Friday, May 15, 2015

Catsup. Ketchup. Catchup! - Northern Indian Lamb Meatballs, The World's Best Matzo Balls

Now all we need is 12 Jammie Dodgers

I am a strong proponent of Heinz Ketchup, and ONLY Heinz ketchup.  If it's not Heinz, I'm not interested in dipping a fry into it, and if it is labeled "catsup", I am likely to donate the bottle to some worthy cause, or simply set it back down on the grocery shelf.  Cats do sup, and they also dine, but none of that applies to my hamburger or French fries (even occasionally a steak, but don't mention that to Robert).

What I am doing today in this post has nothing to do with my favorite condiment, but instead I am focusing on the recipes I whipped up during my under-medicated cooking frenzy, and failed to properly record so they could be shared.  It's CATCHUP time, gentle readers.

First, let's talk about religion.  Just kidding; let's talk about ethnic cooking.  I am Brooklyn Jewish, and therefore my favorite foods are Eastern European Jewish and Italian.  And Brooklyn Jewish Chinese, of course, but that is totally another blog post.  The Jewish and Italian cooking came totally naturally to me.  I learned by watching and eating. A lot of eating and then, during those precious and few moments when my grandmother and I could communicate without snarling at each other, critiquing.  Talking about food is almost as much fun as eating it.  Or cooking.

My grandmother made several types of meatballs, none of them Italian.  In her opinion, the best way to use chopped meat in an Italian dish was to make a meat sauce.  I think she missed the boat on this one, as a proper Italian meatball is a thing of beauty.  Unfortunately, she passed on to that Great Test Kitchen in the Sky before I had developed what I modestly like to think of as The World's Best Italian Meatball.  Although I would be the first to admit that she did make the World Best Italian Meat Sauce.

She did, however, make excellent Jewish potted meatballs, and sweet and sour meatballs that did not involve a bit of grape jelly.  The sauce for her sweet and sour meatballs was just like the one she made for her stuffed cabbage, which to my taste was perfect.

I've previously quoted the late Dom DeLuise as saying that the Italians had meatballs and the Jews had matzo balls; growing up in Brooklyn, it was all the same. (I never did find out what the Irish and the Germans had; where I lived, you were either Jewish or Italian Roman Catholic.)  Sadly, my very Jewish grandmother could not make a decent matzo ball; my Pop said they sank like the Titanic (ouch!)  Which is why, by the time my brother and I moved in, she made all her matzo balls from a mix.  They were always good, if a bit uninspired.  If they didn't float like a butterfly, at least they didn't sink like the Titanic.  Or the Edmund Fitzgerald.

There are dozens of ways to make a decent matzo ball (or knaidlach, it's proper name).  Everybody (at least every Jewish everybody who fancies themselves a true Jewish cook) has a trick or kitchen hack that renders their knaidlach better than anyone else's, in somebody's opinion. For me, the best knaidlach were made by the chef at the kosher catering hall where my father-in-law worked as a maitre d' for many years.  Dad's Richie (not to be confused with Mom's Richie, who was one of the owners and cook at the kosher catering call where my mother-in-law worked as a maĆ®tre d' for many years) had graciously shared his recipe.  His has always been my go-to knaidlach, and I've had no complaints.  They are a little fluffy and a little toothsome and do a fine job of soaking up the flavor from a good chicken soup. So of course, after 35 years, I decided to change it.  Kick it up a notch.  Put my own spin on it.

It's dead.  Just strip off the skin and fat and get over it.

But first, let me give you the chicken soup recipe - it's just like the clear and convincing, but uses a whole chicken.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Chicken Soup

2 - 32 oz. boxes unsalted chicken stock
2 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
2 stalks of celery (no leaves)
2 green onions
1/2 small onion
1 - 2 x 1/2 inch piece of rind from Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder (don't leave it out, although it is virtually undetectable)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 whole chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), innards, skin, and visible fat removed. Freeze the skin and fat for future schmaltzings.
2 - 1/4 inch slices of lemon
5 or 6 stalks of fresh Italian parsley
2 nice full stalks of fresh dill

First, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the carrots, parsnips, celery, and green onion. Set into the crockpot.  Carefully pour in all of the chicken stock, and add the curry powder, kosher salt and white pepper.  Cover the crock and cook on High for 2 hours.  Skim off any icky froth that has risen to the top. Now add the parmesan rind, parsley, dill, and lemon and cook for two to three more hours.  Shut off the heat and use a large metal spoon to remove the chicken; set aside.  With a slotted spoon remove the parsley, dill, lemon slice and the Parmesan rind, and discard. Remove the celery, parsnip, carrot, and green onion from the chicken, and discard.

