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Posts Tagged ‘meatballs’

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 4-5.

1 ½ lbs. spaghetti
6 cups tomato sauce
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground sirloin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. ground onion (about a quarter of an onion)
1 tbs. parsley or thyme, finely chopped (only one)
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (stale white bread ground in a food processor)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup whole milk (enough milk to wet crumbs without them sitting in a big puddle)
1 pinch chili flakes
¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Vegetable oil, to coat the pan
Salt and ground black pepper

  • Soak breadcrumbs in milk for about 5 minutes or until all the milk is absorbed.
  • Add onion, garlic, chili flakes, grated cheese, eggs, herbs, pepper, and salt (if you like things on the saltier side like me, a small palm-ful is good). Mix everything well. Add meat. Mix gently until just combined.
  • Form golf ball sized balls. Don’t tightly pack the meatballs. Only handle them until just round. You can also make one tiny marble sized meatball (cook this one in the pan to make sure your seasoning is right. If it needs more salt, just sprinkle the formed meatballs with more salt).
  • Meanwhile, heat up a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Make the spaghetti according to the package.
  • Heat up a pan on high. Add oil and let it heat up. When almost smoking, add the meatballs, trying not to overcrowd the pan. It’ll probably take two batches of cooking to get them all.
  • Sear the meatballs on all sides. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
  • Drain the excess grease from the pan, if there is any. Lower flame to medium and add tomato sauce. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let tomato sauce come to a bare simmer. Add all meatballs to sauce and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes to finish off cooking.
  • Toss together spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce. Serve with more cheese on the side.

The key to this recipe is the use of fresh breadcrumbs and soaking them in milk. I had always used dry breadcrumbs (the kind in a can) and the meatballs always came out a little too dense. The milk-soaked fresh crumbs give a lightness and creaminess to the meatballs. Almost as good as grandma’s.

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Lunetta
920 Broadway (Southeast Corner of 21st)
(212) 533-3663

Following the trajectory of many yuppy social climbers, but not many restaurants, Lunetta’s trail leads from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The first Lunetta is located in Brooklyn on Smith Street. In November 2007, the second Lunetta opened on Broadway in the Flatiron District to some shaky reviews in the New York Times Diner’s Journal, likely a bit of a shock considering the popularity of the original Brooklyn branch. It’s been about three and a half months since it’s opened and it seems to me this restaurant is slowly, but surely getting its bearings and nestling in comfortably in its new home on a trendy corner on Broadway.

I went on a Wednesday with my girlfriends, Pri and Kaitlin. The restaurant was relatively empty when I first arrived at 7pm, but by the time we left at around 9pm, it seemed like almost every table was occupied.

Upon entering Lunetta, you’ll first notice the elegant, yet eclectic decor. Presided over by richly green plants and leaf patterned wallpaper, marble tabletops and leather banquettes sit underneath clusters of 1970s-esque globular hanging lamps. The space, in short, is perplexingly divine.

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The bruschetta, in its own separate section, seems to be a specialty of the house. On this occasion we tried three: the tuna, the chopped liver, and the ricotta with hazelnuts. The tuna was firm, yet flaky with a hint of acidity from the tomatoes and olives. Kaitlin acutely observed that the tuna would have benefited from more olives for added punch.

The ricotta was smooth, citrusy from lemon zest, and crunchy from the hazelnuts. I thought that overall it was a creative dish, but needed more contrasts in flavor to liven it, perhaps with the addition of bright herbs or a sprinkle of lemon juice. It was Pri’s favorite by far. She marveled at its simultaneously sweet and savory flavors.

For Kaitlin and me, it was all about the chopped liver. I’ve never been a huge chopped liver fan, turned off by it in high school when my mom brought home some from the Second Avenue Deli (at that time actually on 2nd Ave). She urged me to try it and like a good little girl I did, immediately made a face, and declared, “it tastes like feet.” Since then I’ve tended to avoid it, but my experience with chopped liver crostini in Florence was fairly pleasant so I gave this bruschetta a try. It was sublimely delicious. Its deep, rich, darkly complex flavor finished with a hint of smokiness. The texture was dense with a seemingly contradictory whipped airiness. Kaitlin and I fought over the last lump.

The fried artichoke appetizer satisfied that little part (in my case, not so little) inside all of us that craves salty, crispy, fried things, but it wasn’t exactly what I had expected. The way it was described made it sound like there would be crunchy whole artichoke leaves, but instead it was shards (some kind of sharp) of artichoke and fried herbs dressed with a splash of citrus. A tip: don’t eat the herbs, I think they were sage. They were too bitter and pungent and I think its purpose was to flavor the dish with its aroma rather than be consumed. The mound was fun to pick at, but at $12 I thought it a tad overpriced.

