October 8, 2017

Grandma's Meatballs

Grandma

When my family gets together it means many things; laughter, dancing in the kitchen, good wine and lots of cooking and eating. And the one thing we always cook together is a big batch of my grandma's meatballs.

If she wasn't doing the chopping, mixing and cooking herself, she would be the chef, guiding us along and making sure we never over mixed! Since she passed away, making her meatballs keeps her memory alive and is always one of the highlights of our time together. They're full of fresh parsley, garlic and Parmesan, and even though the first ones out of the pan are scalding hot, we will happily burn our tongues eating a few because they're simply irresistible. And by the time the entire batch has been cooked and the pasta and sauce are ready to serve, we've usually eaten so many that we just want to go pass out in a meatball induced coma, but we somehow always find room for just one more. Overeating is inevitable, but we know that when the first meatball goes in the pan.

The family meatball recipe and tradition has passed from my great grandmother, who moved to the United States from Calabria in 1915, then on to my grandma, then to my dad and uncle, and on to me, my siblings and cousins, and now to my nieces and nephews, the oldest of which has become the official meatball and sauce maker at his fire station in California.

Meatballs

Over the years my dad has fiddled a bit with my grandma's recipe and will patiently spend hours slowly cooking his batches on the stove. They are divine! I've been somewhat successful replicating both his recipe and the exact one that my grandma dictated to me many years ago in her kitchen in Walla Walla, but have adapted mine to the ingredients I can find in France. For instance, both of their recipes call for Progresso breadcrumbs and curly leaf parsley. I use chapelure and flat leaf parsley. My dad uses less Parmesan than I do and 100% ground pork. I like more cheese and use a mix of pork and veal. Also, he fries his, which I sometimes do, if I have the time. 

A few years ago, after a friend in New Orleans told me that she always bakes her meatballs, I decided to give the baking thing a try. The results were ok, but not brilliant. I missed the beautiful, golden crust and soft interior that I got with my grandma's and dad's recipes, so I went back to frying. Then a couple of months ago I was at our neighborhood butcher and I spotted la farce for sale. I asked what is consisted of and when he told me it was half veal and half pork, I decided to try it for some meatballs.

Paris

It took me a few attempts to get them just right. The first time they were fabulous, the second time they came out dry and disappointing and the third time was a charm!
 They still require a bit of care. You can't just throw them in the oven for 30 minutes and come back to perfect meatballs. But you're not standing over a stove, patiently turning them for hours either.

Just one caveat: we have a ridiculous oven that only offers broiling, a microwave setting, a combination microwave/convection setting or plain convection, so the temperatures I had to work with are not what a normal oven would have. I've offered temperatures that I think will correspond with a normal oven. If you make these, I would love it if you would let me know how they worked for you!

Grandma's Baked Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground pork and veal. I used a 50/50 ratio
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 generous cup freshly grated Parmesan. I used a 3 year old wedge which is quite salty, so didn't add extra salt to the mix
  • minced garlic to taste. I use 5 large cloves
  • minced flat leaf parsley to taste - approx. 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup fine, dry bread crumbs, moistened with milk - make sure there no lumps and the crumbs are quite wet, almost runny

Preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F. 
Put all of the ingredients except the moistened bread crumbs in a bowl and mix gently with your hands.
Add the moistened bread crumbs and mix again, being careful not to over mix.
Shape into balls, about the size of an egg, and lay them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10 minutes then gently turn the meatballs over.
Turn on the broiler to broil for 4 minutes.
Turn off the broiler and lower the heat to 175° C/350° F and bake for a further 10-12 minutes. After 10 minutes at 175° C/350° F, I cut into one and check to see if they are cooked all the way through. If not, add another minute or 2

Grandma's meatballs

I'm thrilled with the results because it means we can enjoy pasta, sauce and meatballs for lunch and I don't have to spend the entire morning standing over a stove. And I'm pretty sure that grandma would think they're delicious!

