It's a month to Super Bowl Sunday. Time to plan.
How about a plate of meatballs. Meatballs are popular. They must always have been popular.
Actually, no. There is a tool from Google, the Ngram, where you put in a word and see how frequently is has been used in millions of books over the years. You can get that “usage” history going back to 1800.
What is the history for “meatballs?” Until about 1930, the word hardly appeared at all, then began to creep up, perhaps the result of Italian immigration. By 1960 “meatballs” began to skyrocket in usage. Today, we use the term almost ten times as often as we did back in 1960.
Ever popular, there is an endless supply of recipes. How do Suzi and I judge one of those recipes to see if we want to make it? The very first thing we look at is the meat: we look for a mix of at least two and ideally three meats. And here, in this lovely recipe, you do get the Meatball Trinity: pork, beef and veal.
There is a surprise, here, too. Each meatball is stuffed with Burrata cheese. That makes each and every meatball both rich and rewarding. There is a sauce, a Pistachio Basic Pesto, to accompany these meatballs. The combination of cheese inside and this different sauce outside makes this a meatball candidate. Where did we find this recipe? My Life on a Plate by Kelis, a book filled with flavor and, obviously, color.
Add a salad and the beverage of your choice, and you have a superb meal. It’s a great party food and the recipe can be easily scaled for your crowd size. For your Super Bowl Party, these will be remembered long the Seahawks win the game.
My daughter lives in Seattle. My wife loves Jimmy Graham. And I love to watch Russel Wilson dash around the field and then casually toss ball fifty yards.
Okay, I’m writing this seven weeks ahead of the actual Super Bowl. So, either I can going to seem like a football genius to you, or someone who should avoid fantasy football. We’ll see!
Burrata-Stuffed Meatballs with Pistachio Basil Pesto
Yield: 2 dozen meatballs, enough for 6-8 servings
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground veal
½ red onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
8 ounces Burrata
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 recipe Pistachio Basil Pesto [recipe follows]
In a large bowl, mix together the pork, beef, veal, red onion, garlic, oregano, salt, smoked paprika, basil, and pepper, massaging the mixture with your hands to incorporate the ingredients without smashing the meat too much. Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. To shape the meatballs, take 2 ½ ounces of the meat and gently form a patty. Scoop a scant teaspoon of Burrata into the center, fold up the edges, and gently roll the meat into a ball. Roll the balls in the breadcrumbs and put them on a baking sheet. For perfectly round meatballs, put the meatballs in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to overnight to chill; chilling helps them hold their shape when cooked.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan with a lid. Gently tap the excess breadcrumbs from the meatballs, put the meatballs in the oil, and brown them on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let the meatballs cook all the way through from the residual heat in the pan, about 8 minutes. Remove the lid, pour the pesto over the meatballs, and turn them gently to coat with the pesto. Serve immediately.
Pistachio Basil Pesto
Yield: 2 cups
6 ounces fresh basil (about 8 packed cups)
1 cup raw unsalted pistachios
2 ¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
2 ounces spinach (about 2 packed cups)
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or the jar of a blender, and puree. Season with more salt to taste.
Source: My Life on a Plate by Kelis [Kyle 2015]
In less than four weeks, we will have the next Super Bowl where Green Bay will defeat the Patriots. Trust me. You can bet on it. I have.
For Super Bowl events, we tend to stock up on nachos and chips and chicken wings. What if you want something “more” something this is actually a bit elegant?
There is no better place to look than The Shared Table by famed chef Don Pintabona. The first chef at The Tribeca Grill, he’s written books and opened restaurants and markets across the country. He was a chef hero in the aftermath of 9/11, a leader in the effort to provide great food for the workers on “the pile.”
This book is an amalgam of recipes from Don’s restaurant world and from his world travels. There are Italian family classics and shining examples of dishes that made The Tribeca Grill so outstanding under his leadership.
The recipes are big, designed for 6 or more people. And they are easily scalable to support 12 or 24. Just what you need for a super party.
If you want a party-specific dish, then Don offers Warm Poppy Crisps with Red Wine-Shallot Marmalade and Sesame Beef with Ginger Plum Sauce. Those two recipes are designed for 28-30 people. And those recipes are so sticky good that you’ll probably want to double them anyway.
What other signature dishes are to be found here? Well, you will encounter:
Homemade Gravlax with Mustard Sauce
Bruschetta of Preserved tuna, Anchovies, and Caper
Foie-Gras-Stuffed Figs with White Truffle Honey
Eggplant Cured in Lemon
Singapore Spicy Curly Noodles
Turkey Meat Loaf with Cranberry Glaze
Artichoke Bottoms Stuffed with Veal
Blue Crab Sauce for Pasta
Monterey Jack Spoon Bread
The Very Best Brownies
Ah, those brownies. Yes, they are unmatched. And they have a secret ingredient: Wondra Flour. I know, that Wondra sits on your shelf only for making gravy. Not anymore.
There is class and style on every page, in every recipe. Don’s subtitle to The Shared Table is Cooking with Spirit for Family and Friends. Share away. Everyone will smile.
Potatoes are New World. If you say Old World to me, I often think of Ancient Greece, about as far away from Peru as you can get. Yet, over the centuries, Old and New Worlds have grown quite close. Take those New World potatoes and combine them with Greek feta cheese — is there any more symbolic Greek food — and you arrive at these croquettes.
Now, Suzi and I tend not to do fried food. There is a mess and a lingering smell to be sure. But sometimes, some foods are so seductive that even if you are fry-shy it is hard to resist a combination like potatoes + feta + herbs + spices.
This dish can be a side, of course, but there is this tendency for folks to just each one croquette after another. So, it’s a lovely main course. Pair with a side and, of course, some Greek wine.
Yield: about 20
1 pound (450 g) boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound (225 g) Greek feta cheese, crumbled
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh mint
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
All-purpose flour, as needed
Olive or other oil, for frying
In a pot, cover the potatoes with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer I the potatoes until fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain into a colander and set aside to cool completely.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash with a fork or handheld potato masher. Mix in the egg, feta, herbs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Add flour if necessary to bind the mixture, kneading in 2 tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is solid enough to hold its shape.
Shape the croquettes into 1 ½ – inch (4 cm) oblong or round patties. Place on a plate, cover with parchment then foil, and refrigerate for 1 hour to firm up.
Spread about 1 cup of flour into a plate.
In a heavy nonstick skillet, heat 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil over medium to high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by tossing in a piece of bread. It should crisp up in about 10 seconds. When the oil is ready, start dredging the croquettes lightly in flour, shaking off any excess. Fry in batches in the hot oil, turning once with a slotted spoon, until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat until the entire mixture is used up.
Source: Ikaria by Diane Kochilas [Rodale 2014]