Whenever I find myself making dinner for friends and family, one of my biggest fall back recipes is my own version of Chicken Scallopini with lots of sage and Gruyere cheese! One of the things that really brings in the complements with said chicken is the savory red marinara in which the meat is finished. During the final cooking, the flavors blend and yield a really wonderful sauce! I was thinking the other week "why can I not just make the sauce without the chicken?" As it turns out...
~Roasted Tomato Marinara~
3 Cloves roasted garlic
1 Bunch basil leaves (about 8 medium leaves)
2 Medium sage leaves, chopped or whole
2-3 Sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 C off dry white wine, such as a Riesling
1/3 C organic chicken stock
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
EV olive oil for coating
Ground black pepper
1 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
SPECIAL TOOLS - Aluminum Foil
Blender or Food Processor
Large Cast Iron Pan
Yield: About 2 1/2 Cups
For this round I wanted to try something a bit different so instead of using canned, stewed tomatoes, I roasted fresh tomatoes with olive oil and basil for a more robust flavor change. Feel free to use canned or even stew your own to see which suits your tastes best if the roastiness isn't for you.
Start by roasting your tomatoes and garlic. Preheat oven to 350f and center a rack in the oven for roasting.
Peel any loose skin from one large garlic bulb then, with a very sharp knife (never knew how sturdy those things were before the first time I tried this,) cut about 1/2" from the top, just enough to expose most of the cloves, and place in a small dish. Try to select a bulb for this that is longer than wider so you can expose more of the cloves without cutting it too thin.
Drizzle a small amount (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) of olive oil over the top of the bulb and let it sit until you're ready with the tomatoes.
I like the timing of this recipe's timing because you can roast everything in the same oven and all the ingredients come out the right temp when you need them!
Now for the tomatoes!
I like to use Roma tomatoes, red wine tomatoes, or a mix of different Heirlooms when the Farmer's Market is up and they're in season. For me, heirlooms take better to being roasted whereas Romas are the best for stewing. Now to work...
Slice your tomatoes in two equal pieces width wise, taking care to cut pieces that are all about the same size for even cooking. Chiffonade your basil leaves and toss into a bowl with tomatoes, oil, salt and pepper then toss to coat evenly. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in your cast iron pan and set aside. Dont worry if they're crowded and bunched up as they will shrink while they cook.
Now take your garlic that has been soaking and wrap with aluminum foil. Wrap it up tight so any juices don't run out and powder coat the bottom plate of your oven. I like to make a little aluminum foil boat just to be safe.
Place both pan and garlic into the oven to roast. The tomatoes will roast for a full 45-55 minutes but remove the garlic after only 25 minutes, letting it cool at room temp until the tomatoes are done.
When the tomatoes are done to your liking remove them from the oven and let them rest about 5 minutes so when you blend them, they wont explode all over the place from the heat
and steam... Always be wary of placing hot things, especially liquids into a blender or processor.
~~~FOOD SCIENCE CONTENT~~~
Bringing back the science! Feels good to be back! Short notes this time but that's all right. Lets get to it!
If you watch enough food network, or if you've had the personal misfortune of first hand experience, you will know that putting hot liquid in a blender is a poor decision at the best of times... Hot liquid explosion and high likelihood of severe facial burns. But why? well... physics minds no mans law...
|The Ideal Gas Law. Pressure x Volume = moles of gas x ideal gas constant x temperature (in kelvin)|
When hot liquid is poured into a blender you have the start of a problem. The liquid is high and deep having very little surface area and thus very little heat can escape. Steam and other expanding gasses on the other hand is the far greater problem. When the blender is turned on it creates a perfect storm of high heat and expanding gasses. As the spinning blades pull hot liquid down to the center bottom of the carafe so do they pull down plenty of relatively cool, room temperature air. The cooler air mixes with the nearly boiling liquid and jumps in temperature, expanding rapidly and creating quite a lot of pressure. The rapid agitation also pumps plenty of energy into the liquid, releasing steam and compounding the welling pressure. Quite similar to the reaction caused when you drop a mentos into diet cola, the pressure forming has no where to go but up and out, creating a small but relatively powerful explosion of boiling liquid, powerful enough to blow the lid off most blenders even when held in place with your hand. No fun...
The best precaution to avoid this startling series of events is to remember to let any liquid cool for a short while and to never fill your blender or food processor more than half full. Better safe than sorry when avoiding 2nd degree burns I say.
~~~FOOD SCIENCE CONTENT~~~
Now that everything is cooled (but not cold) Place your tomatoes, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (feel free to use olive oil here as well. I would venture to use the lighter flavor olive oil though) into the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to bring everything together into a more or less uniform mixture. This depends a lot on your taste. I like a chunkier sauce to be honest so I only pulse 2 or three times just until the garlic and sage are chopped and mixed in properly.
Now for the final step!
In a medium sauce pot over medium low heat combine chicken stock and white wine (I really like a good off dry Riesling for this particular recipe) then bring the liquid just barely to a simmer for about 2 minutes to knit the flavors.
Before I get too far, I want to stop to make a point about organic ingredients: Chicken stock is made from whole, often skin on vegetables, whole herbs, and whole chickens.
|Organic apples at the local Farmer's Market|
Whole foods have great health benefits but can hold in a few unpleasant secrets... the skins, roots, and leaves tend to be where any pesticides or other pollutants remain even after proper washing... and that is exactly where the flavors come from in stock. So when buying
or making stock, be wary of what might be in there... delicious, delicious organophosphates...
Turn up your heat to medium and pour in your tomato herb base then return the sauce to a moderate simmer. Cook uncovered to reduce the sauce by about one quarter, seasoning to your liking as you go (you can add a small amount of sugar here to cut the acidity if you like.) Remove from heat and cool quickly over an ice bath to below 41f before refrigerating to retard any microbial activity and to prevent the sauce from warming the refrigerator.
Marinara! Huzzah for red sauce I say! This particular recipe, as written, I think goes best with grilled chicken but the sky can be the limit with simple red sauce. For this recipe, whatever kind of pasta, bread etc. you're using it for dictates the spices and herbs. Given how many combinations are available... see how many you can fit in in a life time! Keep on experimenting!