Weekly Winner:  Quite Possibly the Fussiest Spaghetti and Meatballs Ever Made

Well, maybe not ever made, but certainly the fussiest of such dish that I’ve ever made.  I’m usually not a fan of fussiness.  I don’t care if a recipe is overly complex, or complicated.  It can even be downright difficult and take several days to make and I’ll do it if the end justifies the means.  But fussiness for fussiness’ sake? Meh, count me out.

Having said all that, it should be noted that Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Pork Meatballs and Corn Cream was incredibly tasty and very unique.  Nothing in the recipe (which came from Food & Wine Magazine) was difficult.  I’m just not totally convinced it was worth the close to 2 hours it took to prepare it.  The meatballs are amazing.  I mean seriously tasty.  And while there was nothing wrong with the pasta part of the dish, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be making this again.  I’ve frozen the leftovers and will have them again this week and decide then if the recipe is worth keeping.  It certainly was the best thing I made last week, but I’m just not sure it deserves a permanent spot in my recipe book.  Super tasty, interesting, and relatively easy, but just a little too fussy for my temperament.  Make this for yourself and decide – then let me know what you think!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Pork Meatballs and Corn Cream

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 stick plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

4-1/2 cups corn kernels

Kosher salt and pepper

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp minced sage

1 tsp minced thyme

1/4 cup whole milk

3 Tbsp plain dry breadcrumbs

12 oz ground pork

1 Tbsp minced parsley

2 tsp minced garlic

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Pinch of ground allspice

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

6 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut into large pieces (I had creminis so used them)

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

Procedure:

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Stir in 2 cups of the corn and season with salt and pepper. Add 2/3 cup of water and bring to a simmer; remove from the heat. Transfer the corn and water to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the corn cream through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing on the solids; discard the solids.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of the sage and thyme and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, 30 seconds. Scrape the oil into a bowl and stir in the milk and breadcrumbs. Add the pork, parsley, garlic, coriander, allspice, 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and mix well. Form the mixture into 12 meatballs and transfer to a plate.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and the mushrooms to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, add the mushrooms to the meatballs.

Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of corn kernels to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the shallots and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of sage and thyme, reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook until the broth is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Add the meatballs and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta and pasta water to the pot. Add the corn mixture, corn cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and 6 tablespoons of cheese and cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated with a thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the meatballs, garnish with more cheese and serve at once.

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Weekly Winner:  Cooling off a Hot October with a Simple Noodle Salad

Chicago is going through a strange mid-October heat wave.  It feels like August out there this week!  And while my heart and the calendar are telling me its time for steamy soups, roasted veggies and pumpkin-flavored anything, the thermostat is definitely disagreeing.  I needed some cool, healthy refreshment today for lunch.  I found it with this amazing Cold Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken and Cucumber.

This noodle salad is truly the epitome of Asian simplicity.  There are no “throwaway” ingredients – no laundry list of things to add just for the sake of adding.  Everything is essential and the salad itself is only made up of 6 basic ingredients, three of which are herbs!  It’s incredibly easy to prepare and super-refreshing and delicious to enjoy. But most important for today – it was cold. The recipe comes from Epicurious.

Cold Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken and Cucumbers

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 lb wide rice noodles

8 cups shredded cooked chicken

4 small cucumbers, thinly slides (about 3 cups)

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/3 cup fresh cilantro (I used flat leaf parsley), chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup soy sauce

Hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek), to taste

Procedure:

  • Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain, transfer to a large bowl of ice water, drain again, then pat dry.
  • Transfer noodles to another large bowl and add chicken, cucumbers and herbs.
  • Whisk fish sauce, lime juice, honey and soy sauce in a medium bowl.  Season with hot chili paste.  Add fish sauce mixture to noodle salad and stir to combine.

Weekly Winner:  Turmeric Turns Pork Chops into Tantalizing Treat.

OK, seriously, when aren’t pork chops tantalizing??  They are, without hesitation, my favorite piece of meat.  When cooked properly nothing can beat it. For some reason, I just haven’t made them much lately and when the hankering took hold over the weekend, I went looking for a new twist on my old favorite.

Turmeric Pork Chops with Green Onion Rice was just what I was looking for.  The dry rub and glaze makes these chops tangy, sticky, and dang delicious.  And with all the touted health benefits of turmeric, and the fact that the recipe comes from Cooking Light, you could make the argument that this is one healthy, life-extending dish. You could make that argument, but you probably wouldn’t win it.  What you will win is an excellent quick, easy, tasty meal.

Turmeric Pork Chops with Green Onion Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 (6-oz.) bone-in pork chops

1 large garlic clove, halved

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 teaspoons oyster sauce

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 bunch green onions

2 (8.8-oz.) packages precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Procedure:

1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Rub pork with cut sides of garlic; discard garlic. Sprinkle pork with turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine 2 tablespoons oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and tomato paste. Brush both sides of pork with half of oil mixture. Add pork to pan; grill 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Transfer to a plate; brush both sides of pork with remaining oil mixture. Keep warm.

2. Add onions to grill pan over medium-high; grill 2 minutes. Coarsely chop onions.

3. Heat rice according to package directions. Combine green onions, rice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve rice with pork. Serve with lime wedges.