Thursday, March 26, 2015

meatballs & marinara - juicy balls of deliciousness

If you're an atheist, vegan, or Indian (from India), you should probably shield your eyes from what I'm about to say. Thank you God for making cows edible. Amen. I guess I should be thanking him for pigs too cause these are beef and pork meatballs, but then I'd have to list every ingredient and then the "Indian" criteria wouldn't really work. Analogies, can't live without them, can't form all-encompassing logical statements with them. 

The interweb is inundated with meatball recipes. In fact, unbeknownst to me Foodnetwork just came out with an edition entirely dedicated to the little balls of meat. Yet, there's been this void inside me that has been pecking at my sanity ever since I started this blog. A meatball shaped void that when filled I can finally call this "thing" a food blog. Plus, it was an excuse for me to make meatballs. Mmm meatballs. Meatballs. If you're uncomfortable with the word you should probably stop reading now. 

The recipe below is courtesy of my favorite chef on TV, Anne Burrell. I adapted the recipe with a few Chow Creations modifications and portion changes. If you find my sporadic and often tangential directions confusing, you're out of luck cause I forget the link to the original recipe. I also didn't take enough pictures, so I'm gonna have to use pictures that don't correlate with the directions. Sorry, it won't happen again. 

1. Because the Marinara Sauce takes 3 hours to simmer I would suggest we start that first. In a large saucepot coated with olive oil, brown the diced pancetta or bacon, whichever you have, on medium high heat. Like Chef Burrell says, "brown food is tasty food", so take your time to develop good flavor. Rushing is the bane of good food and good chefs. After 5-7 minutes of browning (and sampling), add the onions and season generously with salt. Cook the onions, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn't burn, for another 5-7 minutes. The onions should be soft and aromatic, but colorless. Then add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. 

2. In a food processor, pulse the canned tomatoes (without the cans of course) until they're almost smooth, but still chunky. The preferred type of tomato you should get are Italian plum San Marzono tomatoes. They sell them at the supermarket, but if you can't get those, or you forgot to get crushed tomatoes, regular Costco brand diced tomatoes will work as well. Add the tomatoes along with one rinsed-out can of water to the onions and pancetta. Season with salt. Tomatoes can withstand a lot of salt, but keep in mind that over the next 2-3 hours some of the water is going to evaporate so you don't want to season it too much in the beginning. The best way of going about this is to season it progressively throughout the simmering time. Cover with a lid, and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the gas down to maintain a simmer and stir occasionally. Cook for 2-3 hours. 

3. Meatball time. Chef Burrell uses three different types of meat: beef, pork, and veal. However, I didn't have veal (I''m poor) so I just divided the veal portion between beef and pork. When you buy your meat, go to your supermarket's butcher and ask them "Can you please ground one and a half pounds of chuck, and one and a half pounds of pork butt for me?" Write this on the palm of your hand so there isn't any confusion at the counter. That way Margaret doesn't impatiently tap her foot and gossip behind you whether you could be any slower. The please is underlined so the butcher doesn't spit in the grinder while you're not looking. Picking the cut of meat yourself and seeing the butcher ground it for you is one of the most rewarding things a chef can experience. A piece of me dies when I see someone pay twice as much for pre-ground meat they don't even know where it came from. (god also kills a puppy every time he sees someone buy pre-ground meat)

4. Back in the kitchen, saute more onions with a generous splash of olive oil. Season the onions generously and cook and stir often for 5-7 minutes so they don't take on any color. You just want them soft and aromatic. When they're cooked, add chopped garlic and an optional squirt of sriracha. In the meantime, toast sliced bread in a 400F oven for 10-15 minutes, flipping them half-way through so the bottoms toast as well. You want the bread completely dry and inedible. Slightly burnt is fine, but slightly moist is a no-no. Process the toast until you have fine breadcrumbs. If you have pre-made breadcrumbs those will work as well. 

5. In a large bowl combine the meats, parmesan, breadcrumbs, and eggs. Your hands are your best tools. When the onion mixture has cooled, add that as well as some water. The the consistency of the meat should be wet, but hold it's shape when rolled. If it doesn't make a "squish" sound when you work the meat, add more water. Too  much water and it won't hold together. I trust that you know what you're doing. 

6. Test the meat for seasoning with this neat little trick. Take a little bit of the meat and fry it until it's cooked. If it taste good you can move ahead and shape the balls. If it needs more salt, add sugar...I'm just joking add salt. Shape the meatballs into the size of golf balls, and lay them on a sheet pan. You should get 36 to 40 meatballs. 

7. Coat a large frying pan with vegetable oil or clarified butter. Try not use just butter because the milk solids will burn at a lower temperature than oil. I don't care so much about having perfectly round balls, but if you do, turn them constantly or deep fry them. The most important thing is to get good color on them so they have a really nice meaty flavor. The white stuff that might ooze out of them is cheese. Finish them in a 350F for 15 minutes. Cook the meatballs in batches to prevent overcrowding. 

8. If you want, you can also finish the meatballs in the marinara sauce. Speaking of sauce, if you want a smooth sauce you blend or strain it to remove the lumps. Speaking of smooth, the transition was pretty smooth I would say. 

There you have it guys! Deliciously easy and simple succulent meatballs! You can certainly make these for a comforting weekend dinner or for a Spring potluck or party. If you don't intend to eat 40 meatballs in one sitting, these freeze wonderfully for an easy weeknight bake and take. Another fun suggestion is to eat these with toothpicks for a delicious appetizer and easy cleanup. Also don't forget the classic Meatballs and Spaghetti variation. If you also want to be reincarnated as a meatball comment below, I genuinely enjoy reading your comments and suggestions. Follow me on my social media, I post on all of them daily, sometimes shamefully more than once a day. I love all of you guys. And as always, 



for Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound diced pancetta, or bacon
2 large onions, 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
3 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes, pulsed
1 cup water, add more to adjust for consistency of flavor

for (36-40) Meatballs

olive oil
2 large onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
optional Sriracha
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 1/2 pounds ground pork butt
4 large eggs
2 cup parmesan
2 cup breadcrumbs, about 6-8 slices of bread
1 cup water

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