Jan
29
2010

  Meatball Briquettes

I decided to make meatballs tonight, since there was some ground beef in the fridge I really needed to cook. I vaguely recall trying and failing to make meatballs back when I was an undergrad, and have just been buying frozen meatballs ever since. But I'm a better cook now, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It's not as easy as I thought it would be.

Mixing it up was fine, I actually had all the ingredients in the house and the recipe I used from the Joy of Cooking called for tossing a lot of them into the food processor so that part was fast and easy.

But I was thrown by the instruction to "brown on all sides". Meatballs are spheres. What sides was I supposed to brown? Meatballs have an infinite number of sides. I thought I'd put them in the pan and roll them around until they were brown all over, but that's definitely not how the cookbook described the process. So I gave it my best shot.

What started off looking like balls, morphed into bits more resembling charcoal briquettes. Kind-of square, kind-of rounded, kind-of flat, kind-of mounded.

Although the meatballs didn't look as good as the pre-made frozen kind, they tasted delicious. I guess there was some ingredient in them that made them turn black as coal when I browned them, but they weren't burnt at all (although they did get a nice char). William ate FOUR meatballs, and this was after Terry already fed him baby sauce for dinner.

I went ahead and made my own tomato sauce, too. I would have preferred to let it simmer longer than I did, but Terry and I were both hungry, and it tasted good anyway. But I suspect it will be even better tomorrow.

I think I would like to get better at browning the meatballs since they were so delicious. I have a friend who reads Cooks Illustrated, I'll try to remember to call her tomorrow and see if she remembers any tips about how to brown meatballs in a way that maintains their roundness. Or I guess I could just look online. The internet certainly has cut down the need for human interaction, hasn't it? Used to be the only way I'd get tips on how to cook meatballs was to go to the library and look for an instructional cookbook, or call friends until I found someone who knew. Now I suppose all I really need to do is google "how to brown meatballs" and watch a video or something.

Your meatballs were a big

Your meatballs were a big hit with Terry, or so he told me in his latest email. I had be teasing him with stories of the Italian Meal I was cooking and was even mean enough to send him a video.
I don’t have a recipe for my meatballs or tomato sauce, but I definitely have a consistent result, I just kind of know how much of this and that, and add it then tweak until its right. I’d be happy to share my odd and ends for meatballs and tomato sauce if you want. Just let me know. With regards to browning them, cook them over lower heat and turn them frequently. Sometimes I really like them crispy and even a little black can work, if I cook them in the sauce for a few hours they hold together and soften up too.

Ah! I'll try browning them

Ah! I'll try browning them with lower heat next time. But how do you turn them? Do you actually try to make "sides" on the meatball, or just ever-so-gently nudge them around in a circle with a spoon, or what?

Because I used high heat, they stuck to the pan a little (which I ordinarily happens when browning meat, so there is something to deglaze for the sauce later) and I couldn't "roll" them, I had to use tongs to pick them up and turn them, and they got misshapen that way.

It's definitely your influence that has had Terry muttering under his breath about meatballs for weeks now, so I thought I'd give him a treat. . .

I just used the recipe for "meatball sauce #2" or something like that in Joy of Cooking. What was in there, a pound of meat, a clove of garlic, an onion, an egg, 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup of parsley, and 1/4 cup of parmesan. Plus salt & pepper.

I don't remember what I put in the sauce. But I generally don't aspire to getting consistent results, I aspire to making whatever it is the best I can given the ingredients on hand. Sometimes I'll have leftover green beans in the chili, other times canned chicken makes its way into the pesto, whatever. It's an adventure over here.

I simply use a fork and

I simply use a fork and spoon. I fry them in a cast iron frying pan, and scrap the bottom of the pan, prying them loose and lifting them into the spood. I use the for sort of like a mini-spatual. Nothing fancy or elegant but it works for me.

After they are all fried up the go into the sauce. I usually do all my cooking in the morning and then serve at dinner. The meat flavors the sauce and vice versa. MMmmmm.....

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