One of my favourite things to do is cook up food for my buddies. Giant oversized steaks, smoked meats, homemade beef jerky. Backyard grilling or game day tailgating with beer, fancy dinners accompanied with bottles of flowing wine. It's all good.
I generally come up with my own recipes or inspirations for these get-togethers, but occasionally I stumble upon a recipe in one of the various food magazines I subscribe to and am just smitten. When I was asked to cook up something for my buddy's Superbowl party and came across this recipe in Food Network magazine by Anne Burrell, I knew it would fit the bill perfectly.
The ragu is made with a base of browned root vegetables that just keeps getting layer upon layer of flavour added to it. Tomato, wine, sausage keep adding to the depth of the finished ragu. Topped with a spicy mayo I threw together and a punch from homemade pickled onions, these nachos will win over any crowd you're feeding.
Sure it's a little time-consuming for nachos, but man, is the payoff worth it!
Spicy Sausage Ragu Nachos With Pickled Onions
Adapted from Anne Burrell, Food Network Magazine
For the ragu:
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 stalks celery, diced
2 onions, diced
1 small fennel bulb, top and core removed, diced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups tomato paste
2 cups hearty red wine
2 pounds merguez sausage, casings removed
2 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied with butcher's twine
For the pickled onions:
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 to 3 dashes hot sauce
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 large bag corn tortilla chips
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sauce from the can blended with 1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup packed arugula
Make the ragu: Put the garlic, celery, onions and fennel in a food processor and puree to make a coarse paste. Coat a wide, deep pan with the olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Add the pureed veggies and season with salt; cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the veggies begin to stick to the pan. You want to brown this until stuff starts to form on the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally to scrape up the browned bits, then let it form again. Be patient here and don't rush it: This is where the big flavor develops; it will take up to 30 minutes.
When the lovely brown bits have formed and been scraped down a couple of times, stir in the tomato paste. Let it start to brown a little, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. There's not much liquid at this point to keep things from burning, so move fast: Add the wine, stir to combine and scrape up any remaining browned bits. Cook until about half of the wine has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 10 to 15 minutes. (This is where another round of big flavor is formed, so take your time.)
Add enough water to cover the meat by about 1/2 inch. Stir to combine well, then add the bay leaves and thyme bundle. Taste, season with salt and taste again; it's by no means done, but it should taste good. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking for 3 hours, tasting, seasoning and adding more water as needed. Discard the bay leaves and thyme.
Meanwhile, make the pickled onions: Combine the vinegar, 1/2 cup cold water, the sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and the hot sauce in a bowl. Add the sliced onion and let sit, at least 1 hour. Drain.
Assemble the nachos: Spread a layer of tortilla chips on an ovenproof platter. Top with a layer of the ragu. Sprinkle the arugula over the nachos and finish with a drizzle of the chipotle mayonnaise and the pickled onions.