Over the past 10 years, Lick the Plate has focused mostly on the abundant dining out options we have in North County. I’ve primarily told the stories of the people behind the concepts and working the kitchens that serve up an increasingly diverse range of culinary options. That said, I’ve always made it a point to try and set Sunday as a day to put work aside for at least half the day and when time allows, put some effort into a Sunday dinner.
For me, a Sunday trip through the farmers market provides the inspiration and some ingredients for the meal. I really don’t want to spend all day cooking so it’s usually something simple, hearty and preferably can simmer low and slow on the stovetop or in a slow cooker, filling the house with delectable aromas.
Given that I’m empty nesting, that usually entails rounding up some friends or neighbors but that’s never a problem. Is the food the point? Not entirely. We all have so many food options available to carry out, even on a Sunday, that it would be very easy to hole up and do as we do many other nights during the week.
Rather, the meal is the excuse. It’s the attraction, and it’s the glue. No one is going to go to your house on a Sunday afternoon without expecting food, and there’s no way they will stick around without a leisurely meal to slow them down. And since Sunday dinners are often late-afternoon affairs, there is plenty of time to linger over dessert and stories and be done in time for a Sunday night full of “60 Minutes,” “The Simpsons” and Bourdain. That’s my mix anyway.
One of the terrific things about Sunday dinners is that few people have ultra-high expectations of the food, though they do expect enough of it. This doesn’t mean the food shouldn’t be good, but the quantity gives you an excuse to produce a big pot of Bolognese, crockpot of chili, a lasagna or other huge pasta dish, a classic rib or pork roast or a nice big oven-roasted chicken.
One of my Sunday favorites of late is a classic Bolognese sauce that I prep around 1 p.m. and simmer on the stove for a good four to five hours. The foundation comes from Marcella Hazan, the cookbook author who many think was a key influencer in how Americans cook Italian food. The New York Times posted the recipe and it can be easily found online by searching “Marcella Hazan Bolognese.”
Mario Batali has a solid recipe as well, so I took what I liked from both of them. Search Batali Bolognese and it will come right up. I like a 50/50 mix of ground veal and pork as my meat foundation, always include nutmeg and finish the sauce with a cup or two of milk for the last 30 minutes of simmering. The right noodles are essential to this dish as well and a thicker egg noodle like a pappardelle or tagliatelle will stand up to it nicely. One important note here, the only local market I’ve found with ground veal is Lazy Acres in Encinitas.
Garlic bread or just a simple baguette warmed and served with some soft real butter is essential to ensure every last drop of that amazing sauce gets mopped up. I’ve also taken to creating mini Bolognese sandwiches with both sauce and pasta between two slices of Texas toast garlic bread. A simple side of sautéed asparagus is a perfect way to add a vegetable element to this dish and one that can be eaten with your fingers. I like to serve it up in an oversized bowl as it enables the sauce to cover the noodles better that way. A simple Italian red table wine or even a slightly chilled Rose will be perfect to serve with this dish. I should also mention that this sauce tastes even better the next day, so please make enough to allow for ample leftovers.
Roast chicken, meatloaf and a slow-cooked crockpot pot roast are my other go-to Sunday dinners. These also provide very nice sandwiches the next day for lunch. If you would like my recipes for these, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.