Kevin’s Birthday and Bolognese

To celebrate turning 42 years young it seemed appropriate to do something Kevin would have loved doing at age 8 (and beyond). We copied our friends Jason & Daisy and planned a day at XLanes, one of the city’s best kept secrets. They have bowling, karaoke, a sports bar, and an arcade in one place so your husband can run amok.

For me, the most tantalizing part is the walk there. It’s located in Little Tokyo Galleria mall and you pass a row of small restaurants serving noodles, sushi, Korean BBQ, ramen, and tofu bowls. If it weren’t his birthday I would have snuck out and inhaled as many noodle dishes as possible.

Kevin's Cookie Puss cake

It was so good to get everyone together. Yes, this is a Carvel Cookie Puss cake from Jay & Yvonne.

After a sizeable bottle of Jameson had been passed around the karaoke escalated from “Dick in a Box” to a “Ghostbusters” dance battle.

Then it escalated again to deafening death metal Pantera. We were in a private room, but I’ve no doubt their howling echoed through the entire place, vibrating tables and making toddlers cry.

We had all lost track of time at this point and their ear shattering screeches were just begging to get us kicked out. Sure enough, I turn and through the glass there’s an extra large security guard in a black suit hovering outside of our room. I’m thinking, “That’s it. Fun’s over. They’re going to charge us extra for the room for sure now.”

I see our friend Dan open the door, have an exchange, and then Dan closes the door(!) and continues with the karaoke. Moments later the general manager appears. Good grief. Now we’ve ignored the first warning and they called in management. The security guard and manager are now arguing outside of our room.

We quickly cut the music, pack up, and start to leave with apologies ready. The manager left so Kevin approaches the security guard, prepared to do damage control.

“So sorry sir, we lost track of time. It’s my birthday and we were just having fun, we had no idea how loud it was—”

“I LOVE PANTERA! You guys killed it. In my twenty years working here nobody has ever sung Pantera before. You just made my night. The manager was mad and wanted to kick you out, but I told him to leave you alone. Let me buy you guys a drink.”

Devil horns all around. I find myself thanking the gods of metal surprisingly often.

The party continued into the night and Kevin had a three-day hangover so I made him some bolognese. I avoid making bolognese because the one key ingredient–hours for simmering–is scarce for me. But this version is much faster and pretty delicious. And you can drink the rest of the bottle of red wine in the name of being unwasteful.

I cut some of the butter and cream, and I admit I’ve made it more often with bacon instead of pancetta because really, who happens to have pancetta in the fridge?

Nigel Slater’s Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese
from Food52

Serves 4

For the bolognese
4 tablespoons butter
3 ounces cubed pancetta
1 medium onion
2 fat cloves garlic
1 carrot
2 stalks celery
2 large, flat mushrooms such as portobello, about 4 ounces
2 bay leaves
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 cup crushed tomatoes or passata
¼ cup red wine
¾ cup stock
1 nutmeg
¾ cup half-and-half or cream

For serving
Spaghetti or tagliatelle for 4
Grated Parmesan

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pot — then stir in the pancetta and let it cook for five minutes or so, without coloring much. Meanwhile peel and finely chop the onion and garlic and stir them into the pancetta. Peel and finely chop the carrot and celery and stir them in, too. Lastly, finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan, then tuck in the bay leaves and leave to cook for ten minutes over a moderate heat, stirring frequently. Turn up the heat and tip in the meat, breaking it up well with a fork. Now leave to cook without stirring for a good three or four minutes, then, as the meat on the bottom is starting to brown, stir again, breaking up the meat where necessary, and leave to color. Mix in the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of nutmeg and some salt and black pepper, letting it come to the boil. Turn the heat down so that everything barely bubbles. There should be movement, but one that is gentle, not quite a simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and leave to putter away for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring from time to time and checking the liquid levels. You don’t want it to be dry. Pour in the half-and-half or cream a bit at a time, stir and continue cooking for twenty minutes. Check the seasoning, then serve with the pasta and grated Parmesan.

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