SUNDAY GRAVY: IT'S GOOD, FELLAS
In 1990, I watched Martin Scorsese’s movie masterpiece, Goodfellas for the first time. Memories of that viewing have stayed with me ever since.
These memories are not of the plot, which if I am honest, I can barely remember. They are not of the performances, however blistering some of them obviously are. Nor are these memories of the violence, which if I recall correctly turned my stomach at the time. No, my abiding memories of this cinema classic are all, unsurprisingly about food.
A short way into the film, Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, has his first experience of time in jail. Even taking into account cinematic licence, it does not appear that he had too hard a time of it and came away with a useful little kitchen tip for later. His fellow inmates showed him how to cut wafer thin slices of garlic using the sharp edge of a razor blade and he put this skill to good use making “Sunday Gravy” or "Sunday Sauce". This is an American Italian take on a Sicilian tomato sauce and involves a great deal of meat slow cooking in the pot while the family went to church, hence the name.
I have wanted to try and make that sauce ever since and even splashed out cold hard cash on the rather dreadful “The Wise Guy” cookbook which the real Henry Hill published during his thankfully brief moment of fame. For whatever reason, in the intervening two decades, I had never got around to making it and the book was soon deposited at the local charity shop to make someone an offer they are probably still refusing. It apparently also reared its head again during episodes of The Sopranos, but as I was never a fan, it passed me by.
Last week, I tuned to America’s Test Kitchen on television. It is an interesting if slightly patronising cookery show and their recipes are proving to be very reliable as I explore traditional American cooking. On this show, they were making the Sunday Gravy and my interest was piqued once more. Taking their recipe as a starting point, I began to do some research and yesterday finally got around to making a dish which had stayed in my memory for so long.
Traditionally, Sunday Sauce would always include beef or veal meatballs, sausages and flank steak which had been pounded thin and then rolled around a stuffing. Given that sybil is not so fond of the cow, I substituted turkey for the meatballs and used pork spare ribs as well as sweet Italian sausage. It's a labour intensive dish , to be sure and dates back to a time when family roles were more separated and women were not trying to hold down the roles of employee and motherhood at the same time.
However, it is well worth the effort and makes a delicious, rich sauce perfect to be slurped up with pasta and a glass or three of red wine.
SIMON’S SUNDAY GRAVY
INGREDIENTS (Feeds an Army)
1lb Spare ribs
6 Sweet Italian sausages
1lb Ground turkey
FOR THE SAUCE
1 Large white onion (finely diced)
3 Cloves garlic (finely minced)
1 Green Chilli (finely minced)
1 20 Ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato puree
1 Cup red wine
1 Cup beef stock
2 Teaspoon dried oregano
½ Cup Fresh chopped basil
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
FOR THE MEATBALLS (made with the ground turkey, but you can use Veal, Pork or Beef)
1 Cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ Cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 Teaspoon dried oregano
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes.
¼ Cup Buttermilk (or use yoghurt mixed with milk)
1 Egg Yolk
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil for frying.
Your choice of Pasta.
Cut the ribs into two rib sections, trimming off excess fat.
Sear the ribs in olive oil until they are golden. Do this in batches so the temperature of the oil does not drop.
Remove the ribs and set aside catching all the juices.
Sear the sausages until golden and remove from the pan.
Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook for five minutes until it has slightly softened.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the chopped green chilli and cook for one minute.
Add the tomato puree and cook for three minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes and mix well with the contents of the pan.
Season with Salt & Pepper and add the oregano.
Add the red wine and beef stock.
Add the chopped basil and mix well.
Return the meat to the pan along with its juices and bring to a simmer.
You can either, as I did, transfer this to a slow cooker for four or so hours or place in a 325oF/160C/Gas Mark 3 oven for two and a half to three hours.
Make a panade (a paste of bread, milk and herbs) by blending together all the ingredients with a fork until well combined.
Add the ground turkey and mix well with your fingers.
Separate into twelve portions and roll into meatballs between the palms of your hand.
Place on a plate, cover in cling film and leave to chill.
One hour before the sauce is cooked, remove the meatballs from the fridge and allow to come back to room temperature.
Sear the meatballs in a pan until completely brown on all sides.
Remove from the pan and then add to the sauce with all their juices.
Allow the meatballs to cook for at least thirty minutes by which time the sauce and sausages will also be cooked and the meat from the ribs will falling off the bone.
Remove as much of the oil that has gathered on the surface of the sauce as possible with a spoon.
Remove the meat from the sauce and keep warm. Some people shred the meat from the ribs at this point. I didn’t bother.
Cook your pasta, strain and lightly dress with two or three spoonfuls of the sauce.
Serve with a good helping of meat, sausages and meatballs piled on top
Sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino or parmesan
Decide amongst yourselves who you are going to whack for disrespecting the family.