Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Meatballs.

I have my favorite shows that I watch on Food Network and one such show is Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". Not only do I find places to try, but recipes to try out in my own kitchen. I like Guy too; he's funny, ridiculous at times, and knows how to draw you in to enjoy the show. Many of the places he features does Italian food, so I pay particular attention to those, since Italian is one of my favorite cuisines. I watched as one diner owner prepared meatballs, using sliced bread soaked in milk as the binder for the meat. Funny I thought, I'd heard of this method, but hadn't ever tried it myself; to make that is. If I'd eaten this type of meatball before, I really didn't know as I hadn't thought to ask about it.

Growing up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; I learned in my family, and other families, to use bread crumbs, mainly from loaves of Italian bread that had gone stale, ground into fine crumbs and then added to the meat mixture. After I got married, I learned that was the way my first husband's family, who were Italian, also did it, so who was I to question the norm? Then again, I've become a lot more adventurous in the kitchen since those days, and was going to try this other method of bread soaked in milk.

Back on March 18, 2011, I posted my recipe for Homemade Meatballs, but instead of making you search for it, I'll just repost it today and note what changes I made to try the new way.

Homemade Meatballs


4 lbs lean ground beef (90% or more)
2 lbs ground pork
1 ½ cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 cup Italian seasoning mix
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray jelly roll pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly; making sure all dry ingredients are mixed well with wet ingredients. Form the meat mixture into balls, about 2 ¾” (size of a tennis ball); place on jelly roll pans.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes; dab on paper towels to remove any grease and immerse into sauce. Allow meatballs to cook in sauce until sauce is ready; 4-6 hours depending on cooking technique being used. Serve with pasta, or use meatballs for a sandwich.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

Out where I live now, you cannot find real, authetic Italian bread made with Semolina flour; it's all made with "enriched white flour" which, to me, is basically plain old white bread.

Instead of the dried Italian seasoned crumbs, I broke up slices of white bread, about 6, and soaked them in 1 cup of milk instead of the 3/4 cup called for in my recipe. I also increased my Italian seasoning mixture to 1/4 cup. Adding this to the rest of the ingredients, I found that you had to work the soaked bread into the meat more, making sure to break up any large clumps. Baking time was the same, but I only got 18 meatballs instead of the usual 20; not a big deal though.

After cooking them in sauce came the taste testing; besides hubby and myself, I asked a couple of other folks to try them out against my regularly made mealballs, without telling them which was which. The conclusion: While the bread soaked in milk meatball had a firmer texture, the overall taste was the same as my original style meatball. Everyone liked both types and would willingly eat both without a problem.

Overall conclusion: it comes down to basically what you grew up on, are comfortable making and eating. At least I know now, that if I'm out of dried bread crumbs, I can use the milk soaked bread and still get a decent result, not a disaster.

Mary Cokenour

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