After a certain late-night sales pitch and a resultant depletion of this frau’s bank account, I must pose a question in the hopes of receiving vindication/relief from possible buyer’s remorse:
Attention fellow Frugal Fraus: if even that tiny amount of spaghetti sauce left in the jar after you gleefully dump it into your saucepan makes you want to weep for the wastefulness, turn to your glass of wine. Yes, for solace, but after a sip or two (or five), pour a bit into your spaghetti sauce jar, secure the lid, and do a sassy mambo to jostle its contents. Pour the concoction into your saucepan and VOILA! You are left with a clean jar, a deliciously tipsy spaghetti, and an intense sense of satisfaction at your own ingenuity.
For those of you who love garlic as much as this vampire-repellent Frau, I have discovered a way to sneak it into dishes without raising the eyebrows of your less-enthusiastic housemates.
First, stock fridge with truly enormous jar of minced garlic. Smile fondly at it from time to time as it waits patiently from the fridge door.
When you absolutely cannot do without that garlicky sharpness but your recipe (or your Herr) doesn’t call for the delicious nuggets themselves, dip a teaspoon into the monstrous jar you keep on hand. Gather a (rather heartbreakingly) small pool of the golden nectar, and quickly flick it into your bubbling saucepan/casserole/ice cream bowl (only kidding, Fraus-you mustn’t take everything so seriously) while looking in the opposite direction, as if your decorative jar of packed red peppers and lemon slices is the most fascinating thing on Earth.
Voila! You have successfully snuck your beloved bulb into your dinner with no one the wiser. You will relish your delicious sneakiness, your diners will rave over the depth of flavor, and only your fellow Fraus will know.
Spaghetti does the soul good. And (as every good child will attest) my mother’s is the best.
Of course, being a good son, my herr respectfully disagrees.
Therein lay one of our marriage’s most troubling differences of opinion.
If not for this frau’s occasional desire to avoid morbid obesity, I might very well live on my Fabulous Mother’s spaghetti. Herr Handsome defiantly says the same about his mother’s. Thus, it was put upon me to find a happy and delicious middle ground. My mother’s spaghetti boasts a rich, thick, and slightly sweet sauce made with ground beef. Herr Handsome’s mother’s is a flowing, tangy, homemade sauce made with self-grown tomatoes and jalapenos, and canned according to legendary family recipe. The meat: deer, hunted by my herr’s father on the turnip fields they plant to sustain said animals.
The country wonder of my in-laws’ spaghetti might be intimidating for one without such fierce love for her mothers’ ‘doctored’ store-bought sauce. However, I was determined to make both my herr and myself happy.
I have made several attempts to enjoy ground deer in my spaghetti. Honest, open-minded attempts. Alas, I have come to terms with the fact that I simply cannot abide it. As Herr Handsome can tolerate and even enjoy ground beef in his spaghetti, he makes the first compromise in our spaghetti experiment. And, as I have no heavenly country skills such as vegetable gardening and/or canning, he also makes the second compromise, with store-bought sauce.
We have tried countless jarred sauces. Meaty Mushroom, Tomato and Basil, Very Veggie, Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil…none were deemed worthy. And then we discovered the Holy Grail: Classico Four Cheese. Not too sweet, not too tangy, perfectly bright and full-flavored.
My mother’s spaghetti sauce is full of delicious aromatic herbs like basil and oregano. Unless we were in the middle of summer or had a fully-blooming AeroGarden, these herbs were generally dried. After my first triumphant presentation of my mother’s spaghetti to my herr, I was very firmly informed that he does not like oregano. Especially not dried oregano. And so I must make my first compromise in our spaghetti settlement: forego the abundance of my beloved crushed oregano. My second: bidding a tearful adieu to the approximate 1/4 cup sugar that lends its delicious sweetness to my childhood spaghetti.
And now, approximately 2.5 years in the making…
Foxy Frau and Herr Handsome’s Spaghetti Sauce Settlement:
1. Slap Chop one onion into submission. Chuck into your most gigantic saucepan along with a dash of olive oil and a healthy spoonful of minced garlic. (Teaspoon? Tablespoon? Be your own bosses, Fraus!) Poke this around with your favorite utensil for a minute or two.
2. Add 1lb ground beef and (checking over your aproned shoulder) a cupped-palmful of italian seasoning. Gasp! Does italian seasoning not include the dreaded oregano, you might ask? Indeed, fraus, you can incorporate your favorite ingredients, as long as you are sneaky about it. Stir about your saucepan, inevitably slopping some over the side, until browned. Drain if necessary.
3. Lovingly dump in jar of sauce. Enjoy the delicious slop, the vibrant red against the sad drabness of your browned beef. Mix until incorporated. Turn heat to low, put a hat on your saucepan, and simmer while your noodles of choice bubble away nearby.
I am pleased to report that it is as easy as that. However; the most important elements of our spaghetti compromise have yet to make their appearance. When placing our ridiculously heaped plates on the table, I make sure that three condiments are present as well: by my Herr’s plate, a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce and a truly gigantic jar of grated parmesan cheese. By mine: the sugar bowl.
