Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The "It" Food? Really?

It's been all over the food blogs, and foodie magazines are trumpeting its ascendance to the top of the "food of the moment" list. Portland restaurant biz-whiz David Machado has even said, "I'm going to call 2010 the year of the meatball."

Meatballs? Really?

They are the classic American comfort food, whether dumped out of a can or made with exotic meats like veal or venison. My mother's were notable for being hard, dry nuggets, browned too thoroughly because of her unfortunate choice to major in dietetics in college, where a fear of trichinosis haunted her for the rest of her life. One of the first recipes I ever made was Swedish Meatballs from Betty Crockers Cookbook for Boys and Girls, still a great recipe and one that puts those at Ikea to shame.

I've posted a couple of recipes here on GSNW this year, one made with potatoes and ground beef, the other being chicken meatballs with chives and remoulade, that were the hits of a couple of parties earlier this year.

But, as mentioned previously, I'm extremely suggestible, so all this talk about little orbs of meat covered in sauce got me salivating once again. So I went digging and uncovered yet another twist, this time with beef, sausage and parmesan that had me whipping up a batch for dinner the other night.

Oh, and a hint to pass along: When mixing the meat, don't squish it with your hands like my mother used to do. It's not for sanitary reasons, since I'm all for playing with your food. The meat should be combined in a bowl with the other ingredients and stirred with a fork or other implement to keep it light.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet, Jan. 2009

For tomato sauce:
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

For meatballs:
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 c. day-old bread, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 c. whole milk
2 large eggs
1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 pound)
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. oregano dried, crumbled
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/3 c. olive or vegetable oil

Make sauce:
Drain tomatoes, reserving juice in a large bowl. Crush tomatoes with your hands or process in food processor and add to juice.

Cook onions in oil in pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice. Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt and pepper.

Make meatballs while sauce simmers:
Cook onions in extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Soak bread in milk in another bowl until soft, about 5 minutes. Firmly squeeze bread to remove excess milk, discarding milk.

Stir together cooled onion mixture, bread, eggs, parmesan, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper until combined. Add meats to bread mixture, gently mixing with a fork until just combined (do not overmix).

Form meat mixture into 1-inch balls with dampened hands, arranging meatballs on 2 large baking sheets or in shallow baking pans.

Heat olive or vegetable oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meatballs in 4 or 5 batches (without crowding), turning frequently, about 5 minutes per batch. Return to baking sheets.

Add meatballs to sauce and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.


EcoGrrl said...

check out the vegan meatball sub at the Bye & Bye - it will make you forget all about meat meatballs, seriously...

Anonymous said...

Whoda thunk?

My mum used to bake hers, theoretically to make them less greasy. They were tasty little chunks, they were. :)

Kathleen Bauer said...

Grrl, that is a challenge I'm willing to take you up on!

And I'll bet they were, Rainy, and perfect for a party. I've wondered about baking/roasting them and tossing them in a sauce, ala chicken wings. This might be just the ticket!

amandab said...

the bucatini with lamb meatballs at Nel Centro definitely convinced me it's the year of the meatball!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Two of my favorite ingredients…doesn't sound like you can go wrong with that combo!