Moist and tender meatballs

I’ve made meatballs for so many years I can’t even remember when I started.  Then, over the last few years we’ve tasted some pretty amazing meatballs, most notably and surprisingly – in Mexico!  I decided I better start rethinking my meatball game.  After research and the usual taste testing, these won out.  They are so moist and tender you won’t believe the difference.  I like to make a double batch and freeze a bunch for another day.

Spaghetti & meatballs

One perfectly moist meatball, set on a bed of saucy tangled pasta – heaven.

 

 

  • 2 pounds ground meat (equal parts ground beef & ground pork)
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic cloves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Meatballs 2

Add the milk, eggs and seasonings to the panko first in order to have it all evenly distributed without overmixing your meatballs.

Meatballs 1

Next -get your herbs in there.

Meatballs 3

This is where the large fork comes in handy.  If you over mix the meatballs they will get tough, so this allows you to gently combine everything.

 

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork (this keeps your meatballs from getting overworked) until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Meatballs 4

Ready to pop in the oven.  These were on the larger size so they took about 18 minutes to cook through.  Don’t overcook them!  Break one open at that point and check.

Meatballs 5

If serving with spaghetti – submerge meatballs into tomato sauce and allow to simmer until pasta is ready.

Always cook the pasta for the last few minutes in the tomato sauce to allow the sauce to coat all pasta.

Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over top.

Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for these meatballs!

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Pork tenderloin, lightly crispy on the outside, perfectly pink inside, it is one of the most versatile pieces of meat you can cook with.

Pork & chimichurri 2

Served with yams, sliced thickly and roasted – they were the perfect accompaniment to this slightly spicy, very herbaceous chimichurri sauce.

If you haven’t had chimichurri, you must give it a try!  So good, it brings any meat to life, and works equally well on on roasted vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Pork Tenderloin:

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat, patted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lime juice, for drizzling
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish
  • Pork & chimichurri

    I like to butterfly the pork tenderloin, and pound the thicker areas enough so that it is equally thick – that really helps it cook evenly.

  1. Combine the garlic, jalapeno and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, oregano, and lime juice. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to marry.
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of the chimichurri to serve and marinate the pork in the rest. Put the pork and marinade in a sealable plastic bag and set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill or oven broiler to high.
  4. Remove the pork from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Season both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill the pork on the hottest part of the barbecue for 4 minutes per side, until well charred. Allow the tenderloin to rest for about 5 minutes prior to slicing. Spoon some chimichurri over the meat, drizzle with lime juice, garnish with parsley, and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.
Pork & chimichurri 1

Make sure it rests!  So important to allow the meat to sit long enough to for the juices to settle in and your pork will always by tender and juicy.

Pork Chili Verde

or as Stella calls it, Mexican Green Chili!

Chili Verde 4

The most fun comes when you get to dress up your chili bowl just the way you like it.  Stella said it was so good she couldn’t stop eating.  Magic words for Nana’s ears!!

Serves 6

  • 2-3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • lard for browning the meat
  • flour for dredging
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 jars tomatillo salsa
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 tin white kidney beans
  • 1 small tin diced green chilis (use mild or spicy depending on who’s coming for dinner!)

Preheat oven to 325.

Heat the lard in a large heavy bottom saucepan.  (Yes, you can use a neutral oil, but lard does add a certain level of flavour that you won’t get with neutral oil)

Season pork with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.

Fry the pork pieces a few at a time, until you have a golden crust.  If you overcrowd the pan they will steam rather than get a nice carmelized crust.

Chili Verde 1

Once all the pork has been browned, saute the onions and peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper while you do that, then deglaze the pan with the chicken stock.  Stir in the tomatillo salsa and then return all the pork to the saucepan.  Stir to combine, and then bake in the slow oven for about 3 hours, until the pork is tender and falling apart with just a touch.  Stir in the beans, green chilis and corn, allow to heat through.

Chili Verde 2

Bring the whole saucepan to the table and surround with toppings for everybody to help themselves.

Suggested toppings:

  • sliced radish
  • cubes of avocado
  • sliced jalapeno
  • grated cheese
  • crumbled taco chips
  • cilantro
  • green onions
  • Sour cream

 

  • Serve with a loaf of crusty bread ….. try my recipe, (No Knead bread) its quick and easy, and completes this meal perfectly.

