Friday, November 21, 2014


I've probably made that claim before. But this time, I super serious mean it. Because this was the best meal ever. Not only was it the PERFECT way to end a week that wasn't so hot (so. much. house. to. fix.), but it also just matched the rainy cold mood outside. 

I mean.......

Come on now. That's perfection in a bowl right there. This is one of those meals that we wish we had people over for because everyone should know how freakin delish this is. But I'll share all my secrets. And of course, some of them are not mine. Because internet.

The meatball recipe is courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli. You see her judge on "Chopped", and she just recently became an Iron Chef. And the woman can give perfect mom face. And apparently, she also has a mother that created the world's greatest meatballs. I was skeptical at first because really? Sour cream in meatballs with gravy? But I decided to give it a try. So here's what I did.

I used half pork, half beef. I actually used half breakfast sausage from whole foods, which is just ground pork with some sage in it. I didn't taste the sage at all, so you could go either way with that. I also NEVER have fennel fronds, but I happened to have them, so I used those instead of the fennel seed, because fresh herbs in meatballs make life sing. I followed everything else exactly as she said to. I thought it was CA-RAZY to not use garlic or onions in the meatballs, but she knows what she's doing. Oh yeah, and also I made my own breadcrumbs. I just used some baguette I made, ground it up, and toasted it in the cast iron skillet with some butter and olive oil. I recommend this. I hate store bought breadcrumbs.

So I cooked mine in a big ole dutch oven. The one I then made my gravy in.
I did just like she said, brown on all sides and leave the center rare. It took me 4 separate rounds to make all of them. Then I started on the gravy. I didn't use her gravy recipe, because I really like mine, and I super don't like sugar in mine. So here's what I did.

Remove the meatballs from the dutch oven and add a touch more evoo. I used shallots this time because I didn't have any onions. I ended up using 2 pretty large shallots, diced up. Then added some garlic (I use the lightly toasted garlic in evoo that I always have on hand). I threw in some tomato paste- I use the squeezy tubes of it and used about half a tube. Which probably equals 2 to 3 tablespoons. I let that all cook together until it gets a nice deep auburn color. Then add 2 jars of crushed tomatoes. Currently, we use the Jovial Organic brand that are plum tomatoes from Italy. I believe it's the only brand of jarred crushed tomatoes that they sell at the Whole Foods by me. And I love that they don't add basil or anything to it. Just do me a favor and NEVER EVER EVER buy cans of crushed tomatoes. SO. MUCH. BAD. Just say no. I digress.

Then, I fill the jars about half way with filtered water, shake it up to get all the tomato remnants out of the jars, and add that to the pot. Then throw your meatballs back in, let it get to a low boil, then simmer for however long you feel like, but make sure the meatballs are cooked through before you turn it off. You won't even need to add salt or pepper because the meatballs impart such an amazing flavor. Caution- if you add salt at the beginning, it will almost definitely be too salty by the time it's done cooking.
Your entire house will smell like Italy and you will love it. You also will not be able to stop eating by the spoonfuls, or dunking bread into it while awaiting your spouse's arrival.

And also, you may have some adorable helpers who want to help you eat it by the spoonfuls. And take pictures.
Grating all the cheese. Nice work kiddo!

So yeah. Anytime you want a cozy, comfort meal, make this. It really doesn't take long at all, and it's SO WORTH IT. I'll be eating it again at 10:30 tonight after my son sucks the life out of me, er, nurses to sleep. For hours.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The tastiest pulled pork ever ever

I am not a fan of pulled pork. I've discovered I'm actually not much of a fan of what's considered "American food". For example, if given American cheese, I will rage to the food gods. Because it's simply not cheese. Your typical casseroles, meatloaf, pot roast, etc etc. Never been a fan. Some say I'm a food snob. They may be correct. But if you're not going to thoroughly enjoy your meal, what's the point of eating it?

