being a bit blasphemous especially if that means good things on your plate.
I played around with Melissa Clark’s Times’ recipe when it first came out, but then it got too hot to eat ragu – it’s fairly sturdy fare. But as fall rolled around, I went back to the recipe, playing around with it, taking a few things out and putting others in. Out went the pancetta (I was after a ragu that my future father-in-law could eat and he is kosher); in went the anchovies. Regular ground turkey was swapped in for some spiced Italian turkey sausage that I get from my farmers’ market – I get the meat without the casings. I snuck in some mushrooms; and boy do they contribute to the meaty taste! I upped the amounts of wine and tomato paste, and scaled back on salt to compensate for the already-seasoned meat and the briny fish.
And what you get is so close to a real Italian ragu, you just might be surprised that you’re eating turkey and not pork. It’s a kind of thing that tastes amazing the night you make it, and transcendent the following day as the flavors meld and develop. And while it could be a bit too involved for a weeknight meal, it’s something you could cook while eating, and then reheat the following day, or several, for a great, hearty, filling autumn fare.
And with this, I hope I’ve somewhat redeemed myself for weeks for silence. If not, fear not – I’ve a few tricks up my sleeves in the next week or so. So get ready. For now, a happy, restful Sunday to all.
Turkey Sausage Ragu
Adapted, quite a bit, from Melissa Clark
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or substitute with another 2 tablespoons olive oil)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Italian-spiced turkey sausage, casings removed
3/4 pounds cremini and portabella mushrooms with stems
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2/3 cup carrots, finely diced
2/3 cup celery, finely diced
4 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, drained and torn to bits with hands
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound of pasta (I prefer to use Calamarata here, but you can use any biggish pasta with some ample openings for the sauce to get stuck in)
1. In a heavy-bottomed stockpot or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter and warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the turkey sausage and cook, in batches as necessary, until lightly browned.
2. Remove the meat from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil and the mushrooms, and cook until reduced and limp – 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pan. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, and the anchovies, sweat over medium heat until the anchovies have melted. Stir in the chili flakes and garlic and cook, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until very soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red wine and bring to a boil.
3. Add the meat and mushrooms back to the pan, along with the tomatoes, 2 1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 40 minutes, covered, before uncovering and letting to simmer until the sauce has slightly reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce should looks slightly soupy – it gets thicker as it cools and gets absorbed by the pasta. Taste and add, additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt the water generously. Cook pasta according to package instructions until 2 minutes from al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pot of sauce, cooking for 2 minutes until pasta is al dente. (You can also make the sauce ahead of time and reheat it in a skillet, if you prefer). Serve.
Serves 4 to 6.