Thursday, March 31, 2011

Little baby meatballs simmering away...

The other day, as I was working on [looking at] a mountain of homework, I blithely turned on the TV to pretend for a minute that I had nothing to do. Rachel Ray appeared before me, breathily explaining everything I needed to know and oh, so much more about making meatballs the size of small cantaloupes.

Now, I know that a lot of people have become truly anti-Rachel Ray since she lost her vocal chords and her husband cheated on her (how does that work?), but here is my stance on it: bitch knows her way around a pack of ground beef.

Rachael Ray attends the 1st Annual New York City Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash hosted by Rachael at The Tobacco Warehouse in Empire, Fulton Ferry State Park, Brooklyn, NY. Photo copyright by Anthony G. Moore / PR Photos.

Seriously, think back to the climax of every single episode of 30-Minute Meals. It's not when she finishes the 10-pound casserole and eats it all in one bite. The actual high point of the show comes long before that, and everything else that follows is just a side note, an afterthought.
The actual climax always comes when she is making her inevitable burger.

All the seasonings have been thrown into a bowl. Breadcrumbs, what-have-you.
The ground beef is showcased in all its squishy glory.
The flimsy piece of plastic that once separated us from the scary disease-ridden Play Doh Spaghetti Factory of raw meat is sent fluttering away as a mass of beef smacks the bottom of the bowl, a string of its congealed spaghetti mold falling askew.
just when you think you're about to be contaminated through the TV by the giant package-shaped lump of E. coli and pink brains,

that's when Rachel Ray rolls her sleeves up, looks dead into the soul of the camera, and shouts like a Drill Sargent, "Get in there and get messy!"

At which point she thrusts her bare hand right into the thick of the bowl. You hear a squelch as the meat loses its shape, bending to the will of her calloused and methodical fingers.

That's the point when I realize that I've seen everything I wanted to see for the whole rest of the episode, get up and find the remote. No sprinkling of arugula on a finished plate could fascinate my imagination as much as watching the process behind the Rachel Ray Burger, where you have a stocky brunette woman with meat hands screaming at you, "Get!--Messy! These mini burgers are going to be about a half a pound each!"

God, I love America.

Anyway, I bought a pack of ground beef thinking I could do something with it this week. I wasn't super stoked about the whole meal being a meatball bigger than your head (I mean I was super stoked about it until Katie stepped in as my powers of reason). How about good, ol-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs? Katie did all the hard parts with the diseased meat mashing while I stayed in the refuge of the stove and made the sauce. Besides, my favorite part is dumping herbs and spices and stirring the pot, saying, "È squisito! Buon appetito! Torno subito!"

A word to the impatient:
I am in no position to talk about Italian cooking, but I am in an excellent position to use a can opener, so here is my super fast semi-homemade sauce recipe:

Dice an onion and brown it in expired olive oil.
Meanwhile, coarsely mince at least 6 cloves of garlic and throw them in while the pan is still smokin' hot. Stir.
Add at least a tablespoon each of Kosher salt, cracked black pepper, thyme, powdered oregano, and basil. Keep stirring and add a dash of red pepper flakes to wake it up.
Add a can of tomato paste gradually, spoonful by spoonful. Often times it doesn't want to stir in, but tomato paste can be deceptively overpowering so be very careful and keep tasting/salting as needed.
Stir in 1/4 cup of cooking wine and just the slightest bit of brown sugar until it dissolves.
Open a can of diced tomatoes, dump them in, and bring it back up to a boil. If water needs to be added, do it now and gradually because you don't want to water down your sauce like I did on accident!
You're supposed to simmer tomato sauce for 8 hours so that all the sugars come out, but if you're like me you don't really start cooking dinner until you are already hungry. So.

At this point you can place the meatballs, raw, into the sauce. Don't stir them, or they will smash! Cover, turn heat to medium-low, and let them cook for 40 minutes. Make up some pasta! Buen appetito!

Now, I'm no Paul Newman, but I'm pretty sure with a little bell pepper and mushroom my spaghetti sauce could be a pretty good competitor when it comes to getting the job done.

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