8.26.2008

Fat jar tomato sauce

Heaven might just lie in a vat of simmering tomato sauce. Late yesterday afternoon, beneath shuddering clouds and the hazy clap of thunder, I watched the sky light up my heavy bottomed pot.

Thick, red fruit bubbled up in the flash, and the smell of rich red wine and frying fat rose up from the stove. Onion and salt, rosemary and thyme wafted into the rafters, and the storm began to quell.

By the time the rain had stopped, the sauce reached a slow, lilting simmer. The earth began to let go outside, sucking up the rain puddles and dew drops and breathing against the stark silence of the passing storm.

As the sounds of the yard began, slowly at first and then chirping and humming and swaying in earnest, again the sauce roared up. The pot burped and spat as red juice reduced to a thick, rich sauce.

The secret was in the fat jar from the freezer. Layer upon layer of drippings from bacon and salt pork, pink, juicy burgers, pork tenderloin and duck breast lay piled up, chilled stiff, in a Clausen pickle jar in the freezer door. I used it for frying, sometimes, for greasy spoon dishes like omelettes or grilled cheese. I'd snuck it into waffles once before, and even cornbread. It had never, ever, let me down. Bacon, as they say, is good with everything.

So in place of the olive oil requested by most recipes, I picked up a fork and began to pry away the top layer from the fat jar. I dropped it into the pan—hot!—and watched it leap and sizzle in anticipation of the onions. Finally they joined and then came the tomatoes and wine, dying the pot a thick, deep red. Rosemary topped it off with a dash of green.

This morning, lacking pasta, I ate a bowl plain and fast, cupping the spoon to my mouth in hungry anticipation. Not your average breakfast, to be sure, but delicious nonetheless.

FAT JAR TOMATO SAUCE

Serves 6-8


Drop 5 tablespoons fat drippings into a hot pan. Add 1 cup of chopped white onions, and sauté until translucent. Add 6 cups chopped tomatoes. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer until reduced by a third. Season with 1/3 cup fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, or basil) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve generously over fresh pasta.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.