Food. Wine. Song.
Slim Man is a pop/jazz vocalist who got his start as a songwriter at Motown Records.
He has recorded 11 CDs, starting off with his End of the Rainbow CD which was released in 1995. “A near-perfect example of how jazz and soul can be combined as pop” is how Rolling Stone described the Slim Man style.
Slim Man has also produced a series of short cooking videos for the Italian American Network, featuring family recipes and dishes that he has created. He is currently working on a cookbook which will be released in 2013.
Below he shares a New Year’s Eve story and one of his favorite recipes.
Manly Beef Bolognese
A few years ago, I did a New Year’s Eve gig in Austria. It was organized by Michael van Droff. Michael and his business partner, Christian Babl, run a record company in Germany called California Sunset Records. Why they have a German record company named California Sunset Records is something I don’t understand. But they’ve used a lot of my songs on their compilation CDs. Michael, Christian and I have become great friends over the years.
Michael wanted me to do a New Year’s Eve gig at a mountaintop resort outside of Salzburg. The main hotel had a small hut behind it where they had parties. I was scheduled to do a New Year’s Eve concert in the party hut. I flew in a couple of days before, and left a couple days after.
Michael drove from Germany with his very pregnant wife, Daniela. Christian drove in with his French wife, Fleur, and their infant son, Petite Louis. We stayed in a private villa next to the hotel. The villa was unbelievable–too many bedrooms, each with its own fireplace and bath and balcony, overlooking the Alps. The floors were marble. All the fixtures were brass. The rooms were huge.
It was luxurious, and the views were breath-taking. They treated us like rock stars, brought us special desserts, the kind where the chef himself comes over and uses blow torches and pyrotechnics to create impressive, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping sweets, all in a setting that was like a wintery fairy tale.
The hotel next to the villa was also incredible. They had an indoor-outdoor saltwater pool. You started off swimming inside, and you could dive down and swim through a tunnel to the outdoor side. When you surfaced, the pool was steaming, and surrounded by a few feet of snow. I’d get out of the pool, jump in the snow, and jump back into the warm salt water.
The hotel also had a salt cave, a eucalyptus shower room, a steam room, a sauna. And everybody went in naked. Men and women, naked together…no clothes. When you hear “Men and women, naked together” you get visions of Playboy Bunnies and rock stars, and you think…”Wow. That’s sexy.”
But in reality, this hotel is what they call a “Wellness” hotel in Europe. It’s a place where people of a certain age come to eat healthy food, and do healthy things, and get lots of rest and relaxation.
All I can say is this, when you see a 90 year-old woman who is naked, it makes you think. And those thoughts are…not good thoughts. Not sexy thoughts. And when you see a 90 year-old naked man, you want to kill yourself.
So I kept my eyes lowered and my towel wrapped around my waist.
One day we wanted to go sledding. So they had a huge tractor take us all to the top of the mountain, and we went back down the slopes on old wooden sleds. Everybody went–Christian and his wife Fleur, and their infant son, petite Louis. Michael’s wife Daniela, pregnant as could be, even went down the slopes. It was an amazing sleigh ride—it felt like we had stepped back in time with old wooden sleds going down the ancient Alps.
One frigid afternoon, we took a trip into the town of Salzburg and saw the house where Mozart was born, which was a small townhouse, painted yellow. Salzburg was freezing cold, and we walked down narrow cobblestone streets, and drank warm booze-spiked cider that we bought from street side stands. People were having fun—Christmas had just passed, and it was the party week that happens right before New Year’s Eve.
On New Year’s Eve, we all had a quiet dinner in the hotel, and then walked through the snow to the small party hut, which was on a hill about a hundred yards behind the hotel.
I sang and played piano for the guests—about fifty folks. Most of them were–how do I put this—mature? I’d seen some of these people naked, and it was a bit unsettling, looking at them while I sang and played.
After I finished my set, Michael van Droff came on, and started spinning records. Most of the old folks had gone to bed. The only folks left were The Villa Crew (Daniela, Christian and Fleur) and the help—waitresses, waiters, and busboys—and we had a blast. The young Germans and Austrians know how to party. We danced until the sun came up.
And then, we all went back to the Killa Villa, and I cooked in the incredible kitchen. What did I cook? Well, the Germans and Austrians have a thing for pasta Bolognese. You see it on the menus in all the restaurants. It’s everywhere. So the first thing I cooked, on the first day of the New Year, was pasta Bolognese.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup each–chopped– onions, celery, carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced, about 2 large tablespoons
1 pound of ground beef
½ pound of pancetta, chopped into small cubes
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups red wine
½ cup white wine
2 twenty-eight ounce can Italian pear/plum tomatoes (about 6 or 7 cups)
4 cups stock (I used organic meat stock)
1 pound pasta (rigatoni, or papardelle work well)
Open the cans of Italian tomatoes and put them in a large bowl. Roll up your shirtsleeves, and start smooshing them by hand, one by one. Remove the yellow core in the center. Remove any skin—they should already have the skin removed, but sometimes there is a little left over. Remove anything else that looks funky.
Put the pancetta in a large pot over medium heat. Let the pancetta brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Think of pancetta as bacon—you wanna cook it one side until it’s a little crispy, and then flip it over, and cook it on the other. When the pancetta has browned…
Lower the heat to medium-low, add the butter and olive oil, cook until the butter melts, a few minutes
Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and the white wine.
I’ve never used white wine before. But the last time I cooked this sauce, the vegetables seemed a little dry, and I didn’t want to add any more butter or olive oil, so I added a little white wine. The sauce tasted great.
A few days later, I saw an Italian guy do the same thing.
Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are done. Stir occasionally.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the ground beef. Break it up with a spoon.
Think of the ground beef as a hamburger. You want to cook it on one side until it’s golden brown, about 5 or 6 minutes, then you flip it over (stir it up) and cook it on the other side, same thing. Dig?
Make sure your ground beef is broken up into small bits. It’s gotta look like Sloppy Joe’s.
Turn the heat to medium-low, stir in the tomato paste, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now it looks like Sloppy Joe’s. Italian Sloppy Joe’s.
Add the red white wine and cook until it reduces substantially, about 10 minutes or more
Add the tomatoes including all their juices, add the stock, and turn up the heat
When the tomatoes and stock come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for
2 HOURS OR SO!!!!!!!!!
When done, skim off the fat, if there is any
Let’s cook our pasta…
Put some cold water in a large pot over high heat
When it boils, add a couple tablespoons of kosher salt
Add the pasta (rigatoni, or papardelle work well) and cook until al dente
Drain the pasta, transfer to a warm bowl
Add a little olive oil, and stir
Add some sauce, three or four ladles, and mix it up
Plate it up, add a dollop of sauce on top of each plate, and then, if you want, add some grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese and…
His music website is slimman.com.
His cooking website is slimmancooks.com.
Food. Wine. Song.