Fried Tomato Sauce: Sofrito

Today's effort takes a fair amount of elapsed time but is really quite simple to execute. And the result is like nothing you get from a can or a jar.Aceite

Turn on the heat - high. Start with 100% pure virgin olive oil in the pan; cover the bottom. Don't be afraid - it's olive oil so it's actually good for you.

Brunoisse (dice) a medium onion. Size doesn't really matter here but if the pieces are smaller they'll cook a little faster (not that we're in a hurry; after all, we're making this by hand). Put it in the pan. Turn down the heat to medium.

Smash 2 cloves of garlic. No fancy chopping required 'cause they'll be cooking a while. Toss into the pan. Stir a little.

I have way too many shallots in the house so I toss one of these in too.

One Szechuan red pepper, a pretty good sized one at that. These actually were purchased in China and gifted to me.

Rip off the cap, split it open and dump out the seeds (they can be rather hot when you leave the seeds in). Toss the skin into the pan and immediately go wash your hands. Do not touch your face, eyes or go to the bathroom. Get that pepper oil off of your fingers.
Do not omit the pepper; it's a subtle but important factor in the taste.

Stir very occasionally. The profession cook does not hover over their dishes as a rule; me, I go off and blog some. Keep cooking until the onions are soft and some are turning brown.

The onions, while sautéing, reach a point where they suddenly start reducing in volume/shrinking. This happens once the excess water in them has cooked off and at that point they really start cooking. You'll notice that something "different" is happening.
In my case it took about 10 minutes and they looked like the picture above.

Add 800 grams (net) [30 oz] of jarred (canned) whole tomatoes (or the double amount of fresh ones). Seeds and all. I used organic ones. Canned/jarred tomatoes are usually cheaper, more flavorful and better color than fresh ones. It's one of the things that is often superior as a packaged product rather than fresh. These ones are peeled but that's not important.

Dump into the pan.

Smash them with your wooden spatula and turn up the heat until they're starting to boil a little; turn down to a good simmer.

Go look for your vegetable mill. This is what it will look like.

Or use a Cuisinart and a colander to filter it afterwwards.

Add 1 tsp of sugar (needed to counteract the acidity of a pound or so of tomatoes) and ½ tsp of salt.

Taste this mix. Right now, before it's really cooked. You'll need this taste-memory later in the process. It tastes like bland tomatoes.

Go read a magazine; come back in 15 minutes. (the whole cooking time will be about 45 but you need to check on it along the way).
By now you will need to turn it down a little because it's thickened up.

Taste it again. Still taste too much like tomatoes. Time to clean the bathroom. Give it another 15 minutes (that's 30 so far).

Check it again. Probably needs a little more salt. Add a pinch (just a pinch). Adjust the simmer so that the sauce is not splashing bubbles all over the place.
Taste it. It starts to have a little bit of interesting flavour. Go check your email. 15 minutes more.

That's 45 minutes. Stir, check the salt, taste again. Maybe it's ready or it needs a little more time (mine took 55 minutes). But you'll know it's done when the taste suddenly gets sweet and lovely; maybe with a hint of the pepper. You'll notice the difference; really you will. Like with the onions earlier there will be a noticable change at a certain point.

When it's cooked it might look like this. Pretty lumpy.

So we run it through the mill (or the cuisinart and then strain it).

And we get this. A wonderful smooth tomato sauce like none you will find in a shop.
Sofrito - Done

Oh, what to do with it? I have a few ideas. For starters, try an egg sunny side up and place a dollop of this on it. Beats ketchup all to hooey.

I believe I'll be cooking/poaching cod in this and garnishing with roasted red peppers.

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