Chili Verde 3

 

Perfect Medium Rare Steak

Oh … winter… not a season we are ever going to taste a perfect grill marked steak.  I’ve been working on achieving the perfect steak during the “off” season.  Nailed it!

Perfect steak 5

PERFECT.  Pink inside, crusty outside, and drizzled with Cafe de Paris Beurre.  I’m in heaven.

First step is to make your dry rub:

1 lemon – zested, and zest set aside to dry

Perfect steak 1

Zest your lemon, and allow it to sit a bit, just to dry it out so it helps create the perfect crust.  Do you buy lemon pepper dry rub?  Stop!  Just try this instead …

Combine:

  • freshly cracked pepper
  • sea salt
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • mustard powder
  • paprika
  • raw sugar

I use all equal amounts of all these ingredients.  You can certainly adjust to your own preference!

Stir to bring it all together, and once the lemon zest has dried out a bit, add it in there too.

Perfect steak 2

We are lucky.  I’d be the first to admit that.  We dry our garlic and onion in the fall, and create our own powder.  Yep, we even do paprika, this one is grilled poblano peppers.  No, sorry, we didn’t create either the mustard powder or the salt and pepper.  (But, does it give us extra points because we bring the sea salt home from a favourite region in Mexico??)

Pat the steaks dry – VERY important.  Drizzle over a little neutral oil, and then press in the seasoning.  Make sure to get the seasoning rubbed into the sides as well as top and bottom.

Perfect steak 3

Got everything ready??  Just look at that marbling on the steak … that is what you are hoping for.

While the steak is coming to room temperature, heat up a pan that can handle the heat of a 400 degree oven.  (this would be a great time to preheat your oven!)

Sear the steak on all sides – get it good and crusty!  Pop it into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. . . . check it carefully, you want to pull it out of the oven once the steak hits 120 degrees.  Tent it with tin foil, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

I couldn’t help myself, needed to top the steak with my Cafe de Paris Beurre ….. it makes everything better.  I’ve eaten …. but want to eat it again.  I think that says it all.

perfect steak 4

Served with baked potato and a simple iceberg wedge salad and I’m totally satisfied.  You will be too! Give it a try.  If you are able to grill all year ….. well good for you!  Maybe you want to try it anyway, and see what you think??

 

Veal Scallopini

Need a quick dinner idea?  Here you go, you’re welcome!  This veal is quick cooking, and for such a short amount of effort you won’t believe how much you are going to love it!

Veal Scallopini 6

Served with tender fettuccine noodles and sautéed vegetables you’ve got a quick easy dinner that packs a flavourful punch.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. (about 12) veal cutlets, also called scaloppine, pounded until 14” thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 12 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 14 cup capers, drained
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

Instructions

Season veal with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
Veal Scallopini 1
Heat 2 tbsp. butter and oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add veal, and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Veal Scallopini 3
Veal Ascallopini 4
Transfer to a serving platter, and set aside.
Veal Scallopini 2

Have everything ready to go when you remove the veal from the skillet, it goes quickly at this point.  And … yes, make sure the wine you use is something you would be happy to drink!

Add wine to skillet, and cook, scraping bottom of pan until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add stock and lemon slices, and bring to a boil; cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Add remaining butter, juice, capers, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
Veal Scallopini 5
Pour sauce over veal and serve.

 

Cafe de Paris Beurre

Cafe de Paris 8

How to enhance an already perfect medium rare steak?  Cafe de Paris Beurre.  It’s that easy.

What’s that, you say????  Only the most amazing flavour packed umami bomb you will ever create.  Don’t be alarmed by the list of ingredients.  This makes a whack of butter, which you can give away to your best of friends, or stash in your freezer to pull out when needed.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound, 5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ounce ketchup
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 ounce capers, rinsed
  • 2 ounces shallots, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon madeira
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/4 Orange
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
Cafe de Paris 5

Just a few of the many ingredients needed.

