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01/25/2012

~ "Wanna Husband?" "Practice Your Meatballs!!!" ~

IMG_6597Meatballs are a universal food, and, almost every culture has their own name for them and way to serve them (they are acually a diminutive form of meatloaf).  They come in all sizes:  tiny, pop-in-your-mouth-sized ones served at cocktail parties or put into soups; medium-sized ones served as an accompaniment to pasta or put in a sandwich; and, large near baseball-sized ones served as a main course.  While meatballs aren't Italian per se, I'm pretty sure that when most of us think of meatballs, we associate the them with the pillowy-soft, melt-in-your-mouth, covered in red sauce/"gravy" Italian-American kind.  Italian immigrants brought their traditional family meatball recipes to America with them.  Meatballs were not initially served with spaghetti.  They were served alone, as was the pasta.  The two items began being served together in Italian restaurants to appease Americans who wanted meat served alongside their pasta.

PICT1741I don't think I've ever met a man, woman or child that didn't like meatballs, which is probably why every family cook or professional chef has at least one or two recipes for meatballs in their repertoire. I personally have several cultural versions (Asian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Scandinavian, etc.).  My meatballs are pictured here with my recipe for ~ Making Manicotti Using Homemade Crespelle (Crepes) ~, found in Categories 3, 9, 12, 14 or 19.

PICT1892When I was growing up, our family ate spaghetti and meatballs every Tuesday night for dinner. Why?  My mom or dad grocery shopped on Tuesdays, and asked the butcher to freshly grind the meats.  One or the other, once home, would put the groceries away and immediately commence to making the meatballs and the sauce.  On Tuesdays, my brother and I would get off the school bus and practically run home in anticipation of this meal.

January 2012 078Our almost 5-year-old grandson, who lives in Pittsburgh, takes after his GrandMel where meatballs are concerned.  Whenever he's visiting us here in Happy Valley, next to "Dinosaur Chicken", spaghetti and meatballs are one of his favorites.   DJ's mom just e-mailed me this photo of him enjoying his after-school dinner tonight.  Thanks Melissa!  Give David a giant hug and kiss from GrandMel & JoePa.

WhatthehellcharlieMy husband Joe named this recipe for me.  "Practice your meatballs" is a line in one of his favorite movies, Prizzi's Honor.  It is a 1985, Academy Award winning, American black comedy, directed by John Huston.  It revels in the finagling of the members of a Brooklyn Mafia family, the Prizzi family, and rejoices in their everyday, family craziness and scams.   Charlie Partana (the clans enforcer/hit man, played by Jack Nicholson), in a scene with the elegant, but alas, husbandless family scandal Maerose Prizzi (played by Angelica Houston), listens to her bemoan her father's harsh criticisms of her. "Maerose", Charlie advises, "settle down, have a couple kids, a life... practice your meatballs".

Making the Meat Mixture

PICT1794For the basic meat mixture:

4  pounds ground sirloin (95/5)

4  pounds pork tenderloin

12  ounces finely diced onion

1  ounce finely diced garlic cloves

~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a very large bowl and thoroughly combine.  The best way to do this is with your hands.

PICT1771For the cheese:

8  ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano 

~ Step 1.  Coarsely chop and place cheese in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of about 30-45 rapid on-off pulses, process to coarse grains.  You will have about 2 total cups of grated cheese. Remove the cheese from the processor and set aside.

PICT1777For the wet mixture & seasonings:

12 ounces saltine crackers (6 crackers shy of 3 sleeves)

8  jumbo eggs

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons Italian seasoning blend

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

PICT1785~ Step 1.  Place crackers in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Using a series of about 30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs.

~ Step 2.  Open the lid of the processor and add the eggs, milk, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Close the lid and with the motor running process until mixture is thick and pasty, about 15-20 seconds.

PICT1790~ Step 3.  Open the lid of the processor and add 1 cup of the grated Parmigianno-Reggiano.  

Note:  Reserve the remaining cheese for sprinkling on the finished meatballs and sauce.  I usually purchase 1 pound of cheese.  I grate it all and store it in the refrigerator for use in and on all sorts of other things!

Close the lid and process until the cheese is thoroughly incorporated, an additional 15-20 seconds.

PICT1802~ Step 4.  Transfer all of the wet mixture to the meat mixture.

PICT1811Using your hands, thoroughly combine the mixtures. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, for 1 hour and up to overnight, to allow the flavors to marry/come together. Uncover and briefly remix.

How to Form & Fry & Even Freeze:

The above meatball mixture, which is pretty simple and straight-forward, makes a lot, about 12 dozen.  It takes no extra time to mix this big batch, just a bit of extra frying time, about 30 minutes extra, which is a small sacrifice considering the outcome.  Once the meatballs are fried and cooled, I portion and freeze a great deal of them (unsauced), enough for 6-8 more meals.  

My method for frying meatballs, however, requires one extra step... an old and authentic step.  It is a step so many American cooks don't know about, or skip.  The formed meatballs get rolled in breadcrumbs prior to frying.  This produces a lovely crisp, golden brown breadcrumb crust. These are indeed, moist, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth incredible meatballs.  Enjoy:  

PICT1816To form and fry:

1  24-ounce container plain, dry breadcrumbs

corn or peanut oil for frying

PICT1819

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 1.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place meatballs, side-by-side on 2 large, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap, and keep them covered until each batch is ready to be rolled in breadcrumbs and fried.  

Today, as pictured here, I got exactly 11 1/2 dozen meatballs!

PICT1826~ Step 2.  Place about 2 cups of breadcrumbs in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish.

~ Step 3.  Place about 1/4" of oil in the bottom of an electric skillet and preheat to about 340 degrees.

Note:  In the case of my electric skillet, you can see that a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish is the perfect gauge for how many meatballs to fry at one time.  Do not overcrowd the skillet!

PICT1831

 

~ Step 4.  Place about 28-36 meatballs in the breadcrumbs and roll to coat.  When all are coated, place them in the preheated skillet. Fry, until browned on both sides, but NOT completely cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook meatballs!  Using a pair of tongs remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

PICT1838Repeat this process until all meatballs are fried and drained, adding additional breadcrumbs to the baking dish and oil to the skillet, as necessary.  I will fry all of my meatballs in four batches today, and, it will only take me about 45 total minutes.  

PICT1882To cook freshly made or frozen (unthawed) meatballs, drop them into sauce simmering in a chef's pan or skillet (not a saucepan or stockpot) until they are just cooked through, 10-12 minutes for fresh ones or 22-25 minutes for frozen ones. Pictured here: 1 quart of sauce in a 3 1/2 quart chef's pan with 18 meatballs.  To find my recipe for ~ Mel's Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~, go to Categories 8, 12 or 22.

IMG_6643"Wanna Husband?"  "Practice Your Meatballs!!!":  Recipe yields about 11 1/2-12 dozen meatballs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; very large mixing bowl; food processor; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; electric skillet or large nonstick skillet; small fork; small spatula; tongs; paper towels

PICT1869Cook's Note:  I freeze my meatballs on parchment-lined baking pans for several hours or overnight. Next, I place them on inexpensive, disposable food service trays that I buy at our local Sam's club, cover each tray completely in plastic wrap and put each one in a food storage bag.  I then stack the trays neatly on top of each other in my freezer!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

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