Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Mavis Makes Meatballs

From Mr. Mavis Makes Meatballs

I wanted to share one of my favorite non-pie related recipes that I have ever eaten. Once again, this post is incredibly late, my husband made these meatballs early in December while I was enjoying fantastic Christmas music, dancing goofily, and decorating for the holidays. In our home, the perfect night involves picking a soundtrack, opening a bottle of wine, prepping and cooking dinner together. This process always manages to completely erase the stresses of the day, and results in a fantastic meal. Sometimes though, nothing can make you feel more beloved than having someone make a meal from start to finish just for you. So, if possible, I recommend falling in love with someone who will buy you wonderful cookbooks, and then make you meals from those books.

This is a fairly standard meatball recipe from a great cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. The meatballs have fairly basic ingredients, and are browned in a skillet, but what makes this a recipe I crave is the 5 to 6 hour simmering time in a tomato-wine sauce in a crock pot. Our whole house smelled fantastic, I cranked the heat and listened to Sufjan Stevens and Los Straitjackets Christmas albums. Cold, miserable times like this just beg for slow simmered or braised recipes full of meat and carbs. These meatballs don't disappoint, especially if you manage to have a light enough touch shaping them, they are tender, delicious, and the wine and long cooking time add a nice depth of flavor to the sauce. Also, if your meatballs fall apart, you're left with a wonderful meat sauce, so it's a no lose situation. We always skip the spaghetti and go for shorter, chunky pasta like penne or campanelle (our personal favorite), which was the cookbook's suggestion, and saves me the embarrassment of spilling sauce all over myself.

Meatballs in Tomato-Wine Sauce (From Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)
2 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. dry red wine (note: we find the amounts of wine to be a bit strong, and usually only use a 1/4 to 1/2 c.)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes with their juice
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 T. fresh basil, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. allspice
1 bay leaf
2 T. fresh parsley, minced

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 c. plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs
3 T. freshly grated Parmesan
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
3/4 t. fresh basil, minced
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Dash of allspice
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. red wine

To start the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, add onion and garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, boil for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, bail, oregano, parsley, allspice, and bay leave to slow cooker, stir to combine, cover and cook on high while you prepare the meatballs. For the meatballs, put the ground beef in a large bowl and break it up a bit, add the bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, and allspice. Gently blend with your fingers, and shape into 12 meatballs, each a bit bigger than a golf ball. Heat olive oil in the skillet over medium high heat, brown meatballs on all slides, and then transfer to the sauce. Pour the fat off of the skillet, return to the stove, and add the wine, cover over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping up any brown bits, and pour over the meatballs. Reduce the slow cooker to low, and cook covered for 5 to 6 hours. Remove bay leaf and serve over pasta.

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