A Bite of Pizza; A Bite of Dumpling

Generally I'm pretty high maintenance. No, no, really I am. I spend a lot of energy making myself (relatively) happy and making sure I get what I want. At least some of the time. I've started to calm down over the years – I find age brings lower expectations. But not for dinner. For me, anyway. Whenever I hear someone say, "Oh, I just had a bowl of cereal...," I look at them with disbelief and pity. Cereal? For dinner? It's like we're two different species  – like I'm a blood crazed vampire and they're a paper doll subsisting on crumbs dropped by passersby. I take dinner very seriously. Last weekend we had a snowstorm and I spent the weekend cooking: "Monday" meatballs from the A16 cookbook; braised short ribs, again from A16, etc... My sister was like, "who are you having over for dinner?" Um... nobody? Me?

By Wednesday I found myself filled to the gills with braised beef and with only an avocado left from all of my storm grocery bounty. Throughout the day I had a steady stream of ideas for what to make with the avocado in the back of my mind (if I spent as much time thinking about the state of the world as I do about what to have for dinner, Barack Obama wouldn't be my dream boyfriend, he'd be my employee). Shrimp tacos? Chicken and rice? Carne asada? The list went on and on. But then I got home and found myself faced with certain realities:

1. I hadn't been in my car for 5 days and didn't feel like getting it out of the garage.
2. My kid's in boarding school and I really should be saving money to actually pay for boarding school.

I was still with myself for just a half a second and thought some previously un-thought thoughts:

1. Somewhere in my refrigerator I have a small leftover piece of eggplant and sausage pizza.
2. I also have frozen dumplings from H-Mart in the freezer and the fixin's for dumpling sauce.

So... I ate what was in the house. Well, I walked to the local grocery and bought a bag of chips so I could snack on guacamole while I reheated the pizza and pan fried the dumplings.

This may not seem like a big deal. But it was to me. I didn't have a big dinner or even an appealing one, and I was okay. I don't even think I watched television – I read my book and then after "dinner," I did muster the energy to get the car out and drive to the MFA to gaze at the visiting Cezanne.

For one evening I was fed by something other than food.

But, I wouldn't want to make a habit of it. So while the snow is still on the ground, and winter food fits the bill, here's a recipe for meatballs that satisfy nearly every need.

Monday Meatballs
adapted from A16 Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren

10 oz boneless pork shoulder , cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor (or ground pork, etc... at the grocery store if you must, but it's worth grinding yourself)
10 oz beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor
6 oz day-old country bread, torn into chunks and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor
2 oz pork fat, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or frozen for 15 minutes and then finely chopped in a food processor
2 oz pork fat, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or frozen for 15 minutes and then finely chopped in a food processor
(if you have a food grinder all of the above can be ground all at once)
1 c loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 T plus 2 t kosher salt
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t fennel seeds
1 t dried chile flakes
2/3 c fresh ricotta, drained if necessary
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c whole milk
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes with juices
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Block of grana, parmesan, or romano for grating
Extra virgin olive oil for finishing

In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, 1 T of the salt, oregano, fennel seeds, and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small nugget of the mixture, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small saute pan. Taste it and adjust the seasoning of the mixture with salt if needed. Form the mixture into 1 1/2" balls each weighing about 2 oz, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.

Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are browned. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 2 t salt and break up into small pieces with your hands.

Pack the meatballs into a large roasting pan or 2 smaller pans. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.

Pull the  pans out of the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.

For each serving, ladle meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate cheese over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish and serve immediately.

Truth? I had mine over spaghetti. All covered with cheese....

1 comment:

Liz said...

Sorry I missed this one. But I love it. I was in storm mode as well at the time and ended up with pork and potato burritos from Rick Bayless. Must try these meatballs but need the food grinder first.