The wonders of reductions

So, this is what I do when I’m home alone and need a quick, but satisfying meal that can be made in tandem with a little email writing, data managing, or code writing: I make pasta sauces. This works well because of the downtime during liquid reduction in almost all sauce recipes. I make all kinds of sauces and rarely the same one twice. Lately, I’ve been drifting away from tomato bases. Not that I don’t appreciate the tomato based sauce, but I think the ‘Moor’s apple’ needs to be dislodged from the hegemony it has enjoyed since it’s arrival in Europe from the new world in the 1540s and subsequent domination of Southern italian cuisine. I’ve been focusing a lot on wine reductions, ever since I started with a simple Marsala recipe a couple of years ago.

Marsala Sauce (3-4 servings)

2 Tbs butter
2 c sliced mushrooms
3/4 c Marsala wine
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1/8 c Balsamic vinegar
1/3 c chopped green onion
salt, pepper, garlic (2-3 cloves), thyme, bay leaves

Saute garlic and mushrooms in butter ~2 min. Add onions for another minute. Deglaze pan with wine & vinegar, boil ~1/2 liquid off. Turn down heat to med-lo. Add cream while stirring vigorously. Add spices, stir until cream thickens. Remove bay leaves, serve over pasta and chicken or (my favorite) gruyere cutlets.

So, let’s talk elaborations and changes. Sometimes using olive oil instead of cream is better. Especially if you have a basil plant and a mortar & pestle. What I do is pick 4 or 5 leaves and grind them in the mortar, right in the olive oil. This is one of those occasions (unlike stir frying) where the extra-virgin high quality stuff is worth the money.

Switching wines is fun. A tawny port can be delicious, plus makes a good digestif when the meal is finished. My recent favorite is Whiskers Blake and not just because the label matches the game animal/hunting theme here at the Pine Lodge. Not that it hurts.

Instead of using the tomato sauce, I delight in sauteing tomatoes and/or red peppers in place of the mushrooms. This is a good opportunity for those large jars of italian red peppers you can find in most supermarkets these days. It doesn’t have to be the fancy marinated kind either.

…and a little cheese and steamed baby arugula is quite nice, I discovered yesterday.


About this entry