Friday, February 6, 2009

G's Birthday Dinner: Spaghetti & Meatball

My roommate G turned 31 while he was away in Guatemala. He travels a lot for work. Before he left, I offered to make him a belated birthday dinner on his return. G has pretty simple tastes and I made his favourite: spaghetti and meatballs. I invited a few people but many were out of town. Our friends C & C were able to make it.

One funny (to me) comment about meatballs. I am used to eating Vietnamese type meatballs, such as nem nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork meatballs) or chả (forced meat). They have a distinct texture to them, sort of crunchy (? - in Vietnamese, it's referred as giòn), not like chips but it gives a bit of resistance. If my mom made soft meatballs, she would deem them a failure. So the first time I had "Western" style meatballs, I was actually taken aback by their soft and crumblier texture. I have gotten used to it but it is quite different from what I grew up with!

When I make up a menu, I like to make things from scratch. For example, I made the tomato sauce and meatballs, which is really not a big deal. However, I do get help in other areas, such as the bottled Caesar dressing; I can't be bothered making it from scratch. I also like picking dishes that I can make in advance so there are no stressful moments right before my guests arrive. Everything in this menu can be made in advance, except cooking the pasta.

The Menu
* Bacon and Parmesan stuffed Mushrooms
* Spaghetti and Meatballs served with Ceasar Salad and Garlic Bread
* Hershey's Chocolate Cake

Bacon and Parmesan stuffed Mushrooms
I was going to serve polenta crusted mushrooms. Unfortunately, I found out that C is allergic to shellfish and he's from the Maritimes too!! So I thought of stuffed mushrooms. I really enjoyed these, but the stuffing was a bit too salty, between the bacon and cheese. I guess breadcrumbs could be added to alleviate the saltiness.

* oil
* 1 tbsp diced onion, cooked
* mayonnaise
* Parmesan cheese
* bacon, cooked and crumbled
* 12 similar sized mushrooms, cleaned and stem removed

Cook onion in oil (I cooked a lot and also used some in the meatballs).
Mix a couple tablespoons of mayo with a few more of parmesan cheese. (I don't remember how much but the total filling should amount to about 1/4 to 1/2 cup - mushrooms are small.)
Add bacon and onion, and mix again.
Stuff the mushrooms.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350F - broil them quickly if you want them to brown.

Before and after baking the mushrooms.

I love adding bacon to dishes!

Spaghetti & Meatballs

This recipe is adapted from a Swedish Meatballs recipe, by Marcus Samuelsson from Aquavit Restaurant in NYC, that I have been using for years when I host parties and they are always a hit, especially with the boys! I do use cream, which is rather decadent, but I loosely follow this recipe with milk when I make a small portion of meatballs. The meatballs can also be baked but I fry them. What the heck! These are NOT low fat meatballs!

* ½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
* ¾ cup heavy cream
* oil
* 1 onion, finely diced
* 1 lb. total of ground beef, ground veal & ground pork
* 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
* 1 large egg
* salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and cream.
Stir with fork until smooth and set aside.
Cook onion in oil, until softened.
In a bowl, combine the meat, cooked onion, egg and Italian seasoning.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the breadcrumb mixture to the meat and mix well.
With wet hands (to keep the meat from sticking), shape a meatball the size of a golf ball.
If the meat is too soft to shape, more breadcrumbs may be added to the mixture.
Test the seasoning by frying one meatball and tasting it.
Adjust the seasoning as required.
Shape and fry the remaining meatballs in butter or oil, or a combination of both - alternately, they can be baked.

Three types of ground meats and the ingredients for the meatballs (I doubled the recipe. Don't ask why. I always worry about not having enough...)

Meatball mixture and shaped into golf ball sized meatballs.

Frying the meatballs. If you're feeding 4 people, do NOT double the recipe!

Spaghetti & Meatballs
I did make my own tomato sauce which is very easy but this post is getting long. I'll include it in another recipe!

* tomato sauce, homemade or store bought
* meatballs
* spaghetti, cooked al dente
* basil, chopped thinly

Heat meatballs and some tomato sauce in a pot.
When pasta is cooked, drain.
Add pasta back to the pot and add tomato sauce.
Mix well and heat through some so the sauce is hot.
Plate the pasta, topped with meatballs and basil.
Serve with parmesan and dried chili flakes!

Final result: spaghetti and meatballs!

A birthday would not be a birthday without a cake. I asked G what his favourite cake was and he said "Chocolate!". I'm not a big baker (read my egg whites disaster!) so I wanted a no fail recipe. I have a chocolate cake recipe with buttercream that I really wanted to try in my Barefoot Contessa cookbook but it seemed hard and it used a LOT of butter; I did find another blogger who made this cake. Luckily, I found this very easy Hershey's recipe.

The batter was easy to make. No difficult egg beating required. Adding water seemed odd but it came ouf fine!

The frosting was also very easy. It took minutes!

The final product!

I gave my friend T a large piece when I played squash with her the next day. Her husband R decided to leave her for the cake. Supposedly, this cake actually breaks up marriages...


Anonymous said...

Wanna come to L.A. and fix me a birthday dinner ;-) ?? Your meatball story was too cute!

Miss.Adventure said...

Thanks Cathy! Maybe your next birthday..!