Ahhh, compromise. It is a beautiful thing, Fraus.
1. Drop potatoes into boiling water from three inches above its roiling surface.
2. Drop potatoes into boiling water from six inches above its roiling surface.
3. Shoot potatoes, NBA style, into boiling water from an imaginary free-throw line in the middle of your kitchen.
4. Dump potatoes into sink and be in no hurry to remove your hands from the steam bath that follows.
5. Reach into steaming water to move the plate that is preventing it from escaping down the drain.
Do not let the acrid haze clouding your kitchen fool you, Fraus: this pot roast is divine in all its charred splendor.
I am a firm believer in the rejuvenating powers of a lazy Saturday. However, such days seem to avoid me like a redheaded plague, and on this Saturday, I had already plodded along through three hours of overtime work at the office and, with the help of my Fabulous Mother (FM), painted one quarter of my ghastly lavender bedroom a delicious chocolate brown. However, as I was feeling particularly carnivorous the week before, I decided that I could not, despite the business of my weekend, do without a pot roast.
Promising a somewhat dismayed-looking FM that I would be back at the painting in a jiff, I escaped the fumes of my bedroom for my gloriously ventilated kitchen and my darling dutch oven, who was waiting for me on the stove.
I am fairly familiar with this pot roast recipe, and was therefore feeling cocky and adventurous as I set the burner to heat and assembled my ingredients:
1 boneless chuck roast (I used arm roast this time, but have been known to roast a rump in my day)
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Pepsi
1 lb baby carrots and as many red potatoes as you can cut before nearly slicing your finger off and calling it a day (approximately 3.5 cups)
This recipe honestly can not be any simpler. Sear, slop, stew. However, as my butter-flavored cooking spray began to steam in the bottom of my dutch oven, I ran with my inflated sense of culinary prowess and snatched the absolutely enormous jar of minced garlic from my fridge. I then proceeded to rub the divine little nuggets into both sides of my raw roast, followed by a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Remember, Fraus: Love means never having to say no to garlic.
A quick sear on one side of my lovingly massaged shmeat resulted in a gorgeously aromatic kitchen and intense sense of Frauish satisfaction as I flipped the roast in my dutch oven and enthusiastically dumped the remaining ingredients (excluding the vegetables, who must wait their turn) atop it.
The recipe at this point calls for a can of water, using the empty soup can. However, as we all know, this Frau cannot resist the call of the vine, so I popped open a bottle of Beringer Cab Sauv and relished the glug-glug as it filled the empty can and then was poured lovingly into the pot.
Feeling extremely accomplished, I flipped the burner to Medium, replaced my dutch oven’s hat, and spent the next two hours happily painting the bedroom and gossiping with FM. It was only when we emerged for refreshment that we noticed the distinct smell that no Frau wants wafting from her kitchen.
My little roast was thoroughly charred on the bottom, and nearly half of the liquid had disappeared, leaving the poor dear nearly naked and surely ashamed. FM assured me it would (probably) be fine, replaced the liquid with more Pepsi, and turned the heat to a simmer.
One additional hour and a gorgeously transformed bedroom later, I dumped my potatoes and carrots into the bubbling brew and proceeded to flop about on the bed for an hour, discussing more decor ideas with FM and Herr Handsome.
I could not convince FM to stay long enough to brave the roast. Perhaps if she had been there to act the stern mother figure while Herr and I were attempting to thicken the leftover roast juices, he would have listened when I bellowed, “FOR THE THIRD TIME, NOT THAT MUCH CORNSTARCH!”
Into my deliciously smoky meat-flavored juices went approximately half a cup of pure cornstarch. My gloriously flavored (albeit thin) gravy was now a cornstarch-flavored, grayish pond in the bottom of my dutch oven.
*Must admit: was unable to prevent a very un-Frauish pout and finger-pointing session that was quickly quelled by my poor Herr’s admission of guilt and proclamation that the gravy he had ruined had indeed been delicious.
Cornstarch pond left to cool, ashamed, in the pot, Herr Handsome and I sat down to what my Herr called the best pot roast he has ever eaten in his life.
The char, the CHAR, Fraus! The char was ambrosic in its shameless smokiness, which permeated the entire roast like a sassy summer breeze. And because I’d like to believe that the success of this supper was not entirely a mistake, I will say that the garlic rub and red wine substitution added a new depth and dimension to my old favorite.
Never fear the char, Fraus. You never know when it might turn an old favorite into a new one!
Must warn, however: my poor Dutch oven was scarred for life by this otherwise glorious success: it took three days of soaking and scrubbing and finally a deglazing with apple cider vinegar and and extreme amount of elbow grease to get the char off of the bottom. Perhaps once the char is accomplished one must be sure to move the roast to a different part of the pot to allow the burned bits to loosen into the juice? Report back, Fraus!