Marisa’s Mystical Meatballs

February 9, 2018

These meatballs are really mystical if you consider the sway they hold on my husband, his brother, and his father.  They go wild for these meatballs.

Well, wild in that very restrained Northern Italian way.

If they were Southern Italian, where a dinner conversation can seem like a minor riot, their meatball response would barely register on the scale.  It would signal almost utter disregard for the meatballs.

But that, in fact, is not the case.  The meatballs hold some sort of magical, mystical charm.

Marisa, of course, is my mother-in-law and these are her meatballs.  She considers them quite unusual, having learned to make them from her mother and basically not remembering any other relatives or friends making something similar.

And, as meatballs, they ARE unusual!

An old-fashioned ricer is still an indispensable piece of kitchen equipment. Make sure yours is very sturdy. Many new ones are not.

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But here’s a secret that I haven’t told anyone yet.  They really AREN’T meatballs.  They’re croquettes!  Crocchette in Italian.

There, I said it.  Marisa’s Mystical Meatballs aren’t really meatballs.  But everybody in the family calls them “Ma’s Meatballs.”  “Ma’s Croquettes” doesn’t have the same alliterative allure, even if it’s more accurate.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law celebrating his birthday.

When I did a Google search for crocchette, Google turned up about 1,730,000 results in 0.51 seconds.  When I searched for crocchette patate e carne (potato and meat croquettes), Google returned 1,500,000 results in 0.72 seconds.

And that was doing searches in Italian!

I found a Japanese woman who seems to have the same relationship to her mother’s meat and potato croquettes (korokke) as my husband and his family have to his mother’s.


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The meat for these “meatballs” (a word I’ll use in deference to my husband and his family of origin) is boiled before being finely chopped.  This presents a perfect opportunity to make a really nice beef broth.  You don’t have to do that, of course, but since you’re going to be boiling the meat anyhow, and since it only takes a few extra minutes to throw some aromatics into the pot, why not!

The broth from the meat for the specific batch of meatballs shown in this blog is sitting in the freezer ready to be turned into Auntie Helen’s Stracciatella, which will be coming up on the blog next month.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


 

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Marisa's Mystical Meatballs
Marisa says she usually uses cross-cut beef shank for the meatballs. When we made them, she also a piece of beef she bought for soup so we used both. In the end, we got ½ pound of cooked beef, with fat and gristle removed. Adjust the proportion of the other ingredients if you get substantially more or less cooked beef. If you want to use just cross-cut beef shank, I would try about 2 ½-3 lbs. The beef is boiled and then finely chopped to make the meatballs, giving you the opportunity to make a really nice beef broth with just a few minutes more work.
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
Beef and Broth
Meatballs
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
Beef and Broth
Meatballs
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
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Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Beef and Broth
  1. Cross-cut beef shank.
  2. Put the meat and all other broth ingredients in a large stock pot.
  3. Cover with abundant cold water.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 4-6 hours, until the meat is very tender.
  5. Remove and cool the beef.
  6. Strain the broth and reserve for another use.
Meatballs
  1. Remove fat, gristle and bone from beef. You should have approximately ½ pound of cooked beef.
  2. Cook the unpeeled potatoes in boiling water until you can easily pierce them with the tines of a long fork or paring knife, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Remove the potatoes from the water and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the garlic or grate it on a microplane grater.
  5. Combine beef, parsley and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped.
  6. Peel the slightly cooled potatoes. If they are too cool it will be difficult to rice them.
  7. Pass the potatoes through a ricer.
  8. Combine the beef mixture with the potatoes, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper.
  9. Mix well with a large spoon or your hands.
  10. Add the lightly beaten eggs.
  11. Mix well using your hands.
  12. Form the mixture into 16 balls and then flatten them slightly.
  13. Lightly roll the meatballs in fine dry breadcrumbs.
  14. Pour ⅛ inch of oil into a large sauté pan.
  15. Heat the oil on medium-high heat.
  16. Fry the meatballs in two batches, on medium-high, flipping once, until brown.
  17. Drain on paper towels.
  18. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2018 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Roasted Turkey Broth

May 5, 2017

I grew up in a house where there was absolutely no use for the carcass from a roasted turkey.  Other than my sister and I fighting over who got the crispy skin from the turkey breast, the skin went into the trash heap too.

You might imagine my surprise when, in college, I discovered that people actually did things with carcasses from roast turkey, like make broth to be used for turkey noodle soup.

To be sure, my recipe for turkey noodle soup will be posted later this month but in the meantime I would encourage you to make broth from the bones of most any roast, be it turkey, chicken, duck, pork, or beef.  Then, be creative with how to use it.

Broths made from roasted meat bones and bits of meat have a really savory quality that you won’t get from a broth made with uncooked meat.  You can’t always use them interchangeably so think about how the roasted-meat savoriness will play off the other flavors in the dish.

