Monthly Archives: April 2014

Not Your Nonna’s Meatballs

There was a tasty looking recipe in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine and I couldn’t wait to make it for dinner. The recipe was published by Sam Sifton, but crafted by Susan Goin: lamb meatballs with spiced tomato sauce. Susan Goin offers this dish on and off in one of her LA restaurants, A.O.C., and you can find this deliciously different recipe in her most recent publication “The A.O.C. Cookbook.” It’s a fantastic spin on the traditional meatballs you’d find in your Nonna’s Sunday gravy.

I finally uploaded all of my photos from Japan and thought I’d share them before we get to the “meat” of the matter. We ate some very different items and believe me when I tell you that there’s no limit to what the Japanese will serve on a stick. Here are some of my favorite photos.

We were invited to a traditional Japanese meal by one of Roger’s Japanese colleagues. The experience was very special and I snuck my phone out a few times to snap a quick photo of a few of the courses; however, there were times when that would have been just plain rude. The next two photos are from this meal.  One course on the menu I just couldn’t choke down: shark fin soup, which had the consistency of a runny custard. Just looking at it brought up my gag reflex. I personally take issue with shark fin soup after seeing a documentary a few years ago where some fisherman chopped the fins off of sharks and then left them to drown, which was probably a contributing factor to my gag reflect. I did not know the origin of the fin, so I put the lid back on and passed.

Miso soup with white fish and topped with a fiddlehead fern. The Japanese call them ostrich ferns. Gorgeous and delicious!

Miso soup with white fish and topped with a fiddlehead fern. The Japanese call them ostrich ferns. Gorgeous and delicious!

Raw tuna with roe, octopus, and an unknown white fish. This dish was garnished with shiso leaf and a plethora of other accents/garnishes.

Raw tuna with roe, octopus, and an unknown white fish. This dish was garnished with shiso leaf and a plethora of other accents/garnishes.

 

I love that they display a plastic image of what you can order. Takes the mystery out of it.

I love that they display a plastic image of what you can order. Takes the mystery out of it (if you can read Japanese).

Octopus pop anyone? I saw people standing by the kiosk biting into the heads like they were Tootsie Pops. No comment.

Octopi pop anyone? I saw people standing by the kiosk biting into the heads like they were Tootsie Pops. No comment.

More tasty lollypop treats!

More tasty lollypop fish treats (Try eating all of this)!

Milk in portable sealed pods.

Milk in portable sealed pods.

If anyone knows what these are, please fill me in. The fisherman at the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo couldn't speak English.

If anyone knows what these are, please fill me in. The fisherman at the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo couldn’t speak English.

So many samples, so little time.

So many samples, so little time.

The making of an egg, cabbage, brine shrimp, and assorted other ingredients, pancake.

The making of an egg, cabbage, brine shrimp, and assorted other ingredients, pancake.

The finished product. It was okay.

The finished product. It was okay.

Fisherman taking a break.

Fishermen taking a break.

Livers.

Livers.

Eyes anyone?

Eyes, anyone?

Brains

Brains

Now let’s get to Susan’s meatball recipe. I substitued the lamb with ground turkey to make it a bit leaner. Because of this substitution, I increased the whipping cream by 1/2 cup and added the entire egg instead of just the yolk. I knew that I’d need more fat to retain moisture. Here is my ground turkey recipe:

Meatballs

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Sauce

  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 3-inch of orange peel, pith removed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Add all ingredients to the bowl.

Add all ingredients to the bowl.

Mix

Mix

Add the turkey.

Add the turkey.

Mix the turkey into the bread crumb mixture.

Mix the turkey into the bread crumb mixture.

Roll into small balls.

Roll into small balls.

Broil in the oven.

Broil in the oven. Take them out when they’re nice and browned.

Now for the sauce.

 

Process the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Heat a saucepan over medium-high and heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper. Cook for a minute and add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and bay leaf. Saute until onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add sugar, OJ, and peel, along with salt and pepper. Cook for 8 to 1o minutes.

Process the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Heat a saucepan over medium-high and heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper. Cook for a minute and add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and bay leaf. Saute until onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add sugar, OJ, and peel, along with salt and pepper. Cook for 8 to 1o minutes.

Pour the tomato sauce into a large baking dish that you can put on  the table. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.

Garnish with feta and thinly sliced mint.

Garnish with feta and thinly sliced mint. Served mine over bulgur with an extra douse of EVOO. Delish!

Eat well,

April

 

 

 

Pancetta Part 2 & 3

IMG_3816I was a bit delayed in the pancetta posting because, as usual, I became pressed for time. I never got to the stringing and hanging part of the pancetta process until a few hours before a flight to Japan. By that point, the pork belly had cured in the fridge for about 9 days. The entire slab had lost its “squishiness” and firmed up quite nicely.

After pulling the belly from the fridge I began the next process: rinsing it off thoroughly with cold water and patting it dry.

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Next came the tieing (kitchen twine) and the hanging phase of this sizable piece of meat. I learned how to tie meat while in culinary school and it’s definitely a skill that is best learned with visual observation, rather than a written description. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I checked out youtube and of course there was an excellent instructional video (which is far better than anything I could make) created by a Le Cordon Bleu Chef: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=rFIwbUBiRSE&feature=em-share_video_user.

I rolled the pork belly from the widest point until it was tight cylinder.

I rolled the pork belly from the widest point until it was in a tight cylinder.

Finished product.

Finished product. Ready for hanging.

We have a temperature controlled wine closet (one of our best and most successful DIY projects!) and Roger installed a hook in the corner for curing meats. The temperature runs about 58 degrees and the humidity is around 64%. Ideal for curing meat.

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So I hung it and left it hanging for 2 weeks.

So I hung it and left it hanging for 2 weeks.

You might see a few white spots and/or small light green dots during the aging process, but you shouldn’t be concerned. However, it’s not okay if it begins to be smelly and oozy…NASTY. Some experts advocate dabbing the white/green spots with vinegar and others say that these occurrences are a natural process. I dabbed at the spots I saw (just for esthetics) with a little white vinegar on a Q-tip  and they didn’t reoccur.

IMG_4314I recently had major foot surgery and I’m sporting a major cast. I had to ask Roger to retrieve the belly and put it in the fridge for a day until I could move around better on my crutches. When Roger brought up the meat, prior to wrapping it in foil and putting it in the fridge for a day, we both noticed – in the light of the kitchen – how much darker the belly had become. The wine closet is so dim that I had trouble seeing the change in hue.

I unrolled the meat and shaved off thinner areas that had become fairly tough during the aging process.

I unrolled the meat and shaved off thinner areas that had become fairly tough during the aging process. Some pancetta is maintained in a cylindrical shape, but I wish to chop my pieces up into lardon size.

IMG_4322As you can see, the meat turned out beautifully! I now have 5 pounds of pancetta to spread around to friends. I hobbled around the kitchen last night and made a pasta dish tossed with chèvre, asparagus, fresh peas, and sautéed pancetta. Because everything is so much more difficult now with this damn cast, I didn’t think to take a picture until after we ate the finished product. All I can say is that the meat tasted outstanding and I lived to write about it today, so it was a great success!

IMG_4319

Eat well!

April