I grew up a Ford, which means I grew up eating a lot of meat. Christmas meant standing rib roast. Saturdays in July meant steaks on the grill. I spent Sunday evenings spearing carmelized pearl onions with a fork already heavy with a thick slice of mom’s pot roast. My dad, Mike “Boots” Ford, and I have dubbed a certain combo of roast beef, mashed potato, and green peas the “perfect bite.”
My meat lifestyle has changed since marriage. Danny and I enjoy some hamburgers once in a while, but for the most part we stick to chicken, veggies, and pasta.
But every once in a while, what I call the Ford Gene gets restless, and I have to soothe it with a healthy dose of red meat. Sometimes the Ford Gene settles down after a Beefeater sandwich at Jason’s Deli (86 the cheese), but today was a banner day in the Smith household. After a coma-inducing lunch of beef brisket barbecue from Luling City Market, Danny and I decided that we would spend our Sunday evening trying out a new recipe. (As a video-gaming golf nut and a knitting bookworm, we often rely on cooking as an activity we both enjoy on the one day we have off together.)
Our recipe of choice: basic meatballs in gravy from Mark Biftman’s How To Cook Everything. And these meatballs! They were a delicious success! I will demonstrate with a photo essay.
The ingredients pre-meatballing: rosemary bread, half-and-half, onion, butter, flour, parsley, ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and beef broth. The recipe calls for a mix of ground meats, which would undoubtedly be delicious. Unfortunately, once we arrived at the grocery store, we found that we were unwilling to deal with the insane crowds for longer than necessary. (And a side note: the crowds at HEB are much more interesting than those at Randalls. I saw a man wearing a beret and a fanny pack!) In any case, my Ford Gene sneered at the ground pork. BEEF! it cried aloud, in a fierce snarl that startled the butcher. Pigs are posers!
The ingredients prepped and ready to mix. It’s a colorful palette of deliciousness! My dad and I disagree on the proper manner of mixing such ingredients, a difference of opinion we discovered during a serious discourse on meatloaf. I, for one, understand the value of squishing said ingredients between the fingers. If you’re planning on enjoying meat formed into loaf or meatball, you should be willing to put up with the sensation of ground beef against skin. And it’s soothing and probably good for the cuticles. My dad favors putting said meat mixture into a gallon Ziploc bag to avoid the mess. I say this is cowardly! Cowardly I say! And besides. It wastes a perfectly good plastic baggie.
Queued up and ready to hit the pan. Danny and I had to pause mid-meatball-shaping to discuss the ideal shape and size. He disparagingly called my contributions “meat wads,” a disgusting turn of phrase. (Thankfully the Ford Gene was muttering to itself and didn’t hear.) Turns out our careful negotiations were all for naught, for once the meatballs hit the skillet they became misshapen. We tried to “shake the pan” per Bittman’s directions, but rather than dancing merrily and becoming increasingly spherical — which is what I’m sure happens when Mark shakes his skillet — they merely lolled on their sides and groaned. But! I hear that in fancy cooking one can pass off “misshapen” for “artisan.” And here, pre-cooking, they appear lovely and uniform. I like to think of them as miniature, meaty soldiers, sworn to fight the Ford Gene with bravery and grav(er)y. March on, valiant little meatballs. March on.
And… we plate, pour a glass of Malbec, and settle in for the feast. I will be the first to admit that the final product does not look terribly appetizing. I could blame it on the terrible fluorescent lighting in our kitchen. Also, I’m no photographer, and from what my dad tells me about the food photography at Kraft Foods, it takes a lot of work to make even an ice cream sundae look delicious. All of these would be excuses. But like so many meals in life, ugly was delicious. The meatballs… they were meaty. The gravy… it was sop-worthy.
Two meatballs remain. Turns out the Ford Gene was tamed after five.
I’m thinking breakfast.