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The fennel beet salad was spiced with ground cumin which was unexpected, albeit this time in a very pleasant way. The scallions were a lovely finishing touch. I’m not sure I would order this again, even though I like beets. It didn’t wow me and normally I like beet salads with some kind of cheese (blue or goat, typically). If you love beets, however, go ahead and order it, you won’t be disappointed.

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For my main course, I had the meatballs, served over housemade tagliatelle (slightly flatter and wider than fettucine) for an extra $5. It was inexplicable to me that they would serve meatballs in tomato sauce with absolutely no starch as a main course. The meatballs were noteworthy with a pronounced creaminess and heft, minus any leaden density. The tomato sauce paired very well with the meatball, but the bites where I had the sauce on its own on the pasta were a wee bit bland. Maybe if there had been some Parmigiano cheese? All in all, a dish I would gladly order again.

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Pri’s tagliatelle with braised short ribs was described by the manager as bolognese and while I’ve had true, authentic bolognese (only a hint of tomato and more of a meaty, slightly creamy sauce), I’m glad they changed the name on the menu from bolognese to ragout. The sauce was thin and the meat lay in shredded chunks. It was also a tad under salted, but Kaitlin preferred Pri’s pasta to mine, so to each his/her own with that.

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Kaitlin had the Wednesday night special of snapper en cartocchio, basically snapper steamed in a paper package or “en papillot” to you Francophiles.

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The snapper sat on a bed of vegetables and was supposed to be drizzled with a truffle vinaigrette or truffle oil of some sort; however, the two bites I took (from two different sides of the fish), while light and tasty, provided no hint of truffle and truffle’s a pretty tough flavor to mask, so that was a little disappointing.

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One other snag was that when Kaitlin got to the middle of the large piece of fish she discovered it hadn’t been cooked all the way through. The waiter gladly took it back into the kitchen to finish cooking it, but that type of hiccup can be disruptive to a meal. The fish came back about 10 minutes later and by then Pri and I were pretty much done with our dishes. I was told that the snapper had first been offered as a part of a special Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu and had been so popular Chef Shepard decided to include it weekly, so maybe they’re still working out the kinks on cooking times and temperatures. It was a shame too; conceptually, it is a wonderful dish.

By this point I was stuffed beyond stuffed. We ordered dessert anyway and as I was only planning on taking one bite I let Pri and Kaitlin choose. They ordered the citrus crostada, which definitely would not have been my first or second choice because, in general, I don’t enjoy citrus-based desserts. Well, thank god I let them choose whatever they wanted. The dessert completely took me by surprise. The tartness and sweetness of the grapefruit and orange, somehow, miraculously remained mellow against the buttery, doughy, sugary crust (which, from its appearance, seemed like it was going to be brittle and crunchy, but wasn’t at all). All of it was drizzled with a thin vanilla cream sauce that rounded all the flavors and textures out. The crostada, apparently, changes seasonally (a month or so ago it was an apple crostada), so get this while you can.

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My overall impression of Lunetta was of a toddler advancing from a crawl to walking strides. It may wobble on occasion, even fall down, but you see the progress and the potential for where it is headed. You know it’ll get there eventually and you breath a sigh of contentment and anticipation at what you see in its future.

Dinner for Three:

  • Tuna Bruschetta – $3.50
  • Ricotta Bruschetta – $3.50
  • Chopped Liver Bruschetta – $3.50
  • Fried Artichokes – $12
  • Fennel Beet Salad – $10
  • Meatballs (over Tagliatelle) – $15 (+ $5)
  • Tagliatelle with Braised Pork and Short Rib Ragout – $17
  • Snapper en Cartocchio – $26
  • Citrus Crostada – $9
  • Bottle of Falanghina – $36
  • Total (excluding tax and tip) – $140.50

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Bar Stuzzichini
928 Broadway (between 21st and 22nd Streets)
New York, NY 10010, (212) 780-5100 

Matt and I recently tried Bar Stuzzichini in the Flatiron District, which opened in June of 2007. I’ve been dying to go there for awhile as I seem to run into its name everywhere I turn lately. “Stuzzichini” is derived from the Italian word, stuzzicare, meaning to tickle or pick at, as in, little plates of food to pick at.