What I'm also discovering, is that there are no bad recipes on Well, disclaimer. I haven't ever cooked any of the recipes that were put on there by the home chefs, or some of the guest chefs. I'm only talking the host recipes here- Mario, Michael, Clinton, Carla and Daphne.

And, since then, I've stretched my palate to include those American meals that I've up until now dismissed. And I'm finding I really love them. Like, dream about them and eat them cold the next morning love them. And this is definitely one of them.

Mario Batali's Halloween pulled pork sandwich. I happened to have pork shoulder just waiting to be made into carnitas. But I had 5 1/2 pounds of it, so I figured since it was just babygirl and I, we could take a pound or so and try this out. Plus, I had some sort of squash in my fridge that was never going to be eaten by us (it was a default item in our local produce delivery service last week, and we typically are not fans of squash). So this recipe looked perfect.

For the condiment for the sandwich, Mario says to make a pumpkin puree. Well, this kinda looked like pumpkin, right? Whatevs, it totally worked.

Roasted squash, roasted garlic, parmesan, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Works for me!

The brine for this was really interesting (a whole bottle of red wine if you're gonna use 3-4 pounds of pork shoulder). But by a half hour in, the smell in my house was amazing.

I actually followed his recipe (outside of the pumpkin thing) exactly. Because I happened to have all of those ingredients.  And I still had some of my crusty Italian bread left over from Sunday night, so I just used that and made open faced sandwiches.

Voila. Deliciousness. And delicious the next day. Looks like I'm a pulled pork fan after all.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tapas Gone Wild! inside-out stuffed dates

I super love tapas. Everything about it totally suits my style. I always want about 47 different things on the menu, and unless I'm eating with that many people, pretty sure I'm not ordering that much food. Plus, I can't eat a lot of food at one time (a lingering side effect from years of stupid stomach issues), so the small plates totally work for me. And in 30 minutes when I'm hungry again? I can order another small plate. (this little issue is the bain of hubbs' existence. oh he of the I-can-just-eat-one-huge-meal-and-be-good-for-the-rest-of-the-day clan).

Anyway, my faves are usually the things that are shoved into a date. goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates?  BRING IT. And then, we hit a new tapas place and saw that they stuffed the dates with chorizo. Wait. WHAT!?! This is a brilliant idea. Except. No cheese? Bland. So, I reinstated the goat cheese. And then I was all "do I REALLY feel like shoving all this into a tiny little opening? that seems like work". And lo and behold, my newest "dip" was created. And I have no link to send you to cause this was all out of my brain!

I only have one pic, cause this dish took about 4 minutes to come together.

I used:
3 chorizo links (whole foods- so they're brat sized)
6 fresh dates (had to remove the pits myself, but if you do it with scissors you kinda feel like you're playing that game Operation and it's fun)- again we get these at whole foods in the produce section, they come in a tupperware thingie
a good hit of goat cheese
a good hit of cream cheese
a little honey if you find the chorizo has too much spice for you
grape tomatoes, cut in half
cotija cheese to grate over top

if you can find loose chorizo you don't have to slit the casing and empty it out, but whole foods only carries it in links, and I always feel the teensiest bit guilty when I ask them to take it out of the casings for me. Anyway, go ahead and empty those out into a hot cast iron skillet with some oil and brown it up. then throw in your chopped up dates, tomatoes, and your cheeses. Goat cheese is a really powerful flavor, but since I like a really creamy dip, I use cream cheese as well (also helps with that whole spicy thing for the toddler). It really is just putting a bit in and tasting it until it's delicious for you. I don't even add salt and pepper to this because the chorizo itself has so much flavor, as do the tortilla chips you eat it with.

Side note: Buy the in-house made tortilla chips from whole foods. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Not in any restaurant ever in the US have I tasted chips like this. They're heavenly.

Anyway, heat everything up, then throw it in a bowl and grate cotija over it. Then dig in.

Seriously, the best.

And it's 100% ok to eat this "appetizer" as a main course. Because I said so. And I would never steer you wrong.