Fall Ball

September 26th, 2011 · 14 Comments · Pork and Beef

It’s not that I’m not an autumn girl. I do love how the backyard Japanese maple turns canary yellow and my kitchen window frames it like a painting. I love the crisp air thing. And even though I complain about the weekend-eating game schedule to anyone who will listen, I love the return to soccer. Not a whole lot thrills me more than watching pony-tailed girls sprinting down a field in uniforms.

It’s more that, at heart, I’m a summer girl. And so for me, fall means the end of summer. The end of evening swims, sundresses and flip-flops, lazy nights drinking Dark & Stormies by the grill, tomato sandwiches. The end of coming home from work and feeling like there are still hours and hours left in the day to actually see the kids, make a nice healthy dinner, and in general, have a life.

Not Andy, though. He practically sprints to the calendar on the day he gets to flip the page from August to September. Back when we were in Brooklyn, he used to make a point of cranking up the volume when he sat down to his first football game of the season. (I always wanted to answer “No” when Hank Williams Jr. screamed “Are you ready for some footbaaalll?”) For Andy, if he can get through the first week back after Labor Day, September marks the beginning of a beautiful stretch of bourbon, baseball playoffs, and, of course, braising. I think it was in the middle of this past July — you know the month where New York had 15 straight days of 90-degree days — when he started talking about braising meatballs. When the weather turns, he’d say, I’m going to make pork and sage meatballs. Through August, his vision gained momentum, as though thinking about how to make them (lemon zest! he said driving north on the Saw Mill River Parkway one day) might will the weather into dropping 30 degrees, and he could be back where he belonged: Calling the lines of a soccer game in the late-afternoon autumn light; walking around in fleece; being surrounded by Cortlands and Honeycrisps at the farmer’s market. The market was where he had the final epiphany about his meatball magnum opus. (Apple-cider braised pork meatballs!) And last night when we finally ate them, even a summer girl like me had to admit he was onto something.

Pork Meatballs Braised in Wine and Cider

Using your hands, mix together all the following ingredients and form into golf-ball size meatballs.

1 1/4 pounds ground pork
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Set a medium saucepan or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Brown meatballs on all sides (in batches if necessary) and remove to a plate. They do not have to be cooked through.

Add 1 large shallot (chopped) to the pot and cook 1 minute. Add 2/3 cup white wine, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, a little salt, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, add meatballs back to the pot. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.

Remove balls from pot, whisk 1 tablespoon heavy cream into the braising liquid. Serve meatballs with sauce spooned on top.

We served them with “confetti” brussels sprouts.

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Nostalgia Night: Porcupine Meatballs

May 14th, 2010 · 23 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Pork and Beef, Rituals

The recipe for these sweet, braised meatballs is written on a notecard with company letterhead from Andy’s first job. It’s written in shorthand — I can picture him in his beige, cookie-cutter cubicle fifteen years ago, scribbling down the instructions as his mom dictated the exact amounts of peppers, onions, and beef over the phone… her standing in his childhood kitchen 250 miles away. He claims to have eaten porcupines — so named for the spikey effect of cooked rice inside them — no less than once every three weeks from 1977 to 1989 and they were such a staple in his house that it was one of the half dozen recipes sent to me via snail mail from his mother right after we were married. (Which I subsequently misplaced, hence the call.) Now in our 21st-century home, we seem to be continuing the streak. Though we usually make porcupines with ground turkey instead of ground beef. And afterwards, the kids get to watch a little youtube video on the laptop instead heading down to the rec room for an Asteroid marathon on the Atari. But no matter what decade, it’s an awesome Sunday dinner.

Porcupine prep

Porcupine Meatballs, ca. 1977
Unless you are under four feet tall, you will probably need something acidic (a green salad with vinegary dressing) to cut the sweetness of the braising liquid.

1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 cup rice
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped green peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
2 cups tomato juice
4 cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire

Combine uncooked beef, rice, onion, green peppers, salt, and garlic in a large bowl. Shape into small balls, about 1-inch wide.

Whisk together remaining ingredients in a deep skillet and bring to a simmer. Drop in meatballs and cover tightly. Simmer for 30 minutes, flipping over about half way through.

Remove cloves before serving.

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