22 February 2009

Molto Italiano

Mario Batalli is my favorite "Iron Chef". He’s not always my favorite cookbook author. Molto Italiano is jam packed with easy and fun recipes to translate high end Italian restaurant cooking into great home cooked recipes. I was looking for a recipe for meatballs. I know they are just hunks of ground meat, but there are millions of different recipes and I was looking for ideas. Mario’s Neapolitan Meatballs were the kind I was looking for. I was stuck in a snowstorm and I didn’t have all the ingredients – I thought. But after checking the freezer, I was in great shape. Here are some tips for cooking when snowed in…

My friend Ann (not to be confused with my friend Anne) always stops by my favorite bakery before she comes out to Lucindaville and brings lovely French baguettes. Here’s what happens:
We never eat all the baguettes. In my opinion, baguettes have about a 12 hour window from the time they come out of the oven to the time they are ingested. After that they become problematic.
Day One: I feel badly that we didn’t eat them all.
Day Two: I think I might try to eat them, but they are just too dry.
Day Three: They are so hard that they are considered lethal weapons in 8 states.
Day Four: I’m depressed that I let beautiful baguettes go to waste. Ah, but I never let them go to waste.
Day Five: I blitz them in the Cuisinart and make bread crumbs. Then I tuck the crumbs into the freezer for later use, or in this case -- a snow day!

The same thing can happen with Parmesan or Romano. You buy a lovely piece of hard cheese that costs a bit more than your mother’s engagement rings. It starts getting moved around in the fridge, it comes unwrapped, you forget about it, and then it migrates back to the front -- now a dry, hard lump. Again, you don’t want to waste it… so just put it in the Cuisinart, grind it up and stick it in the freezer.

I use a lot of pine nuts, and they will become rancid quickly due to the high oil content. After I open a bag, I freeze any leftover pine nuts.

So with my meat, eggs and spices, I grabbed my frozen bread crumbs, cheese and nuts and the meatballs were under way.

Check out Mario's recipe.

Neapolitan Meatballs
Polpette alla Napoletana

3 cups 1 inch cubes of day old bread
1 1/4 pounds of ground beef
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain the bread cubes and squeeze out the excess moisture.
2. In a large bowl, combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, pine nuts, salt, and pepper and mix with your hands until just blended. With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 –15 large meatballs.
3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Ass the meatballs, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove from heat.
I made my favorite bucatinni, a spicy red sauce and Mario Meatballs. It was a great evening.

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