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Archive for March, 2010

Apparently pain makes me stupid.  My back has been a mess for six weeks, and let’s just say my ability, ambition, and interest in cooking have been severely hampered.  My writing pace has not kept up either.  I can rarely focus on books or magazines, much less my RSS-feed of design-blog porn.  I can knit a short while flat on my back before my fingers go numb (curse you gravity!), and I am left ripping out many rows because I was too distracted by pain to keep count of my stitches anyway.

Basically, while my family and friends are having fun in the kitchen, I have spent a lot of time crashed out on the floor, staring at the ceiling, and worrying.  Is this a minor problem which will resolve on it’s own?  Or, am I back to where I was four years ago when a decade of crippling pain was instantly resolved by a spinal fusion surgery?  For now I have scheduled consults, rearranged obligations to reduce expectations (translation:  canceled everything), and relied on my husband to pick up the slack.  Give that man a medal!  A shot of cortisone has brought temporary relief – at least enough to start stringing sentences together again.  I cannot promise they will be cogent any more than I can stay focused enough to plan a meal or vertical long enough to prepare it.  Taking it one day at a time.

Earlier this month, The Spouse and The Child decided to make meatballs together.  They made a slightly modified version of Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

Tweaks to Alton’s recipe:

1)    Doubling the recipe makes sense, as leftovers are fabulous.
2)    They used an equal amount of Penzeys Italian Herb Mix in lieu of the dried basil and parsley.
3)    Chopped stale bread went into the meat mixture, and they used panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) for the external breadcrumbs.  More bread filler went into the meat mixture than the recipe specifies because we had extra stale bread on hand, and because measuring seemed like effort.
4)    More bread in the meat mixture compensates for the extra water from rounding up the quantity of frozen spinach to an even one pound bag.
5)    Alton’s method of baking the meatballs in mini-muffin tins did not work as well as we had hoped (so subsequent batches were done on a cooling rack in a foil-lined half-sheet pan) .  The concept is that the muffin tin props up the meatball, increases air flow, and thus they cook and brown more evenly.  The panko went a bit gooey where the meatballs rested on the pan, but they were tasty anyway.  Tasty enough to invite friends the following weekend for leftover meatball subs.

Child labor:

Stocking the kitchen with powder-free latex gloves opens up typically adult-only cooking tasks to The Child, like handling raw meat.  We are not lax on the food safety speeches, and her soon-to-be-seven-year-old self approached her task with gravitas and pride.  A rubber band around the wrist can be used to keep large gloves on little hands, but The Child managed hers without assistance.  After The Spouse prepared the mixture, an assembly line began.  Using a disher, he would form each meatball, placing it in a container of panko.  The Child would ensure it was breaded and line them up ready to bake in the oven.  Coating meatballs in breadcrumbs taps right into elementary school glitter crafts and she took her job very seriously.  Mmmm…. tasty, edible glitter.  The Child kept an even pace with her dad, and the meatballs were prepped and in the oven quickly.

Served with spaghetti squash and marinara, one to two meatballs is a perfect serving size.  That did not prevent me from having seconds however.  Throughout the week, we ate them sliced on sandwiches, cut in half with a slice of cheese microwaved over the top as a snack, and alongside eggs for breakfast.  Before the weekend arrived they were demolished, and round two of meatball preparation was in order to make good on our offer of meatball subs for all.

The second batch tasted even better, being baked on a cooling rack set atop a foil-lined, half-sheet pan.  They browned better and developed a crunchy exterior.  Round two was fabulous served to our guests as mini-sliders with marinara and cheese.

This time there were no leftovers.

Baked Meatballs

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 20 meatballs, 4 to 5 servings

Ingredients

•    1/2 pound ground pork
•    1/2 pound ground lamb
•    1/2 pound ground round
•    5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
•    1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
•    1 whole egg
•    1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
•    1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
•    1 teaspoon garlic powder
•    1 teaspoon kosher salt
•    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•    1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, lamb, ground round, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1.5-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds, roll in the bread crumbs and place the meatballs in individual, miniature muffin tin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

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