I don't know about you, but in my kitchen, like in my life...
But last week, I got a hair up my arse to make meatballs.
No, not lamb balls. (You can't see me, but I'm cracking up)
I had ground pork and ground beef. What else could I do?
Actually, I thought about making meatloaf. Because the closer it got to dinner time, the less enthusiastic I felt about making meatballs, and after all, what is a meatloaf but a giant meatball?
More or less.
But I had a hankering.
I didn't feel like looking at a recipe. Even when I go to the trouble of looking at one I usually lose interest in it half way through. I don't really like to be told what to do.
So, I threw the ground pork, beef, breadcrumbs, egg and cream (what doesn't cream make better?) and mixed it up with some grated parmesan, salt and pepper. But, something was still missing.
I don't like to put raw onions in my meatballs or meatloaf. So, I chopped one up and got out a skillet. This was already more of a to do than I was in the mood for. But, I was too far in.
I remembered that even though I'm Asian, or Asian enough, I was going for an Italian vibe so they needed garlic. I chopped that up and put it in the skillet with the onions. Then, because I was feeling contrary, I added some red pepper flakes. Call me crazy.Next thing you know I'll be parting my hair on the other side, or tearing the tags off mattresses.
After the onion, etc. softened, about 5 or so minutes later, I dumped this aromatic, mouthwatering mass of awesome into the meat mixture and squished it all up. With my hands. You have to.
So, I made meatballs with my handy dandy scoop and lovingly placed them in a very hot, olive oil bathed pan. All was well in my world. For a coupla minutes.
I turned them over so they'd get a nice crisp outer layer on all sides. Except they wouldn't turn over.
They stuck to the pan.
Usually, I don't get worked up about these faux pas, but this really pissed me off. Pan sticking meatballs and peri-menopause are not friends. And, I'd already spent way more time on this fiasco than I wanted to. So, I started whacking the uncooperative-stuck-to-the-pan-devil-spawn meatballs with my tongs. Then I switched to a spatula to make sure they'd get the beat down they deserved.
I finished browning the meatballs that were still actually balls then took them out to rest on a plate.
I proceeded to make my tomato sauce which had now become meat sauce. Kinda crispy meat sauce.
I intended to use a jar of already made marinara. Then I remembered I didn't ever buy jarred marinara. I'm one of those really annoying people who say things like, "It's just as easy to make it from scratch."
What a dumb ass.
So, I dumped a big can of crushed tomatoes into my meatball massacre. I tossed in some dried oregano, basil and thyme along with some sugar. Gotta have sugar in any tomato sauce to take some of the acidity out. Then I squished in some tomato paste because Mario Batali does. And who am I to argue with Mario?
Mario wears orange rubber clogs and manages a combover and a ponytail at the same time. What kind of a bad ass is he?
I mixed it all in with the smooshed up, crispy meatball pieces then plopped the ones that survived intact into the sauce to simmer until they cooked through. By this time, I started thinking it might turn out.
It smelled DIVINE.
By the time this all came to a head, I didn't feel like cooking another thing. So, I didn't. I felt a little guilty so I garnished. I think garnishing should get me some points.
We just had meatballs. But, I thought I needed more fat so I put about a half a pound of butter on some bread to eat with it. Dipped in the meat sauce...I thought I'd died and gone to Meatball heaven. And those crispy meatball remnants? TO DIE FOR.
The garnish was such a big deal that I thought it needed a big picture. That's Italian parsley by the way. Not to be confused with Cilantro which is totally from a different country. And no matter how much you tell people that it's "pretty much the same" when you accidentally put it on your pasta dish, it's pretty much not. So this is parsley. I swear.
