Classic Meatballs

I have so many things to tell you about these meatballs. Starting with: Vegan-say-what? It seems like just yesterday we were putting dry, hard pieces of mochi on our waffle iron and waiting with confused anticipation for it to turn into something resembling a waffle. Clearly, with the title of this post, those days are gone. And not that I had to be convinced or persuaded in any real way, but it should be noted that meatballs were Matt's pick. He had had a particularly rough week at work, and so I gave him carte blanche in picking out the next attempt. I handed him a giant stack of food magazines and loved watching what happened next: He poured over each magazine, flipping down page corner after page corner and then, just to leave no stone unturned, he went through our cookbooks as well, eventually arriving at three different recipes for meatballs: Ina Garten's, Gourmet's (from a 2008 issue), and Saveur's. Saveur won out in the end. Why? Just look at this picture (of a photography by Todd Coleman).

our version:
This marks the third recipe from the issue's collection of 25 Greatest Meals Ever. First, we tried Richard Rodriguez's refried beans with chorizo, which I never posted but still might. Second was the vegetarian chili that saved the writer Suketu Mehta's life. Which brings us to number three, Dana Bowen's greatest meal: classic meatballs.
Meatballs are another one of those timeless foods that every once in a while Matt craves and that I've somehow gone my entire life without making. Speaking of my whole life, while making these meatballs, I was reminded of a test in third grade, which began with bolded directions: Read all directions before beginning. Being a particularly competitive third grader who liked to finish tests first, I skimmed the directions and began doing what the first one told me to do: Underline the nouns. No problem there. The next direction told me to circle the verbs. I know I’m only a third grader, but is it too much to ask for a c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e? Verbs circled. What’s next?

So, with all of my burgeoning neurotic tendencies, I completed all directives only to come to the last one: Ignore all above directions. Needless to say, it was a tough lesson. Yet one that didn’t stick with me.

See, as previously mentioned, this meal was for Matt, and Matt requested an early “Meatball Sunday!” dinner. I told him no problem. Let's skip lunch and eat at four. Only, I must have skimmed over the part about chilling the meat mixture for an hour. "Dinner at five?" Then, when I came to mixing in the ricotta, I saw what else I skipped over: 2⁄3 cup ricotta, drained in a strainer for two hours. Needless to say, my ricotta was drained for exactly four minutes, and by drained, I mean, set upon a mesh strainer for four minutes without releasing a single drop of liquid.
Fortunately, I don’t think these mistakes affected the taste at all. Unfortunately, I think they may have affected the texture a bit. The non-drained ricotta and rushed chilling time in the refrigerator equaled a looser raw meatball, and I believe this is what caused a few of them to fall apart during the browning process, and which impeded some of them from reaching a full-level of browning, which I believe would have led to a more discernible difference in the outside texture and inside texture of the finished meatballs. Know what I mean?

I don't think that all meatball recipes call for braising them in red sauce, but I think they probably should. After all the hard work of gathering, chopping, mixing and molding the ingredients into the shape of large golf balls and browning these in hot olive oil, it was a relief to add some red wine, tomato puree, and beef broth and allow yourself to forget about them for an hour and a half. Of course, you can't really forget about them because your entire apartment now smells like delicious meat and marinara sauce.
As the meatballs braised, I reread what Bowen had to say about them. Just why were they her greatest meal ever again? Well, part of it was that they were left on her "porch in a Farberware pot with a loaf of Italian bread and a note that said: 'Figured you wouldn't have time to cook.'" She and her husband had just moved and the meatballs were a gift from their new neighbors. I looked up from the magazine and told Matt what I'd just read. "Wouldn't that be so nice? To leave some of these on someone's doorstep?" We had just watched Client 9 and Inside Job on back-to-back nights and my thoughts on humanity were bleak. This is what the world needed more of—people giving away their home-cooked meatballs! I began to picture it. We didn't know anyone who had just moved but any one of our friends would appreciate some home-cooked meatballs on their doorstep. We could swing by the store on the way and get a nice fresh French loaf too. But before I could go any further with this plan, Matt, looking visibly shaken, spoke up. "These are our meatballs.” I didn't fight him on it. After all, this happened (Meatballs à la Band-Aid?):

Plus, I had promised him meatballs at four, and their ETA was now looking to be about six.

After some clean-up, we ate at six thirty. Not so bad? Right in time for the previously recorded episode of Kourtney and Kim Take New York. What? It’s hilarious and I just couldn’t watch one more documentary featuring that old guy from AIG. Anyway, I'm pleased to report that the homemade meatballs were utterly spectacular and even better the second day.

Classic Meatballs via Saveur
serves 4-6
10 oz. ground beef chuck or veal
10 oz. ground pork shoulder
2 oz. minced pork fat or unsmoked bacon
2 oz. prosciutto, minced
1 1⁄4 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced, plus more for garnish
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1⁄2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice
7 slices white bread, finely ground in a food processor
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2⁄3 cup ricotta, drained in a strainer for 2 hours
2 tbsp. milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus
more for greasing
1⁄4 cup dry red wine
4 cups canned tomato purée
1 cup beef or veal stock or water
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, chile flakes, cumin, allspice, and bread crumbs and season generously with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, mix ingredients until combined; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, milk, and eggs; add to meat mixture and gently mix until incorporated. Chill for 1 hour. 

2. Heat oven to 300°. Grease 2 rimmed baking sheets with oil and set aside. Using a 2-oz. ice cream scoop, portion mixture, roll into meatballs with your hands, and transfer to greased baking sheets. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a 3-qt. high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate; wipe out skillet. Repeat with remaining oil and meatballs. Return reserved meatballs to skillet along with any juices from the plate. Add wine; increase heat to high and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and beef stock, bring to a boil, and tightly cover skillet. Transfer to oven; bake until meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the sauce, about 
1 1⁄2 hours. To serve, transfer meatballs to a platter; spoon over sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Serve with bread or spaghetti, if you like.


Matthew said...

One of the best comfort meals I've ever had! Meatball Sunday!!!

Heather Taylor said...

meatballs with a side of bandaid? seriously though, these look delicious!

Sunday Taylor said...

One of my very favorite meals, pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs. Must be from my Italian background. And these look amazing, would love to make this recipe. I laughed about those steps that you didn't quite do, how any times has that happened to all of us!

Amelia Morris said...

Thanks, ladies!
@Sunday: I bet you have an amazing classic recipe of your own though!!

penelope said...

I made these and made the same mistake with the ricotta!! Still delicious though!

Jessica said...

So funny as always! Love the bandaid vid and that bowl of pasta looks devine!
- Jess

the granola project said...

I know a little boy who would love meatballs left on his porch.

Megan Taylor said...

Meatballs with the essence of band-aid!

Megan Taylor said...

Vegan Shmegan (ha! I even managed to get my name in there!)...also just noticed I already commented. Sorry...obsessed. XOXO

sara said...

I want meatballs left on my doorstep! Those look amazing, perfect for the cold wet weather we've been having.

Amelia Morris said...

sara! you were TOTALLY our first stop if matt had let me. moms with newborns get first dibs!

Marsha and Mark said...

Those meatballs look amazing. I bet Meatball Monday was great too (if any were left)!

Mary Anne said...

oh man those meatballs are slayin me!! i want them so bad! nice work. you really got that bandaid in there.

Luisa said...

I can't stop laughing about the Band-Aid! Also, I need a meatball now.