Grandma




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September 17, 2017

5 Things

Coffee

1) Coffee


Rodin Museum

2) Love


Paris

3) End of summer at le marché


Paris

4) Les Deux Plateaux


Paris

5) Montmartre colors



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August 15, 2017

5 Things

Le café

1) A typical, quiet August café in Paris


Paris

2) Une bicyclette


French cheese

3)  Washed rind and extra creamy!


Paris

4) Distressed


Paris

5) Beautiful angles



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August 8, 2017

Les Halles De Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Train travel spoils you. No need to get to the airport 2+ hours before your flight, no waiting in long security lines, no strict weight and size limits on your luggage. You arrive a bit before your train is scheduled to depart, stow your bags, find your seat and away you go!
Living in Paris spoils you too. You quickly learn that much of France and many parts of Europe are just a few hours from the city. (and escaping from time to time is good for le moral)

Feel like going to Amsterdam? No problem! Jump on a train and you'll be there in just over 3 hours. Want to taste some wine in Bordeaux? It's only 2½ hours away. Craving some bouillabaisse and time on the beach? You can be sitting in the sun in Marseille in a little over 3 hours.

Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

And of course there's Lyon, a city that is considered paradise for the French food lover and a place that had both intrigued me and been recommended to me by several friends over the years. So last summer I hopped on the TGV and just 2 hours later was climbing up a steep flight of stairs in La Croix-Rousse neighborhood to meet up with old friends.

Les Halles de Lyon

Lyon

Lucy, a brilliant cook and owner of the cooking school, Plum Lyon, who I met in Gascony at Camp Cassoulet almost a decade ago, and Mardi, the writer of the fabulous food blog, eat. live. travel. write, who I met in Paris several years ago, were waiting at Lucy's house to welcome me. The first thing we did after I dropped off my bag was head to the covered food market, Les Halles de Lyon.

Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

I instantly fell in love with this place, for the cheese alone! The quality of the food on offer was superb and the people working at the market were genuine and helpful. There was no snobbery here, just people selling products that they believed in and wanted to share with us. I noticed the same thing at the restaurants where we ate. The chefs were proud of their dishes, but they didn't do a great job for the recognition, they cooked amazing food because they are chefs, and that's what chefs do. The lack of pretension was so refreshing.

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

It was a whirlwind trip, and with Lucy and her family's help, we packed a lot of delicious food, cheese, wine, walking and laughter into 36 hours. But that's all the time it took to convince me; if you love French food, you can believe what they say about Lyon.
It is paradise!

Les Halles de Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon

Lyon







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July 26, 2017

Le Trèfle du Perche

Trèfle and Mothais sur Feuille

Walk into any fromagerie in France during goat cheese season (April to November) and you will be faced with a tempting array of wrinkly rectangles, fresh drums, blue mold covered cylinders, two-toned cones, grey pyramids, white diamonds, discs wrapped in leaves, and a distinctive four-leaf clover, le Trèfle du Perche.

In the French cheese world, this one is fairly recent creation.
Back in 1999 a group of 7 artisan cheesemakers in the northern part of the Loire Valley and the southern part of Normandy established l’Association des Fromagers Caprins Perche et Loir (after numerous meetings involving copious amounts of local cheese and wine I like to think) and created a new goat cheese. Their goal was to come up with a fromage de chèvre that would be instantly recognizable and that would become associated with their region. During its inception, one of the members spotted an unusual, four-leaf clover shaped clay cheese mold in a local rural museum and the rest is history.

Fromage de Chèvre

Beneath its thin rind of blue-gray ash and mold, the snowy white interior is rich, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Depending on its age, the flavors can range from fresh milk and hazelnuts, to peppery with a long finish.

Le Trèfle, which means "clover" in French, has been in production since 2005 and is currently made by a dozen farmers in 4 French departments; the Eure-et-Loir, the Loir-et-Cher, the Sarthe and the Orne. This little goat cheese is unpasteurized, with a minimum affinage* of 10 days and a maximum of about 1 month. In 2012 the l’Association des Fromagers Caprins Perche et Loir (AFCPL) applied for an AOC for their cheese. I'm wishing them the best of luck!

Le Trèfle

A few wine suggestions to pair with le Trèfle; a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley if you prefer white, or a Gamay from the Loire Valley if you prefer red.





*ageing





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