Shit Happens Meatballs with Meat Sauce
1 1b. each ground pork and ground beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan plus more for serving
1 med. onion diced
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
olive oil for frying
1/4 to 1/2 teas. red pepper flakes
1 clove chopped garlic
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teas. each dried oregano, basil and thyme (feel free to adjust to your own liking)
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
2-3 teas. sugar
In a big bowl throw in the first 5 ingredients. Saute the diced onion with the red pepper flakes and garlic until soft and fragrant. You can let this cool a little before you add it to the meat stuff but the meat stuff is cold so you don't have to. Just incorporate it a little with a wooden spoon to cool it off then dig in and mash it all together with your hands.
Shape into meatballs of whatever size you want. Fry in the hot oil till nicely browned. Take out all but 2-3 meatballs depending on their size. While your semi-cooked meatballs chill out on a plate, smash the ones still in the pan with whatever you want to smash them, wooden spoon, fork, you get it. Cook the smashed meatballs until they get a little crispy.
Note: If you use a nonstick pan you won't have to worry about them sticking. But you'll have to work the ones left in the pan to get that nice crusty crunch.
Add in tomato sauce, paste, dried herbs, sugar and a little water - maybe half a cup. Put the meatballs back in on a low/medium heat, cover until done. About 10 minutes or so.
Eat with whatever bread you like. Don't forget to dip.
I have a thing about lamb.
I also have kind of a weird rule. When I eat out, I order stuff that I either don't want to cook at home, or that I don't cook well at home.
Now, I've cooked lamb at home with various degrees of success. It's been pretty bad, to pretty damn good. Pretty damn good being the exception.
So, I usually order it when I'm at a restaurant that has it.
Actually, I just like to say, "I'll have the lamb." It sounds so chic. Unless it's shanks. A shank of anything is pretty much the opposite of chic.
I've discovered that the kind of lamb I cook the best is ground. Lamb hamburger. I make pretty awesome lamb meatballs.
Mostly because when hubby asks what's for dinner, I can say, "lamb balls." Or, if he's going somewhere for lunch I say, "Don't have the lamb balls. We're having those for dinner." Breaks me up every time.
This is not a recipe for lamb balls.
It's a little more chi chi than that. Lamb Ragu with pasta. Yes, I'm all that.
It's ground lamb, shallots, some seasonings, Worcestershire sauce (what is that anyway?), red currant jelly (don't panic - you can use any red jelly you want and no, I don't know what a currant is) and tomatoes. And pasta. Of whatever shape.
For some reason, any kind of meat that is even remotely exotic - and I count lamb among them - I have to buy someplace upscale-ish. Like Whole Foods, or better yet, a butcher shop. I'll buy hamburger in a tube from some guy in an alley wearing a trench coat. But, lamb? No dice. You can, however, get it in just about every regular ole grocery store and I'm sure it's fine. Really. I won't make fun of you if you buy it there.
Note the following recipe serves 2. I doubled it when I made it, but if there really is just two of you, it's plenty as is.
Lamb Ragu with Pasta
1 1/2 Tblsp. garlic oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 Teas. dried mint
1 Teas. dried oregano
1/4 Teas. crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz. ground lamb
1 14oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 Teas. red currant jelly
1 1/2 Teas. Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste, plus some for pasta water
Pepper to taste
8 oz. pasta
Fresh mint to garnish - optional
Put your water on to boil in a large pot, for the pasta. Cook the chopped shallot in a saucepan with the garlic oil for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in all the dried herbs and the pepper flakes. Stir around. Add the ground lamb, breaking it up with a spoon till it looses its pinkness. Add tomatoes, jelly, Worcestershire, salt and a good grinding of pepper and give it a good stir. Bring to a boil, then cover it and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Cook the pasta. When the ragu is done, spoon it on. Garnish with the mint if you feel like it.
By the way, I found red currant jelly at Ralph's.
Note how cute that curly pasta is. I got it at Target. No kidding.
This is a Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigellisima.
I didn't feel like garnishing. I rarely do.
My upcoming novel Flesh of My Flesh stars Delilah, a fictional TV Chef who stirs up a whole lot of trouble and a little food. Probably better than you'll find here. These recipes are inspired by her, my love of food and overall laziness.