A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Veal meatballs, or, if you prefer, boulettes de veau (I think)

   Yes, this is veal. Don’t get up in my grill about veal. Past abhorrent methods of veal production are being supplanted by far more humane methods. If you eat beef – hamburgers, steaks, roasts, etc – there is now no rational reason to avoid veal. No rational reason. Unfortunately, one of the enduring characteristics of human beings is irrationality. Take a look at http://www.freeraised.com/veal_time.shtml  and http://www.straussbrands.com/ . This operation is located in Hales Corner, Wisconsin. The information on this web site should put anyone at ease concerning the treatment of calves raised as veal, and it does a very good job of explaining how they do it. No need for me to try to summarize it here. 
   As for the recipe, I think it’s appealing for its relative lightness compared to meatballs made from older beef cattle, for its nuttiness, and by the certain je ne sais quois (I thought I'd milk the French angle) which the mushrooms add. I suggest dried mushrooms because they tend to have a heartier flavor than fresh. Served with potatoes in whatever form you like and sautéed kale, and you have a very satisfying meal. This meal also has the added benefit of being very easy and relatively quick to prepare.
   A word about that glace de viande, which means meat glaze in French: No, I’m not asking you to go out and purchase ten pounds of veal bones and countless other ingredients and use Julia Child’s time-consuming recipe. (Was that in the film, “Julia and Julie”? I suppose the film would’ve had to be ten hours long.) Happily, there is a product found in larger grocery stores called Demi-Glace Gold. The brand name is More Than Gourmet, and it runs about $5 if I recall correctly. I doubt it’s more than gourmet if that’s meant to imply better, but for the purpose of preparations such as this one, it isn’t bad. It comes in a small square container; it’s a paste that must be reconstituted. Beware, though: Like so many off-the-shelf bouillon-type products, it’s salty, so keep that in mind.

Ground veal, 1 lb.
Pecans or walnuts, 1/2 c, toasted
Dried mushrooms (shiitakes, portabellas, etc), rehydrated in brandy or water
Fresh sage, 1 Tbs; 1 tsp if dried; minced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, 2 Tbs
Parsley, minced (I don’t care if it’s flat-leafed or curly.)
Prepared glace de viande

1.  Finely chop the toasted nuts.
2.  After the mushrooms have rehydrated – an hour or two, squeeze them to eliminate some of the water, but not all. A bit of the mushroom “juice” should be retained to flavor the meatballs. Mince the mushrooms.
3.  Combine the meat, the nuts, the mushrooms, and the sage. Add some ground pepper and no more than ½ tsp of salt. Remember the salt problem I mention above.
4.  Form meatballs into whatever diameter you like, although I would suggest about an inch and a half to two inches. They’ll shrink.
5.  Prepare the glace de viande according to the instructions on the package.
6.  Heat a pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, and then the meatballs. Brown them. Drain the accumulated fat.
7.  Now add the glace de viande, turn down the heat to a simmer, and cook the meatballs until done but not so done that they’re dry and the sauce has cooked away. This should probably take fifteen minutes or so. If you haven’t finished your first glass of wine or your cocktail, turn off the heat and reheat when you’re ready. Adding another ¼ or ½ cup of water will not ruin the dish.
8.  Plate the meatballs and the sauce, and sprinkle some parsley over them.

   As I suggest above, potatoes and kale are very compatible accompaniments. Another underappreciated root vegetable in this country is rutabaga. Use it instead of potatoes.
   There’s no photograph because you already know what it looks like. They’re brown and spherical, and they sit in a pool of brown liquid. This is why some parsley or some sage leaves might perk up the drab aesthetic of the preparation.

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