Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Latest cooking enterprise: meatballs

I've been wanting to try my hand at meatballs for some time. Yesterday was the day. I'd been collecting various recipes, and decided this one by Martha Stewart would be worth trying. I didn't use her sauce recipe; instead, I used the Neapolitan Ragu recipe that I've had success with twice now.

First I had to get a few ingredients needed. One was ground veal, which I thought about omitting; but then I'd never know if I'd like it better with. Thankfully, the Krogers in Sidney had some, so I ran over there for that, and some fresh basil and a few other items.

(By the way--sorry for no photos, but my iPad's battery was dead yesterday.)

There were a few things to chop: some bread, which I cut up by hand, as well as some parsley. When I realized the big pile of parsley I tediously chopped was only half what I needed, I remembered the food processor I'd gotten a few weeks ago, and decided to see what it would do with parsley. Why, you may wonder, am I gun-shy with the food processor? A food processor can be handy, but you have to know how to use it right, and that takes some experimentation. This project was already going to be a big mess; and if the processor makes mud of the parsley, now I have an even bigger mess.

The parsley came out fine, Deo gratias, but the onion came out a little uneven; some pieces too roughly cut, others pulverized. The processor didn't like the cheese at all; but when I chopped the cheese down to smaller pieces, it worked better. Unfortunately, I didn't buy enough Parmigiano-Reggiano, so I quickly rummaged in my fridge and found some more cheese, which I think was Pecorino Romano. Who's to know? I had just enough then, with nothing to put on top afterward.

Because I decided to double the quantities, the result was a really huge bowl of wet bits of bread, three kinds of ground meat, three kinds of cheese, and all the other stuff. All of which I now had to knead and mix. I tried, at first, to do it with a bag on my hand, but that didn't work, so I had no choice but to do it with my hands. I'm not squeamish; I just wanted to avoid adding germs.

Ms. Stewart called for giant meatballs, but as I was planning to put these into the sauce, I wanted them to be manageable. So I made them more or less standard size. These I put on a baking sheet and a baking pan, and threw in the oven for about 15 minutes. And -- since I'd doubled the quantities, I still had a fair amount of meat-mixture left over. So, decision-time: do I wait and cook them all in the oven? Or, what about browning the rest in a fry pan? I opted for the latter.

After all, the meatballs didn't need to be completely finished, as they would finish in the sauce. So I poured some olive oil into the fry pan and browned the rest in batches. I did brown some a bit too much -- I was off doing some prep for the sauce -- but oh well.

Then, when I had all my finished meatballs -- both those in the oven and those cooked on top -- I realized I had way more than I needed for the sauce, which was also going to get some Italian sausage, which I'd also browned (that turned out nicely). So I decided to put some of the meatballs into the pan for the sauce, and the rest (after finishing in the oven those that I'd only browned) I put in the freezer for later.

At this point, I simply made the same sauce I've made twice before. The only difference, this time, was that I had some fresh basil. I put all the ingredients in -- the tomatoes, which I crushed by hand, along with some wine as well as the onion, carrot and celery I sauteed, along with the garlic and aforementioned basil -- and all that simmered for several hours. Around 8 pm, after a meeting, I had some of the sauce over some pasta.


The sauce was good, but needs some more time simmering. And a little salt.

The Italian sausage, made by Krogers, was better than the last, but still not seasoned enough for me. I'm going to have to do some more work on this one.

The meatballs? Very good! I'd actually eaten a couple right out of the oven. More oregano would have been good, and maybe a little red pepper.

I've got plenty left over, and I plan to simmer it some more ahead of tomorrow's dinner.


Jennifer said...

That sounds really good. Thank you for sharing. :)

Michael Haz said...

You're killin' me here, Father. I LOVE meatballs, but I'm travelling with no ability to whip up a batch right now. A few things I like: The meat should be equal portions of pork, veal and beef. I use panko in lieu of bread crumbs. And an egg or two. Plenty of garlic, oregano and basil. I usually bake them on a sheet cake pan (a little stock to about one-quarter the height of the balls) before adding them to the sauce. If I don't make my own sauce, I buy Trader Joe's no-added-salt marinara and go from there. Red pepper flakes are always added to the sauce.

A non-meatball note: I was shopping in a store owned by a Mennonite family. Really good stuff. A man was giving away samples of pasta made by his wife's start-up company. The pasta was made of garbanzo flour, gluten free. The samples were cooked, then tossed in a very small amount of organic butter and a wee bit of garlic. It was a revelation! Possibly the best pasta I have ever eaten, and that includes some I made at home with imported semolina flour.

Okay, back to meatballs. In a pinch I have bought frozen meatballs form GFS (a retail outlet for a food service company that sells to restaurants). The meatballs are passably good, and with some good sauce, can be made decent enough to eat for breakfast. Breakfast? yep. meatballs and toast.

Jenny said...

I've only done meatballs a couple of times, but these sound wonderful! I have heard that milk poured over bread cubes works the best producing very tender meatballs. Can't wait to try these!