Cafe de Paris 3

Okay, it might not look appetizing right now, but it smells incredible …

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter by hand or use an electric mixer set to slow speed, until it has a slightly creamy texture.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add this mixture to the butter and beat again until all the ingredients are completely combined.
  3. Place a double thickness of foil, about 12 inches long, on a flat surface and line with a similar-sized piece of silicone paper. Spread half the butter along one of the foil edges and roll up to form a long sausage shape — roll it with your hands like a rolling pin to get a tidy shape and eliminate any air pockets. Twist the ends to seal. You can also use plastic kitchen wrap, which I did this time.  Repeat this process with the remaining butter. Place in the fridge to chill before use.
  4. To use, slice a ½ inch thick disc of butter and place on top of a grilled steak (or a steamed spud). Traditionally, the steak is placed back under a hot grill (broiler) to soften and brown the butter, but I don’t reckon you need to do this, just let it melt from the heat of the steak.
  5. The butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for several months.
Cafe de Paris 4

Ready to roll into logs and pop in the freezer (or gift bags!)

Cafe de Paris 6

Don’t just think of steaks, top any chicken or fish dish, or use it in place of garlic butter on bread.

Cafe de Paris Beurre 1

I tried out quite a few recipes I found, and this one from Food Republic, is the definite winner, and the most like a butter topped steak we had a “Red Door” in Whistler.  If you aren’t a meat lover, don’t even worry – it’s just amazing on vegetables, scrambled eggs or melted and drizzled over popcorn!

 

Deep Dish Pizza – Chicago style

Chicago style deep dish pizza is an entirely different creation!  We traditionally make thin crust pizzas, with a light topping.  This situation calls for heavier amounts of all toppings, and naturally a heavier layer of dough.

Chicago 2

Ready for the oven, this dish features soft chewy dough, sweet & savoury toppings, and the tang of feta with olives – a little something for everyone.

The secret to having a dough that doesn’t get all soggy is in the layering.  DON’T PUT YOUR SAUCE RIGHT ON THE DOUGH!!!  That’s it, basically.

preheat oven to 400 and generously grease your cooking vessel with olive oil

PIZZA

Prep everything ahead of assembling your pizza.  For this pizza I made 1 10″ deep dish creation consisting of:

  • 2 spicy Italian sausages, removed from casing and broke apart – cook until crispy on the edges.
  • 2 mild Italian sausages, (see above)
  • 1/2 cup sliced yellow pepper, flash fried until it has golden brown bits
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion, sautéed until carmelized
  • 1/2 cup thickly sliced Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until browned and have lost some juice
  • handful of kalamata olives, (hopefully pitted)
  • handful of feta cheese, crumbled
  • mozzarella cheese, freshly grated

SAUCE

For one 10 “pizza:

  • 1/2 can (about 1 cup) fire roasted canned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil (if, like me, you live in an area where this is not readily available, I use the tubes – they most closely replicate that fresh flavour)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste

I just stir this together as I like the chunks of tomato.

This whole thing is a lot easier if you buy pizza dough pre made, but when I get home from sitting at a desk all day and listening to people, I love the idea of working with dough.  Kind of like kitchen yoga, it washes away that day ….. (yes, I’ve been told that’s a bit odd but it beats drinking every night).  Or does it?

ASSEMBLY

Lay your pizza dough in the cooking dish, and gently stretch it to go right to the edges, and up the sides.  Let it rest if it doesn’t go easily, it will once it has had a moment to chill out.  This may take a few rest periods, but get a generous amount of dough to behave and fill your dish as well as up the sides.

Cover the bottom of the dough with mozzarella.  Sprinkle over the cooked sausage meat, then the mushrooms and onions, and finally the peppers.  Spoon the sauce over this, and top with feta and kalamata olives.

Chicago 1

Get all your toppings ready while the dough is rising in a warm, draft free spot.

Bake at 400 until you see the crust nicely browned and bit of sauce bubbling around the toppings.  This will take anywhere from 20-30 minutes.

Chicago 4

Make sure you allow it to sit, once out of the oven, for about 10-15 minutes so it retains its shape when you slice those pizza pies.

Chicago 3

The perfect balance of tender dough and toppings.

PIZZA CRUST (if you are so inclined)

(makes 3 10″ deep dish pizzas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 3-4 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. You can also use this recipe for up to 8 small individual pizzas.