1213 Meatballs and Polenta

It snowed yesterday for real.  Not the delicate flakes we’ve had so far this month – a dusting that melted away almost every night – a heavy blanket several inches deep, held in place by single digit temperatures.  We both woke up feeling worn down, sore, and just generally unable to face the cold and snow, so we both took a sick day and stayed on the couch under blankets, cats, and laptops.  As is often the case on sick days – or any bonus day at home with no responsibilities – we ended up eating at weird hours, and so weren’t hungry for dinner until OMG we were hungry IMMEDIATELY.  Fortunately, we had a super easy, super delicious dinner on tap: revisiting this summer’s Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate, using leftover meatballs from the ramen we made last month and a container of homemade tomato sauce.

In the waning weeks of the gardening season, I found myself with all of these tomatoes – not enough to can, but too many to eat, especially with all the peppers and potatoes and other things we were bringing home.  I made pot after pot of simple tomato sauce, with dozens of these small tomatoes pressed through the food mill and then simmered down to their sweet essence, then topped off container after container and stashed them away in the freezer for a meal like tonight’s.

With two cups of tomato sauce and a dozen meatballs already thawed, we were able to have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.  I poured the sauce into an oven-safe dish and placed it under the broiler to heat up, then tossed the meatballs in a skillet until they were browned on all sides.  While Shane whisked away at the polenta, I added the meatballs to the warmed sauce, and put the dish back under the broiler for about 10 minutes.  Simple, warm, and filling: a great end to a snow day.

Recipes:
Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate
Quickest Tomato Sauce from Jamie at Home
Basic Polenta Recipe from Giada di Laurentiis – this recipe halved makes enough for four portions for us

0828 Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake

First, I am officially throwing in the towel on no-knead bread.  If the last attempt was a mess, the loaf I made tonight was an all-out disaster.  The dough stuck to the mixing bowl.  It stuck to the floured silpat mat and did its best to ooze off all sides of the mat, resulting in me propping up the edges with various kitchen implements.  It glued itself to the sides of the pot in which it rose and baked, and it had to be HACKED AND PRIED out with a couple of knives.  I find kneading to be therapeutic, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find not kneading so exasperating?

The rest of dinner, however, was a resounding success.  We tried this recipe from Jamie at Home last winter and loved it, despite the cherry tomatoes being wildly out of season.  This time around, we have a rogue cherry tomato plant that is remarkably out-yielding nearly everything else in the garden, so we had several cups of fresh and free Sweet 100s to toss in with half a dozen pork sausages.  While you’re meant to use larger and fatter sausages in the bake, we’ve had great success with the wee breakfast links.  Tonight’s were no exception – the sausages were bursting with flavor, as were the tiny cherry tomatoes.  Everything was swimming in a delicious broth which we happily sopped up with hunks of bread.  This recipe is so simple but so rewarding – I’m looking forward to eating leftovers over pasta or polenta this week.

Recipe:
Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake from Jamie at Home

0823 Watery Pork Goulash

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I planned my entire day around this meal.  See, I’d planned on making this for dinner on Sunday night – a dish that requires 3 hours in the oven is just not feasible for the average worknight, but is totally doable on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  When Shane texted me mid-day, though, to tell me that he wouldn’t be home in time for dinner, I decided that I would just go into and then leave work a bit early, and we could have a late dinner.

Fast forward to 6:30 or so tonight.  I was using a considerably smaller bone-in pork shoulder, so I pulled it after 2 1/4 hours in the oven, only to discover that there was WAY too much cooking liquid.  WAY too much.  I removed the pork from the pot, cranked up the heat, and reduced the liquid for half an hour before serving.

A brief digression: I like to write in cookbooks.  I find it really helpful to note recipe hacks, total failures, or successful pairings for future cooking.  I also enjoy opening a cookbook and being reminded of that time in 2003 when Dan and Michele came over for dinner and trivia and we drank too much riesling while eating spaghetti with sweet cherry tomatoes.  Or the time in 2004 when I hosted Meat Night and made Lebanese Lemon Chicken and we ate around the low coffee table.  A correct interpretation of my notes could’ve saved a lot of disappointment tonight – however, I read “cover halfway” as referring to the lid and the cook time, not the amount of liquid.  *shakes fist at the sky*

Even with the half-hour of reducing, the broth was insipid, and the pork – lacking the flavor that should’ve been infused by the broth – had already attained that gamey flavor and consistency that I find so off-putting in leftovers.  While Shane adjusted the seasoning on his dish and happily finished it, I ate a few bites and then pushed my plate away.  We left the pot on the burner for another 2 1/2 hours, by which time it started to resemble the photo from the cookbook.  We’ll see if it’s any better in leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

Recipe:
Spicy pork and chilli-pepper goulash from Jamie at Home

  • The recipe specifies to “pour in enough water to just cover the meat”.  Instead, add enough water to cover the meat halfway.  You’re going to be covering the pot, so this will be an adequate amount of cooking liquid for a good, tender braise.
  • The recipe claims to make 4-6 portions, but we’ve halved it both times and easily still made 4-6 portions.
  • You could probably use double the amount of each of the spices, though I’d suggest going easy on doubling the paprika the first time you make this recipe.  And note that it calls for smoked paprika, though I might try a spicier paprika if you have it on hand.