HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Meatball Shop's Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Cream Sauce


"Meatball Mike" Chernow (left)  and
Chef Daniel Holzman
            Chef Daniel Holzman and his partner, Michael Chernow, AKA “Meatball Mike” are New York’s Kings of the Meatball.  With the opening of their 5th location, on the Far East side of Manhattan, at 1462 Second Avenue, they are the undisputed champs of the Meatball scene.  Their other locations are all downtown – in Chelsea, at 200 Ninth Avenue at 22nd Street, on the Lower East Side at 84 Stanton Street, and in the Village which has two locations:

170 Bedford just below Christopher St. and 64 Greenwich Avenue south of 7th Avenue South.  I had an errand to do which landed me practically outside their Greenwich Avenue door so I finally got to sample their beautiful balls.  I chose the Spicy Pork variation, a light and scrumptious meatball--or rather meatballs since an order consists of 5 the size of golf balls.  But what really knocked me out was the creamy Parmesan sauce that topped the dish. It was a complete indulgence of course and I have no clue what the fat content was nor do I care.  Life is meant to be lived, not calorie counted.  I’d made my foray into meatball territory alone so of course I wanted to make them for Andrew.  Or at least, that’s what I told myself. In truth, I could have eaten the whole batch of the things all by myself.  But then who doesn’t love a great meatball?


        
Communal Tables at
The Meatball Shop 
The meatball may be the world’s more ubiquitous food.  From Afghanistan to Viet Nam, meatballs exist in every possible guise. In Turkey alone, where they are called Kofte, there are 50 different versions of meatballs.  In Denmark, frikadeller are fried.  In Finland they’ve often made with ground reindeer meat.   In Germany, there’s a variation called Konigsberger Klopse which contain anchovy or herring and are eaten with caper sauce.  Indonesian meatballs are
The Meatball Shop's version
of today's recipe
called bakso, served in a bowl like soup with noodles, tofu, egg, a meat dumpling and a crispy wanton.  Then we come to Italy, which most Americans associate most with meatballs--although Swedish Americans would object.  The Italian meatball is far more an Italian American dish.  In Italy, particularly in the Abruzzo, meatballs are called polpettine and they’re about the size of marbles.  The outsized meatball we know in Italian American cooking is yet another example of how Southern Italians adapted food from their home.  Their large size was a sign that in the new country food was far more plentiful than in Mother Italy. This brings us to Sweden, where kottbullar would be as familiar to American palates as any meatball: Ground beef or a mix of beef, pork and sometimes veal are mixed with breadcrumbs soaked in milk, finely chopped sautéed onions and served with a broth rich in cream.  (Now we’re getting close to the Meatball Shop’s version!)  Finally, in the United Kingdom, we arrive at a type of spicy pork meatball made from pig heart, liver and fatty pork belly or bacon: This is called a "faggot".  This is the point where I say; enough about meatballs, on to the recipe.
        
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Holzman and Chernow of The Meatball Shop have written a cookbook in honor of the meatball called, appropriately enough, “The Meatball Shop Cookbook” (Ballantine Books 2011) so finding the recipe for meatballs was a snap.  It’s very easy. I cut it in half.  So feel completely free to double this recipe for 8 servings. Their suggestion is to make them the size of golf balls but I went slightly larger, making a dozen and serving them three at a time. The other thing that differed from their recipe is that I found these meatballs to be far less dense than other meatballs I've made.  Whether it's the addition of pickling juice or the bread soaked in milk, these meatballs are not hockey-puck solid. But follow the instructions and group them together in the baking dish and they will emerge much more solid than what you start out with.  This is the only time in memory when I’d wished I kept Wonder Bread in the house, instead I used just some crust less French bread.  The spice comes from cherry peppers and their ‘juice’.  But have no fear, they’re not blow-your-head-off spicy.  Then there’s the Parmesan Cream sauce. This I did a bit of improvisation to make, upping the amount of cheese.  It was essential to the enjoyment of the dish – even if it did hide the meatballs in a sea of white cream.  Here are the recipes:


Recipe for the Meatball Shop’s Spicy Pork Meatballs:
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs
Ingredients:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground pork
1/2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 jarred hot cherry peppers, minced
1/8 cup hot cherry pepper pickling liquid
2 slices fresh white bread, minced and soaked in milk to cover.
                                                          2 large eggs
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside. Combine the ground pork, salt, cherry peppers, pickling liquid, bread, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches). Place the balls in the prepared baking dish being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Recipe for Parmesan Cream Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper



Melt butter in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Spoon over the top of the meatballs and serve.