Friday, May 4, 2007

To Feed the Hungry

I was speaking with Sarah Jane last night. She used to teach at our old school and has since moved way on up to Alaska. I used to marvel at this woman's resourcefulness and her cookbooks. Before they left, she imparted to me Fannie Farmer's Book of Baking, all their single-malt Scotch, and a lamb's breast. Lamb's breast was to make Navarin of Lamb.

Lamb is an interesting food for me. Mainly because I am a girl and therefore I have girly, emotional silliness when faced with cooking lamb. Recipes or dishes that have done me to death at the mere mention of their name: Warm Lamb's Tongue Salad (a Napa invention to be sure) or Laban Ummo. Navarin of Lamb killed me with its recipe. And the answer to your question is: no, I do not want to know from where my food comes. Laban Ummo means something like, in his mother's milk. It is an ancient dish that predates Judaism and is thought to go all the way back to Canaanite sacrifice. It was a young lamb, who was slaughtered and cooked in yogurt made from his mother's milk. I cried my eyes out when I read that in my cookbook (and I haven't cooked from it yet).

OK, so where was I? AH! So, Sarah Jane was telling me that she had made her meatloaf and now she was making her meatballs. To which I replied aren't you doing that backwards? See, I like meatballs, meatloaf is what happens to the leftover ground chuck after I have filled the pot full of meatballs.

I'll have to see if she will post her meatloaf recipe. Maybe it'll change my mind about meatloaf.

Here is a fail-proof recipe for meatballs (and no left overs):

The Sauce:

olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic minced
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon flaked red pepper
1 can (28 oz) Whole Tomatoes, drained and pulsed in the blender (yes, it does make a difference)
1 small can of plain tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup Merlot or burgundy wine
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
some fresh basil finely chopped
a bunch fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley finely chopped

In a heavy sauce pan or pot (I use Grandmother's cast iron dutch oven), pour a generous amount of olive oil and heat until you see the shimmer of heat and a whisper of smoke. Turn the heat down to med-high. Put your onion in the pot, stir. After a minute add the gaic and the red flake pepper. Saute. Do not let it brown or burn. Turn the heat down to med if needed. When the onion mixture is beginning to look translucent. Add to the pot: the pulsed can of tomatoes, the can of tomato sauce, and the whole can of tomato paste. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the wine, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning. Stir. Taste. Add more a little more wine if needed, adjust seasonings to taste. Lower heat to simmer and cover. Move on to the meatballs (we're not done with the sauce yet).

The Meatballs:

vegetable oil
1lbs ground beef 7% fat
1lb ground chuck 20% fat
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 pieces of bread soaked in milk (1/4 cup), torn and squeezed out
2 eggs
2-3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Put everything in a large bowl EXCEPT the bread. Evenly cover the ground meat with seasoning so that it doesn't have any unseasoned pockets when you mix it. Now, take the milk -sopped- bread and scatter it over the meat and dig in. (Alternately, you could use a stand mixer, but really? Be a woman!) Mix until combined. Using a tablespoon or a cookie scoop or you hands make 1 1/2 - 2 in balls and put them into a large skillet with hot vegetable oil (it must be hot or it will wreck the meatballs). Brown the meatballs on all sides on high heat and transfer them to your pot of simmering sauce to finish cooking (remember keep it covered between batches). It can take as many as 3 batches depending on the size of your skillet. when you are done, let the meatballs cook another 10 minutes in the gently simmering sauce. Then add your basil and parsley to your sauce giving it a final quick stir, turn down to low and now start your pasta.

I always serve this with plenty of Parmesan, French bread and green salad. Yummy, enjoy!


Sarah Jane said...

Oh, yeah. Like I am going to post my extremely humble "til it looks good, gee what's left in the fridge" recipe after yours! I want to come for dinner. Or you could pop up for salmon. The halibut is fresh now--the season just began a week or so ago. How does that sound?
Check out Minnesota Mom for garden inspiration, my dear gardening friend.

Sarah Jane said...

Did I tell you Helen and I have just finished listening to Pride and Prejudice so we could watch the film(s). I'm such a mean mom!
Which one is your favorite?

Sarah Jane said...

You've been tagged. You'll have to pop over to my blog to take a look.