Samantha Irby’s “Meaty” & Four-Hour Bolognese Sauce
I want to be Samantha Irby’s BFF IRL. Readers of her hilarious blog, Bitches Gotta Eat, know what I’m talking about — her spare-nothing honesty, her self-deprecating sense of humor and her unflinching observations about living young, broke and creative in the city make her the kind of rad chick you just want to hang out with. Preferably over a large pizza and a pint of ice cream.
All the qualities I love about Bitches Gotta Eat are polished and condensed in this collection of essays, making it, impossibly, even more enjoyable than the blog. Though no detail is too personal for Irby to share — readers will quickly learn about the messy details of her Crohn’s disease and the heartbreaking story of her mom’s death — Meaty is comforting reading. It reminds me that it’s okay to be in my 20s and not buying a condo, marrying a consultant or even knowing the last time I Swiffered.
Irby’s Meaty essays tackle the issues that consume me and my friends’ city lives: dating, making a living, struggling to not wear the same damn wrap dress to every single work function. I know I’ve mentioned her humor already, but let me stress: I laughed inappropriately on the bus a few times and found myself wanting to text my friends with lines from the book. When Meaty was over, I was irrationally bummed. Luckily, Bitches Gotta Eat still is something to look forward to while I wait not at all patiently for a second book from Irby.
Meaty inspired me to cook something, yes, meaty, but also comforting in a “because you’re worth it!” kind of way. I’ve been meaning to tackle Lidia Bastianich’s Bolognese sauce recipe, so I took that as the starting point and tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes and ingredients. It takes four hours, but it’s worth it for the cooking smells alone. I ladled the sauce over homemade gnocchi, but you could easily use store-bought gnocchi or pasta instead.
FOUR HOUR BOLOGNESE SAUCE
- 1 lb. ground beef (I used 90/10 fat content)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 4 strips bacon
- ½ c. dry white wine
- ½ c. dry vermouth
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 large celery stalks
- 1 carrot
- 4 T. tomato paste
- 4 c. milk
- ¼ t. nutmeg
- 5 dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place beef and pork in a large mixing bowl and mix them together with your hands. Add the white wine and vermouth, then mix again so it’s evenly distributed.
Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces, then chop in a food processor with the peeled garlic cloves until the mixture becomes paste-like.
Pour olive oil into the bottom of a large sauce pot or Dutch oven, then add the bacon-garlic mixture.
Over medium heat, stir until the fat has rendered out of the bacon, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the onion.
Stir in the minced onions and and cook for 2-4 minutes, until the onions release some of their moisture.
Chop the celery and carrot finely. Stir in celery and carrot and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
Push the vegetables to the side of the pan to make room for the ground pork and beef. Add the meat to the pan, allowing it to mostly brown. Then mix everything together to continue browning the meat.
Cook until all the juices and liquid have cooked off; this can vary timing-wise, but it took about 45 minutes when I did it. Stir occasionally, adjusting the heat if needed so that the meat doesn’t burn.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a saucepan.
When the liquid has cooked off the meat, add tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes. Pour in half the milk mixture and stir, then add nutmeg and grated/microplaned porcini mushrooms. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cover, checking every 20-30 minutes to add a bit more milk so that the meat is always just covered by milk. Adjust heat if needed so that a simmer is maintained. Cook for three hours. Serve over gnocchi or pasta.