Monday, November 7, 2011

Pepperoni Sauce

 I'm not a habitual "Top Chef" viewer, but even I have heard about winner Mike Isabella's pepperoni sauce, which he served in a finale of the show. My friends Eric and Shayna tweeted pictures of it from their visit to his DC restaurant, Graffiato, and it looked so scrumptious, I knew I had to try it.

Luckily, The Washington Post snagged the recipe. It's a bit time-intensive, but makes for great Sunday cooking and will leave you with lots of leftovers if you're just cooking for two.

First, slice pepperoni thinly (I used Boar's Head, but you could probably use pre-sliced), narrowly slice five cloves of garlic (shown above) and dice a small onion. Start to heat six tablespoons of olive oil in a pot on medium heat until it shimmers.

Meanwhile, toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking so they don't burn. Once they're fragrant and slightly darkened, they're ready. Move them off the heat.

Add the onions and garlic to the oil. It will sizzle FAST and I'm sorry to say mine browned way quicker than I would have liked. I think it's important not to let the oil get TOO hot too fast.

Once the onions are golden, add the pepperoni and stir occasionally until it's fragrant and darkened. this also happened too fast for me, but thankfully, it all turned out okay.

 Eesh, that is starting to look burnt isn't it?

 Mike Isabella recommends adding a can of chopped plum tomatoes, but I only had peeled tomatoes in juice in my pantry. That worked just fine. I crushed the tomatoes with my hands first, then added it to the mix, then added 1 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and one bay leaf.

Bring the sauce to a boil, still on medium heat (turn down if it's bubbling too much) and cover for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. I decided to serve the sauce with pasta, but Isabella served his with braised pork and serves it with chicken at his restaurant. It could even be delicious as a savory dip for bread or fried zucchini. I, however, made penne.

Working in batches, ladle the sauce into a food processor or strong blender (our Kitchen-Aid is awesome) and puree. It should only take a few seconds. I was able to puree the sauce in two batches...don't worry about taking out the bay leaf.

 Et voila — a pureed pepperoni sauce.

What you end up with is a marinara alternative, with a bit of kick. It's a very flavorful sauce, and I'm thinking of using it as an alternative for chicken parmigiana or something of that ilk. I'd be interested to try the real thing at Graffiato, but this homemade version was pretty delicious. It should last 3 days in the fridge and 3 months frozen.

The whole process took about an hour and a half, so I definitely consider this weekend cooking unless you have more time to cook on weeknights than me!

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