Cookin' With Leo
Meat Balls (Italian?)
So I ain't Italian, but I know a few of them.
So much for qualifications!
All my Irish, French, German, Polish and other assorted friends and relatives like my Italian cooking (they probably don't know any better). But, I did watch my Italian Fairy Godmother do this once.
How else would I have learned to be an Italian Connoisseur (good question)?
Before we begin, let's decide we ain't gonna' worry about how many pounds of this or that or how many ounces or spoonfuls of something we are gonna' use. My Italian Fairy Godmother never measured anything. An' this recipe is for big or little crowds, so everything is in toss-in Amounts. Whatever.
Now, before we start cookin', let's trot on down to your favorite butcher shop and get the following:
Equal amounts of Ground Veal, Ground Pork (not seasoned and not too fat), and Ground Beef (not cheap stuff but lean ground round). Have the Veal and Beef ground twice as it is much tenderer.
Next stop is the Spice Shop to get:
Rosemary leaf, ground - Basil Leaf, cut and sifted - Thyme Leaf, ground - Black Pepper, medium grind - Chives, freeze dried, cut and sifted - Spinach Powder - Grated Parmesan Cheese - Virgin (look for her picture) Olive Oil.
And now from the Super:
White onions - Fresh Garlic - Eggs.
And the last stop is the Liquor Store for:
A jug of Heavy Bodied, Dry, Italian Red Wine.
OK we are all done buyin'. So put all the groceries away for the time bein', except for the jug of wine. Dig out an ol' record or tape of Dean Martin singing "That's Amore". Pour out a big glass of wine and park your butt in your favorite rocker. You are gonna' need this little relaxation time 'cause when we get started doin' this recipe, y'all are gonna' be busier that a mommy cat in a sandbox after a litter of kittens.
LONG PAUSE FOR WINE, DEAN, RELAXATION, WHATEVER
OK, ya' ready to get started now? Rustle around through your pots and pans and find a good size mixing bowl (big enough to hold all the meat). A cast iron frying pan. A metal spoon with drain holes. A small bowl to pour some wine in. That should do it for now, no mixin' spoons or tools, we are gonna' use hands here.
Question - Do you know how to cup your hand? Good, practice that a little, 'cause that is how we are gonna' measure (my Italian Fairy Godmother was good at measurin' that way and taught me how to).
Now you can round up all the meat and dump that into the mixing bowl. Toss in a few raw eggs (3 pounds of meat or less, 1or 2 eggs, up to 6 pounds, 3 eggs, 10 pounds better use 4 eggs and for any amount more than that, use accordingly. All them eggs are gonna do is glue the meat together anyway.
And, now that you practiced your hand cupping and think you are good at it, let's start in with the spices.
Rosemary, fill your cupped hand once for each 3 pounds of meat and toss into the bowl.
The same goes for the Basil, Thyme, Chives and Spinach Powder.
When it comes time for the Garlic and Pepper, just be careful, my Italian Fairy Godmother got carried away with the stuff and you always knew when she was showin' up (to this day Italian Cooks wear a toe of garlic and a medal of the Blessed Virgin around their neck. but I don't know which keeps what away). But, you can chop up at least one toe of garlic for each 2 pounds of meat and toss in a cupped hand full of pepper. That should be safe enough for the average eaters.
Chop up a medium onion very fine, for about 2 to 3 pounds of meat and maybe another one or two for up to 6 pounds.
If you have a nice cutting board, sprinkle it with the grated cheese or spread a big piece of wax paper on the kitchen table and sprinkle that with the cheese.
Dig out a big cast iron skillet and pour in ¼ cup of Olive Oil and let it get good and hot without smoking or burning.
Roll up your sleeves, dip your hands into the bowl of wine, then get into that mixing bowl, and start mixin. Whenever your hands get too sticky just dip into the wine again and keep at it until all the meant and spices are thoroughly mixed. When everything is all mixed up and nothing is stickin' to the side of the bowl or to your hands (keep 'em moist with the wine), then you are ready to roll the meatballs. Dip your hands into the wine, then get about a spoonful of the meat, and roll it into little balls not larger than 1 inch. If you are gettin' at least 13 meatballs to each pound of meat, you are doing fine on the size (The only place you ever see great big meatballs is in them 'all you can eat' places). Set them out on a piece of wax paper for now. Make all the meatballs you need for the crowd you are going to feed. However, use all the meat anyway, if you have too many meatballs freeze them after they are browned.
When you are all done rolling the meatballs dip your hands in the wine to get all the goody off and save that for meat sauce.
Begin browning the meatballs and depending on the size of the pan, don't try to do more than 12 to 16 at a time. You need the space in the pan to roll the meatballs in to make sure they brown all around. As they get to a golden brown dip them out with the draining spoon and place them onto the board or wax paper sprinkled with cheese. That will help dry up the oil on them and adds a little flavor too.
OK, are we all done browning the meatballs, great, You're done. But, now you scratch your ass (better your head) and mumble somethin' about 'What the heck am I going to do with 522 and 13/16 meat balls'?
Well, now, I'll tell you. First of all, if you look around, you will notice that your Italian Fairy Godmother took out, fled the scene, flew the coop, wherever, and left you to your own devices, whatever kind of vices. But, have no fear, Leo's here, if not in person, at least in spirit (not another figment of your imagination), and better yet in print, if you are reading this.
First thing to do is wrap that little 13/16 leftover in a slice of cheese and down it with a big gulp of wine. And, if that makes your mouth water for more then you done a good job. Next, figure out how many friends, relatives, and ex-wives you are going to feed. Use at least 4 to 6 meatballs for each guest and add a couple of more in case they ask for seconds and then do this.
Get a big stainless steel pan and toss in the hand washin' wine. Break out enough cans of pasta sauce, the kind that says 'it's in there', and empty them into the pot, flush them out with a little red wine to get all the goody out. Chop up a toe of garlic for each can of sauce you used and toss them in. A cupped handful of Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese tossed in won't hurt a bit. If you have some mushrooms slice them up and toss them in. A green pepper will jazz things up a bit.
And, what the heck, get carried away, clean up all the left over gravies and sauces from yesterday's meal, and even if there is some left over meat use it too, but in the case of meat you want to chop it all up fine, so it can't be recognized, after all it is YOUR Italian Meat Balls that you are featuring here. Bring all this to a boil and then cut the heat to just a bare simmer and cover the pot. Make sure you stir it ever so often so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, and let it simmer until the flavor is cooked throughout.
About 30 minutes or so before you are ready to start servin', toss in the required number of meat balls.
Then get another pot to heat some pasta (spaghetti, noodles, whatever) according to the directions. When that is done, you are ready to serve.
Set out a glass of the wine for each guest, and place a nice helping of pasta on each plate. Cover with the sauce and make sure 3 or 4 meatballs get on each plate. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to taste. A platter of raw veggies will set off the spread, with a dipping dish of Italian dressing. Word will get out that you are the best Italian cook around, even if you are Irish. And, wear a little sprig of garlic and a medal of the Blessed Virgin around your neck, to keep your Italian Fairy Godmother out of your hair for a while. It's bound to keep somebody out of your hair.
And, say a prayer:
"Thanks dear Italian Fairy Godmother,
Don't bug me for awhile, OK?"