02 January 2009

Eating In and Out and About

It has been quite the weekend. Our friends Brice and Susan came up for concerts, chilling out, and a lot of eating. To start, I made Gourmet's newest rendition of spaghetti and meatballs; I figured that anyone coming off a nearly five hour bus ride would need something good to eat. And man did that ever come true. Brice and Susan were delayed, driven in circles, and then delayed some more, arriving safely in New York at about 8:30, about three hours after their original time due in. And what better than wine and comfort food, ready and waiting?

We then proceeded to have a weekend full of eats, including a stint at the new Shake Shack after a trip to the Natural History Museum, where we all happily chowed down on perfect french fries (they might be my favorite in the city), delicious burgers, a hot dog, and, of course, the all important milkshakes. Jeff and I have our order down pat for when we go--we share everything except hamburgers. It's a winning situation all around.

As for the spaghetti and meatballs, they were just about perfect (if I do say so myself). Not too heavy, not too oily, and with a touch of lemon zest to add lightness and finesse. Next time, though, I'll add a little spice to the tomato sauce while it simmers, and maybe some herbs, too--it really needed something to make the flavors pop. But I wouldn't change a thing about the meatballs. Or the spaghetti. Or the wine. Eat this meal with copious glasses of wine. You won't regret it.

Spaghetti and Meatballs, adapted from Gourmet

for tomato sauce
3 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

for meatballs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups torn day-old country bread
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground beef (not lean)
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Drain tomatoes over a very large bowl, reserving juice. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add them to juice.
2. Cook onions in oil in a very large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cool, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring occastionally, until slightly thickened, about 45 minutes to an hour. Season with salt.
3. While the sauce simmers, cook onions in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl to cool.
4. Soak break in milk in another bowl until soft, about 5 minutes. Firmly squeeze bread to remove excess milk; discard milk.
5. Stir together cooled onion mixture, bread, eggs, parmesan, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper until combined. Add meats to the bread mixture, gently mixing with hands until just combined. (Do your best to not overmix.)
6. Form meat mixture into about 35 (1 1/2-inch) balls with dampened hands (this helps the mixture not stick), arranging meatballs on 2 large baking sheet or in shallow baking pans lined with foil.
7. Heat olive or vegetable oil (1/2 cup) in skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meatballs in 5-6 batches; do not crowd the meatballs in the pan. Turn frequently, about 5 minutes per batch. Return to baking sheets.
8. Add meatballs to sauce and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 20-30 minutes.

Serve with spaghetti and extra parmesan cheese.

(Meatballs with sauce can be frozen in an airtight container or heavy-duty sealable bags up to 3 months.)

The Shake Shack (Uptown location)
366 Columbus Ave.
New York NY 10024

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