Yeah, I spelled it the French way. Luckily, when I was researching the dish, Google was quick to correct me and thus turn up many more articles than my original search provided. After cross-referencing Cook’s Illustrated with several of Mario Batali’s recipes, I came up with my own French-ified version. (As one of my old teachers used to say, “the Italians invented cooking, and the French made it better.”)
I started with some poitrine fumée from the butcher, cut it into small pieces, and put it in a Dutch oven over low heat along with a little olive oil and butter. While it rendered, I harnessed my knife skills to cut onion, carrot, and celery into a small dice. By this point the bacon was starting to crisp, so I added the mirepoix, salt, pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and fresh thyme. I stirred it around and let the vegetables cook down until they were very soft and about half their original volume.
Then I added ground beef (freshly ground to order by the butcher) and stirred constantly in order to break up the lumps of meat for an even-textured final result.
When the beef was nicely crumbled and browned, I added some minced garlic, and then the long, slow simmering process began…
First I added a cup of milk and let it reduce to just a hint of moisture. Then I did the same thing with a cup of red wine. Next came tomato purée, which I let reduce as well to get that nice roasted tomato flavor. After that I added a can of tomatoes, diced, with their juices. I stuck in a couple of bay leaves, seasoned again with salt, pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar. (The tomatoes were not of the highest quality and smelled pretty acidic, so I wanted to compensate for that. Also, that’s the way my mom did it when she made spaghetti sauce from scratch.) I let this mixture simmer for an hour or so, uncovered.
When the sauce was getting nice and thick (Nick referred to it as “sloppy joe consistency,” which was an apt description) I put a pot of water on for the pasta. I tasted the sauce and adjusted the seasoning, fished out the bay leaves, and turned off the heat so that it would be just the right temperature when the pasta was ready. Which it was, a few minutes later. (I love the abundance of cheap fresh pasta here!) I dished it up and sprinkled a little Grana Padano over the top.
Just right for the gray, rainy evening. Ah, Paris in the Spring!