Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Out with the old - Homemade Meatballs

So I am a product of the 80s. I loved Punky Brewster and Muppet Babies and ate sixlets and was jealous of swatch watch owners. A food that I always associate with the 80s is ground beef, don't ask why. We ate it a lot growing up. It is cheap and since we lived on a budget it was the centerpiece of many meals. We ate tacos, lasagna, burgers, spaghetti...anything mom could think up to use up the glorious ground round. One meat product we didn't eat much and never had homemade, that I can remember are meatballs. I remember being terrified of them for years thinking that the inside would come alive once it entered my body, sort of like a watermelon seed would start to sprout if accidentally swallowed. The few meatballs I do remember were dry, tasteless and would have been great golf ball substitutes if needed. When the salesman and I got married we decided to throw our first real dinner party and invite all of our friends to show off our tiny apartment. We were so proud of our non ventilated bathroom and creepy dropped ceiling floor in one room and the fact that there were five other apartments in this one house didn't bother us a bit at the time. Since we were dirt poor we decided to make a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs thinking it would stretch as much as we needed it to if we had anyone show up unannounced. It was my first attempt at making meatballs. I knew I didn't have the courage yet to stick my hands in the raw meat and mix it all together so I decided I would add all of the ingredients, let the salesman mix and roll and I would take the credit for everything. And I did. And they were awesome. And that dinner party was one of the most memorable nights of our married life. Since then I have rolled hundreds of meatballs and that dish remains one of my favorite meals to cook for any guest.

Meatballs for Spaghetti - Serves 6-8 hungry hippos

1.5 lbs ground beef (I like to mix ground round for the fat and sirloin for the taste. You can also do sirloin and half Italian sausage if you like)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup dry Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbs fresh chopped herbs (Combo if possible of Rosemary, Basil and flat leaf Italian Parsley) if you don't have fresh you can throw in 2 tsp dried but fresh is always best
1/2 of a med. onion grated (yes, with a cheese grater- and make sure all of the juice gets in the bowl)
2 garlic cloves finely diced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
 Yummy Huh? This is all of the wet ingredients prior to the meat being added.
 Toss all of the ingredients into a bowl. Take any jewelry off, wash your hands then shove them into the bowl and start mixing the meat together. This is the best way to make meatballs!! You want to mix it as little as possible so that the meat will stay moist.
 Roll out the meatballs into golf balls size balls. We like them on the bigger side but you can do as big/small as you want.
 In a large heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat drizzle in 2-3 Tbsp olive oil. Once the oil gets warmed up (don't let it burn) start setting your meatballs into the hot oil. You don't want to crowd them so do this in two batches if your pan will not hold them all at one time. At this point DO NOT MESS WITH THEM!! You want them to sit in that hot oil and get crispy before you start moving them around so just hold on. They will need to sit still and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Check one meatball,  and if it easily comes up from the bottom and looks dark brown you are good, if it remotely sticks to the pan leave it alone for a few more minutes.
 Turn all of the meatballs around, you will do this approx 4 times to ensure that the entire outside gets crispy. If you have a lid or a cookie sheet you can place it on your pan and allow the steam to help cook the meatballs to ensure that they will be moist. If you are cooking the meatballs in batches, once the first batch is done you can remove those, set them on a plate and continue filling up your pan with raw meatballs until they are all cooked.

If you are going to be making a marinara sauce you will want to get your base going first then you can add in the meatballs and some of the pan drippings (that is all of the toasty bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan, but not all of the grease) to the pan to give it a good flavor. If you are not making a scratch sauce you can drain some of the fatty oil from your pan, pour in a jarred sauce then add all of your meatballs and let it all simmer together for 30 minutes and it will taste homemade (although I do highly recommend a scratch sauce).
These meatballs are good with spaghetti, on a toasted roll with melted provolone, alone with a toothpick...any way you want to eat them.

Enjoy Y'all!

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