Monday, June 14, 2010

Root of All Evil

The following is a rant. If you do not enjoy rants, please leave now.

The other day I was looking for pectin (a thickener for jelly). I wandered up and down the baking isle, the jelly isle, and every other part of the grocery store. I was like the Jews looking for the promise land and it took me almost as long. I wouldn't have been so annoyed, if I hadn't run across so much crap. There were a lot of things that competed for, stupidest thing I've ever found in a grocery store. There was a TV/VCR combo. There were multiple DVDs and CDs from the 80s. However, there was only one thing that made me pull out my camera and stand in the middle of a crammed isle, trying to get the perfect shot of the absolute ridiculousness.

This my friends is why America is afraid to cook. I would like to know what marketing genius decided to convince America that they needed a specific type of pot and steam basket to cook asparagus. This piece of equipment frustrates me on so many levels. First off, it adds a useless piece of equipment to someone's already crowded kitchen. Secondly, it's a unitasker. It only performs one function, for one vegetable, prepared one way. Thirdly, it prepares asparagus in a way that makes it taste absolutely nasty. 

Asparagus can taste amazing. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil does wonders. You can sauté it until almost incinerated and it tastes awesome. In fact, it tastes best slightly charred. How many foods can you say that about? You can  roast it in a baking pan at 350, remove when slightly charred, squirt with a little lemon, and dust with parmesan cheese. This makes a decadent, but majorly easy side dish. 

Why? Why? would you decide to steam asparagus. Gross. However, if you would like your very own piece of ridiculousness, Crate and Barrel sells an asparagus steamer for $39.95. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

If I ever end up on death row....

Trip is over. Move is over. Everything is sorta, kinda getting back into place. Hopefully I’ll find a job. In the meantime comfort food sounds like a good idea. Granted, I’ve made slightly more interesting recipes since I’ve moved in. A quite respectable chicken satay was grilled by Ed, but all I did was follow this recipe and I forgot to take pictures. Clams were made, but yet again picture fail. So, ya'll are stuck with spaghetti and meatballs.

 There is absolutely nothing foodie or exotic about spaghetti and meatballs, nothing at all. Although, I have to say, it is one of my favorite foods. If I was going to die tomorrow, I'd probably ask for spaghetti and meatballs as my last meal. The secret is out, I'm officially a boring eater. 

My method for making meatballs is in no way precise, exacting, or revolutionary. The only thing I demand is that they are indeed homemade. I hate those homogeneous frozen blobs that everyone and their mother serves. I don't know what's in them and I don't want to. Something wrong has to be happening to make them so textureless and smooth. On the other hand, I enjoy knowing what's in my own meatballs and having complete customizable control. Although, I do tend to go a little overboard.

If someone asked what was in my meatballs, I might have to respond, "everything but the kitchen sink" and I wouldn't be kidding. Last night when I realized how long I had gone before posting, I made a conscious effort to record everything and I was amazed exactly how much crap I put into my  meatballs.

When I first starting making meatballs, I had no defined recipe. I just started searching the web trying to find the perfect recipe. If someone told me to do something, I did it. I'm impressionable like that. White bread soaked in milk, sure.  Enough worcestershire to drown a small pig, why not? Parsley, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, red pepper, mustard, ketchup absolutely. Enough garlic and onion to kill a vampire and make him cry, you betcha. I just can't help it, someone recommends it I'll do it. 

The best suggestion I ever found was to bake the meatballs, instead of bothering with pan frying. Now this idea is absolutely genius, which you'd agree with if you ever tried to evenly brown a batch of cantankerous, fat spitting, insanely dangerous  meatballs. Line a 9 by 13 pan with aluminium foil. Heat oven to 400. Bake for 20 minutes, turn halfway through. At the end just throw away the foil, cleanup is done. This is genius. 

This is not what I did. I'm currently having a love affair with my cast iron skillet. Thus, I made a splatter filled mess, but the crust formed on the meatballs, by the cast iron pan, made it totally worth it. Plus, I love knowing I can cook with and kill an intruder with just one piece of cooking equipment. 

The following is the most imprecise recipe you'll find on the internet. 

You will need:
Medium sized bowl
Cutting board
Cookie Scoop (or you could make your life difficult and messy by rolling these by hand)
Frying pan or foil line 9 by 13 pan

1 pound of  ground meat (lamb, pork, beef, turkey, chicken really doesn't matter)
1 egg
1/2 red onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 piece of white bread soaked in 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs more if your mix is too wet
Squirt of mustard and ketchup
Glug of worcestershire
About a teaspoon of basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper
1/2 cup of parmesan 
Enough olive oil to coat your pan 

1 big can of Italian style chopped tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 red onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
Sugar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, red pepper, salt to taste

1.) Put all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Mix till just combined. Don't over mix or the cooking gods will come after you. 
2.) Take small ice cream scoop and drop meatballs into oil coated pan.
3.)Let sit for a good couple of minutes. You really want a tasty crust to form on the outside. Turn when crust forms (3 to 4 minutes).
4.) When second side almost forms a crust, dump in onions and garlic, let them get just fragrant.
5.) Dump in cans of tomatoes and season to taste. 
6.) Cover, turn down to simmer, let cook through (about 15 to 20 minutes).
7.) Gaze in wonder at your vast amount of counter space (more about this later).