Ever have those moments that pretty much slam you back in time? Like, slam: not just “whisked” or even “transported,” I mean full on, all five senses, pinch yourself kinda of slammed. Tonight I came around the corner into the kitchen and had to steady myself a bit: apparently I had jumped in a Delorean and was back in a little apartment, more than a dozen years ago.
I watch an apron-clad Lanna dance around the kitchen to her beloved Maná album from the 90’s while prepping a delicious dinner of tuco (pronounced “too-ko,” a red sauce from Argentina) and grilled ciabatta. I was back to where the paychecks pinned us to rent, a water bill and $40 a week for food. Eating out was once a month at In-n-Out, we had no cable or internet (thank you, public libraries) and we shared one cell phone, one car, and just one of those resourceful paychecks.
Yup, I could go through all the great cliches, the nostalgic reminisces about everything simple and fun about early life being in love, but you’ve read those books, watched those movies (we had a $1 theater to hit up and see those ones). It is good, however, to reflect back in my own head and remember that it was those hot summer nights where we kept the A/C above 83F, blasting Spanish rock that Lanna would yell over translated lyrics of the best lines, twirling around our kitchen as I lopped off finger tips and she worked her magic over the finicky stovetop: that was the foundation, the base layer, the bedrock we were building our future on and we didn’t even know it.
For some reason, tuco has not been on the menu in a long time. Perhaps its because I eventually took over the planning and cooking a bit more as I shifted to home life. We don’t eat as much pasta either. Maybe we got all fancy and started to blow the big bucks on food (considering tuco costs about a dollar to make…) In any case, it was a pretty welcome dish that most likely will surface again in the near future. Both boys essentially inhaled as opposed to chewing and I believe thirds were consumed.
Another thing that happened last night was a bit of a rekindling. Watching Lanna tango with a wine bottle, listening to her sing along in spanish, and smelling her delicious food was so good for my soul, my love for her, and our connectedness. We’ve never really struggled for long periods in our marriage, we’ve fought (especially early on, another bit of memories there…) but never held grudges or felt like we were drifting apart. But there are times that we both tend to get a little lost in ourselves and the routines of the day, week or those long months between seeing friends and family pull on us. It seems to be good timing when every once in a while we do something not just to shake it up, but also to remember why it is we’re on this journey together. Sometimes it takes a vacation, other times a date night.
Sometimes, it just takes some tuco.
Below, I’ve got the recipe for the good stuff. Obviously, this is to our tastes and you can mix it up a bit. Traditionally, it’s one of the only meals that doesn’t include meat in Argentina (kinda’ the beef capital of the world) but you can use it as a sauce for chicken if you want. Grab the ciabatta from a good baker, it seriously makes all the difference. We were spoiled this time around: I baked the ciabatta fresh with Jared from Proof in Mesa (check him out here.)
Tuco (Lanna style… it’s a simple red sauce. Make it your own.)
Fire up a big skillet on medium with 3 Tbs olive oil and sauté 1 medium diced onion till it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 2-3 diced garlic cloves and stir it for a minute. Add 1 big can of crushed and 1 small can of diced tomatoes, add some salt, thyme, basil and just a bit of oregano to taste and stir around. Throw in a 1/2 cup of cheap red wine and 1 tsp of sugar, stir a bit and bring to a strong simmer. Flip the burner to low and let the whole thing sit for about a half hour till it thickens up.
Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil and turn your broiler on. Throw in some thick noodles (linguine, papperdelle, or choice) and cook till al dente then drain, drizzle with olive oil, and keep warm. Slice some ciabatta rolls in half and generously spread a mix of butter and olive oil over them. Slice into strips and stick them in the oven to broil for 15 mins, or until brown on the edges.
Grab some bowls or plates, heap some steaming noodles in a pile, scoop a load of tuco over them and sprinkle with some good Parmesan, not that powdered stuff in the green tube either. Even when we were poor, we splurged on good cheese (Thanks, Trader Joe’s!). Pull out that hot bread and commence inhaling… ¡Buen Provecho!