Upon walking into Bar Stuzzichini, I braced myself for the schizophrenic decor that many of its reviews had mentioned. They were right. Think one part Medieval dungeon, one part Irish pub, one part American steakhouse, one part Italian wine bar, and one part French bistro. A lot of parts, I know. But the overall ambiance is a lively, cozy one and really, for me, I go to a place to eat the food, not to obtain interior designing tips. As long as it’s clean and put together, it’s okay that it’s a little schizo.

I had only one major bone to pick with their decor and that was the miniscule marble tables for two along the banquettes. I understand that they’re probably supposed to convey that casual, wine bar, we’re-here-just-for-a-wee-nibble-and-a-glass-of-vino type vibe, but let’s get real. You’re a restaurant, Bar Stuzzichini. When our waiter brought our two wine glasses, water glasses, bread basket, and bowl of olive oil, the table was already crowded and we hadn’t even ordered yet.

We started off with the five plates for $24 combo for two people, which was a fantastic deal considering most of the plates were $7 or $8 dollars. But now that I think back on it, I wonder if they shrink the portions because that deal is really just too good if we received the normal a la carte portions. Plus, I’m trying to conceive of a reason why the portions were so itty bitty.

For our five we had the eggplant involtini (grilled eggplant rolled over ricotta cheese), grilled octopus, fried meatballs, arancini (fried risotto balls), and the salami toscani.

The eggplant was grilled to a tender consistency and the ricotta was refreshingly smooth, but I could have used some more salt or vinegar or something on it. It was a tad bit bland.

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The risotto balls, on the other hand, were absolutely phenomenal. Cheesy, creamy, crunchy, and sharp from the parmigiano, they were the epitome of the best that fried cheese and starch can be. The most delicious arancini I’ve ever had, period. I just wish there had been more than two in the bowl.

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Look at that string of cheese! Cue the ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

The octopus took Matt and me straight back to our Amalfi vacation this summer. Fresh, supple, grilled octopus with just a hint of lemon, charred flavor, and fruity olive oil, it was octopus at its simplest and, therefore, best.

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The fried meatballs had a touch of authenticity that I appreciated. In Italy, you won’t see meatballs stewed in tomato sauce. Instead, they are lightly coated in breading and fried as Bar Stuzzichini’s were. The meatballs were light, airy, garlicky, and incredibly well-seasoned without the flavor of the meat being masked. I’m not sure if it was a mix of pork and some other meats or just pure pork. I’m inclined to think they were straight up pork. They were so good, they even inspired me to start frying my own, instead of making them the Italian American way as I always have (pan seared, then stewed).

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The salami was fabulous as well, sweet and not too salty. It was sliced paper thin, which helped mitigate the unavoidable saltiness of Italian cured meats. The first slice I ate with some bread, but the rest I just gobbled up by themselves.

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We weren’t sure how big the “little” plates would be when we ordered them so we played it safe with the main and just shared one, the roasted crispy chicken. We got it with a side of the sauteed winter greens. The chicken had a thin, crisp layer of salty skin with a hint of lemon. The white meat was moist, which is a feat I greatly appreciate as an avid white meat eater. I had hoped the crispy skin would stay on the chicken when I sliced it, but it didn’t. Ah well, you can’t have it all. The greens were justttt at that pointed of cooked right before they hit mushy status. So soft and silky, the salty greens seemed to slide right down your throat.

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Clearly this place isn’t big on presentation

We wanted to order the mini cannolis for dessert, but unfortunately they had run out of them. None of the other desserts were that appealing so we took the check and bounced. Actually, I’m glad we didn’t get any dessert, because by the time we were done with the bottle of Falanghina (a delicious, reasonably priced, fruity white from the Campania region in Southern Italy, one of a long, long list of inexpensive Italian wines Bar Stuzzichini offers) twenty minutes later, the fullness and richness of the meal hit us and we were stuffed.

I would highly recommend Bar Stuzzichini for small parties of 2-4 for a casual dinner or larger groups of 10 or more if it’s more of a celebration. As I wrote earlier, the atmosphere is undoubtedly full of festive energy, an energy any diner would appreciate; be he a Medieval knight, an affable Irishman, a robust American, a lively uomo Italiano, a sophisticated homme Francais, or a hungry New Yorker like myself.

  • 5 Stuzzichini Deal for 2 People – $24
  • Pollo Croccante al Limone – $18
  • Mercato Verdure – $6
  • Bottle of Falanghina – $35
  • Total (excluding tax and tip) = $83

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