Roasted meat broths usually work well in hearty soups, for example, or as the liquid in a pot of Southwestern style cooked beans.  Frozen in small containers or ice cube trays, you can use the broth as the liquid for a quick pan sauce or to enrich gravy.

In fact, when I make gravy for Thanksgiving, I start by roasting a couple of Cornish game hens or a few pounds of chicken or turkey wings until they are very, very brown.  I use the roasted meat and some vegetables to make a rich, dark brown broth.  I concentrate the broth even more by boiling it down to about 3-4 cups.  While the turkey is roasting, I use the broth to make gravy, which I simmer for a couple of hours until it’s silky.  When the turkey is cooked, I deglaze the pan, skim the fat off, strain out the solids, and add the liquid to the gravy that has been bubbling away for a couple of hours.  By the time the turkey has rested and been carved, the gravy has reduced, again, to the right consistency.  The gravy is rich and savory and, more importantly, there’s enough to smother everyone’s mashed potatoes and turkey.  Doing it this way also removes the last-minute rush of actually making gravy on-the-spot from the pan drippings while you’re trying to get the meal on the table.

You might ask why I am dealing with a roasted turkey in spring rather than November.  Easter Dinner!  In addition to ham, I always make turkey since some of our friends don’t eat critters with more than two legs.  So, just for fun, here are a few pictures from Easter, complete with the bleeding lamb cake we always have for dessert.

I have a couple of different types of fat separators.  One is the more common style that resembles a small watering can with a spout that draws from the bottom of the liquid.  My preferred one, however, has an opening on the very bottom.  You just pour in the liquid, allow the fat to rise to the top, and squeeze the handle.  The opening opens and out pours the fat-free liquid from the bottom.  You can find a picture of it on my equipment page.

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Roasted Turkey Broth
Unless I need an absolutely clear broth, I prefer to use the pressure cooker. It gets the job done in an hour of cooking and makes a more flavorful broth than simmering it on the stove. However, the broth is somewhat cloudy. If you don’t want to use a pressure cooker and you don’t want to have to think about a pot on the stove, make the broth in a slow-cooker for 6-8 hours. If your pressure cooker or slow-cooker won’t accommodate 3½ quarts of water, use as much as you can and then dilute the final product to 3 quarts.
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Course Miscellaneous
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Passive Time 4 3/4 hours
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Course Miscellaneous
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Passive Time 4 3/4 hours
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Thinly slice the carrots, celery and onion.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a stockpot.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, cook at 10 pounds pressure for one hour or in a slow-cooker on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Strain the broth.
  5. Because the broth will likely develop a gelatin-like quality on cooling, I suggest removing the fat using a fat separator while the broth is still warm.
  6. Add water to make three quarts.
Recipe Notes

I never add salt to any broth that I make unless I am making it for a specific purpose and I can plan for the final product. Broth with salt can make a dish too salty if the liquid needs to be reduced. The salt in a broth can also slow down the tenderization of dried beans. This might not be much of an issue at lower elevations but at 8000 feet getting dried beans to soften can be a challenge and anything that hinders the process is to be avoided.

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Cannellini alla Toscana (Tuscan-Style White Kidney Beans)

December 16, 2016

These Tuscan-style white kidney beans are deceptively simple.  A lot of flavor is coaxed out of a few ingredients.  They are great on their own as a side dish or a vegetarian main dish.  They make wonderful pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans).  They freeze well so you can always have them on hand.  The flavor is so good, you won’t resort to canned beans again!

Quite typically, these beans would have been made in the fading embers of a fire, often left to cook overnight.  Although the contemporary version uses a standard kitchen oven, I made them in our wood-burning oven a while back.  It was a challenge to keep the temperature at 250-275ºF but in the end it was worth it.  There was a very subtle smoky flavor to the beans.

Buy the best quality and freshest dried cannellini beans you can find.  If the beans are old they may never completely tenderize.  I particularly like the Marcella Beans from Rancho Gordo.

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Cannellini alla Toscana
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3-5 hours
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3-5 hours
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Rating: 0
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Instructions
  1. Pick over and wash the cannellini beans. Soak them in abundant water to cover, under refrigeration, for 6-8 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in an earthenware bean pot or ovenproof casserole with a lid. Add water to just reach top of beans then add another 2 cups of water.
  3. Using the side of chef's knife, bruise the garlic.
  4. Add garlic, sage, bay leaf, peppercorns and olive oil to the beans. Cover and bake at 250ºF for 2 hours.
  5. Add the salt and stir well. Cover and cook the beans, stirring every 30-45 minutes, until they are creamy and not at all chalky. Do not overcook the beans or they will blow apart. This could take another one to three hours depending on the beans and your elevation.
Recipe Notes

The beans are best made a day or two in advance.  If not serving immediately, cool the beans to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze.  When ready to serve, warm the beans in a 250ºF oven.

Copyright © 2016 by VillaSentieri.com.  All rights reserved.

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