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:  If Swedish Meatballs Traveled to Turkey Wearing a Velvet Blanket

Luscious.  Simply Luscious.  There is no other way to describe this strange little dish.  You have wonderfully soft, spiced meatballs nestled on white rice and then it all is bathed in an amazing yogurt sauce that’s been enriched with egg yolks. Because it’s basically meatballs in a “white” sauce, there is a definite homage to Swedish meatballs.  But this dish is far more complex and interesting than the cocktail party staple.

Spiced Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce comes from Martha Stewart Living.  It takes more time than you’d expect to make this dish and has a few unexpected steps, but nothing is complicated or difficult.  The results are definitely worth it when you sit down to this rich, satisfying dish.

Spiced Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

6 large cloves garlic, 3 minced, 3 sliced

Coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 large egg, plus 3 large yolks

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, (or parsley in my case) plus more for serving

1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cooked rice, for serving

Ground sumac and red-pepper flakes, for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, minced garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add cumin and cinnamon and cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor; process to a paste.
  2. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup broth; let stand 5 minutes. Add beef, onion paste, whole egg, and cilantro; mix with your hands to combine. With lightly dampened hands, form mixture into 28 balls, about 2 tablespoons each.
  3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Working in batches (do not crowd pan), cook meatballs until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes a batch. Transfer to a plate; pour off fat from skillet. Return meatballs to pan; add 3/4 cup broth and sliced garlic. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer just until meatballs are cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and yogurt. In another bowl, whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup broth; whisk into broth in skillet. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then strain through a sieve into yogurt mixture, stirring to combine. Return to skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until just bubbling and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute; season with salt. Add meatballs to sauce and heat through. Serve over rice, sprinkled with sumac, red-pepper flakes, and parsley.

Weekly Winner:  Great Big Balls of Comfort

Things always seem to get crazy for the first few months of the year.  Always for different reasons, yet always hectic.  I always fall under the false assumption that once the holidays are over things will slow down and my beloved routine will return.  It just never seems to happen.

So when I do have some time to “play” in the kitchen and try new things — I am always looking for comfort.  Something I can curl up on the couch with and escape into.  These Curried Meatballs are just the salve I was looking for.  Meaty, spicy, warm and cozy.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and while the list of ingredients may seem a bit long and daunting, at least in my case, I had everything on hand.  Make this dish on the night you seriously need some soul-satisfying, heart-warming fare.  Pajamas optional (but highly recommended). Also you will notice the forbidden cilantro on top.  This was hubby’s dish.  The recipe calls for it but I have omitted it as I always do.  Do what you feel is right.

Curried Meatballs

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Meatballs

Olive oil

6 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 jalapeños, seeds removed if desired

6 garlic cloves

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds ground beef (20% fat)

1 large egg, beaten to blend

3 tablespoons plain yogurt (plus more for serving)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Curry Sauce:
¼ cup olive oil

4 medium onions, chopped

10 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1½-inch piece ginger, peeled, chopped

3 dried chiles de árbol

4 teaspoons curry powder

4 teaspoons ground cumin

4 teaspoons ground turmeric

3 tablespoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Procedure:

Meatballs

Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Purée scallions, jalapeños, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and cayenne in a blender until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add beef, egg, yogurt, and salt. Mix with your hands until mixture is homogenous and starts to become very sticky like sausage meat, about 1 minute. Roll beef mixture into golf ball–size portions and place on baking sheet, spacing 1″ apart (you should have about 24). Drizzle meatballs with more oil and bake until browned on top and cooked through, 20–25 minutes.

Curry Sauce

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Add onions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often,  are translucent and starting to brown, 8–10 minutes. Stir in chiles, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and peppercorns. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is very fragrant and spices begin to stick to the pot, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stirring and scraping bottom of pot, and bring to a boil. Add bay leaf, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 2 cups water; return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors have melded, 25–30 minutes.

Let curry sauce cool slightly, then transfer to a blender; blend until very smooth. Wipe out any bits remaining in pot and transfer curry sauce back to pot. Stir in lemon juice and cayenne; taste sauce and season with more salt if needed.

Gently nestle cooked meatballs into sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook until meatballs are heated all the way through, 10–15 minutes. Serve topped with dollop of yogurt.


Weekly Winner:  Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of….Turkey??

 Without a doubt, this was the tastiest and prettiest dish I made this week.  And it surprised the heck out of me.  This dish absolutely has no right whatsoever to be this good.  But it is!

First of all, the meatballs are turkey….. Turkey!  Not pork… not even beef …. but turkey!  There’s no super-savory additive, no umami-inducing bacon, soy sauce, or anything really.  The magic must lie in the fact that it is all done in one pan.  Which besides making sure all the flavor stays in one place, also makes it super easy!  The rice takes on a wonderful “pilaffy” aroma and taste.  There’s just enough lemon and garlic to make it savory, but not zingy or too acidic.

The recipe comes from Cook’s Country and as is the case with most of their recipes, it is flawless.  It’s perfectly tested, works beautifully and has a short, manageable list of ingredients.  But it tastes so much more complex than the sum of its parts.  It should be a decent dish.  However, there is no reason why it is as wonderfully tasty and comforting as it is.  I’m perplexed … but happily perplexed.  Try it and then explain to me what makes it so good!

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin
  •  1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

Instructions

  1. Pulse bread in food processor to fine crumbs, 10 to 15 pulses; transfer to large bowl. Add turkey, 2 tablespoons scallion greens, egg, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide mixture into 20 portions (about 1 heaping tablespoon each). Roll into meatballs, transfer to plate, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel–lined plate, leaving fat in skillet.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 1 minute. Add scallion whites, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, lemon juice, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest and bring to boil.
  4. Return meatballs to skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan, remaining scallion greens, and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.