Now, remove all of the chicken from the bones and cartilage.  I have excellent plans for that chicken, so wrap carefully and refrigerate for further instructions.

Pour the chicken soup through two paper towels set into a metal strainer.  Now taste it, add a little salt if needed, and permit yourself a smile for having prepared the chicken soup that tastes like Mom's - my Mom (grandmother) who frankly made the best chicken soup in the world.

For the total Brooklyn Jewish experience, you have to have the soup with these matzo balls.

These are The Best Matzo Balls in the World:

4 eggs, separated
1 package Streits matzo ball mix (both envelopes)
1/2 cup melted Crisco, cooled to room temperature
1/4 cup lemon-lime carbonated water
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  If they are resistant, add a pinch or two of cream of tartar. In a separate bowl, bear the egg yolks.  Mix in the melted, cooled Crisco and the carbonated water.  Stir in the matzo meal and the parsley.  Gently fold in the beaten egg white.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until the mixture can be handled.

Fill a large kettle about half full (4-5 quarts) with water, and set to boil. Once the water is boiling, throw in four (4) Knorr chicken bouillon cubes. The matzo balls will be cooked in this boiling broth.

Form the matzo balls by scooping with the medium-sized scoop.  Wet your hands with cold water, and roll the matzo balls; set aside until all are formed.  Gently ease them, one at a time, into the boiling broth and cook, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.  Lower the heat slightly if they are boiling too rapidly.  Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with the World's Best Chicken Soup.

How Did Martha Stewart Get Into This Blog Post? Well, I told you I was playing catchup, and that encompasses these rather nifty meatballs.  The recipe is from Martha Stewart, who I really like (except for her endless spring cleaning campaign) and made good use of a pound of ground lamb I had thrown casually into the depths of my lower freezer, which happens to be large enough to hide a VW beetle).

Now about meatballs - my grandmother was pretty conservative when it came to these, but I did learn my absolute best meatball kitchen trick from her.  Instead of breadcrumbs, or white bread soaked in milk, use matzo meal in your meatball or meatloaf mixture.  There is a gorgeous symmetry there, that the main ingredient for knaidlach is also the secret ingredient in good meatballs.

Northern Indian Lamb Meatballs

2 small garlic cloves
1 piece (1 inch) peeled fresh ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 can (8 ounces) plain tomato sauce
1 dried bay leaf
Coarse salt
12 ounces ground lamb
1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro1 large egg
6 prunes, quartered
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

  1. Process garlic, ginger, and 1 1/2 teaspoons water in a food processor until a chunky paste forms; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Set aside one quarter of onion in a large bowl.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste, 1/2 cup water, the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and 2 tablespoons coriander to onion in skillet. Cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, and the bay leaf. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer.
  4. Mix reserved onion, lamb, breadcrumbs, cilantro, egg, 1 teaspoon each garlic paste and salt, and remaining teaspoon coriander and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Divide into 24 pieces; roll into balls. Stuff each meatball with a prune quarter; roll to enclose.
  5. Add meatballs to simmering sauce (add water if meatballs are not covered by sauce). Cook until sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes. Stir in garam masala.

Credit where credit is due:  this is the original recipe from Martha Stewart.  I made a few small changes which I will share with you:

Instead of that whole whirling garlic-ginger-water thing, I used equal amounts of Gourmet Garden's Chunky Garlic and Ginger.  I usually have a tube of each in my fridge.                                 

I cut back the cayenne pepper to 1/2 teaspoon.

I used 1 pound of ground lamb, because that's how it came packaged.

I used matzo meal instead of breadcrumbs

I used culantro instead of cilantro.  Identical taste, and culantro reportedly lasts longer in the fridge.

I used 12 prunes and cut them in half.  I portioned the meat by using the medium scoop, and stuffed each meatball with one-half of a prune.

Everything else was the same as the original recipe.  These are delicious.

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