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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Think Like A Chef - Breakthrough #2

Due to circumstances, I was unable to make the planned dinner of eggplant, zucchini, and roasted tomato lasagna.  However, I was still in the mood to cook, and I wanted to make something Italian.

My thought process went something like this:  “I’ll make chicken parm with a side of pasta.  But, I really only try to eat pasta once a week, so I’ll make spaghetti squash…which I have never even tasted before.  Sounds good.  Except I eat chicken at least three times a week.  So, instead I’ll make meatballs.  No…I try to eat red meat only once a week.  I know!  I’ll make turkey meatballs!  Which I have never made either.  This should be interesting.”

Now, I’ve never made meatballs of any kind before, but I’ve watched enough cooking shows to have an idea of what I needed to buy, so I went to the store and bought some ingredients.  First I bought some gluten free bread crumbs with Italian seasoning. 

Aleia's makes very good gluten free products.

Next, I had to decide what kind of cheese.  Now here was the dilemma.  First, I had to choose between Parmesan and Pecorino Romano.  Also, how bad would this taste if I substitute either of these cheeses for the low fat version I can get from that little green plastic bottle?  In the end, because this was my first time making these, I went with real cheese and I went with the Pecorino Romano.  I also bought some parsley, and of course ground turkey.

This led to another dilemma.  Do I get the 93% fat free or the 99% fat free ground turkey?  Personally, I think that meat has to have a little bit of fat to it, so I went with the 93% fat free.

Next, I bought a spaghetti squash, which to my surprise had a harder exterior than butternut squash, and finally some RAO’s marinara sauce.  I went with RAO’s because I didn’t feel I had time to make a sauce from scratch, and RAO’s was rated one of the best jarred sauces a couple of years ago.

My plan of attack was to put the sauce in a pot, heat it up, make the turkey meatballs, and then drop them in the sauce.  This led to yet another interesting decision.  There is a lot of controversy on the right way to make meatballs of any kind.  Look on the internet.  Some people drop them in the sauce raw, some people brown them, then put them in the sauce, some people bake them first, and so on.  Ultimately, I decided to go the Anne Burrell route:  Brown them, bake them, then put them in the sauce.

To make them, first I sweated some onion.  I don’t like raw onion in my turkey meatballs or regular meatballs, even though they are made that way sometimes.   After sweating them for a few minutes, I added minced garlic cloves, continued to cook for a minute or two and then took them off the heat.  I put the ground turkey in a bowl, followed by two eggs, about 2/3 cup of bread crumbs, 2/3 cup of Pecorino Romano, some parsley, some salt, and mixed it up with my hands.  (This of course led to the first of 50 or so hand washings!)  Then I added the onion garlic mixture to the bowl and remixed.  Then I added some water to the mixture in an attempt to keep the turkey balls moist. (Thanks, Anne Burrell, for the tip!) 

Next I heated up some olive oil, and made a very small patty just to check for seasoning.  It needed a tiny bit more salt.

Next I made the turkey meatballs, making sure not to pack them too tightly so they wouldn’t be tough. 

Raw turkey meatballs.  Not perfectly round but...

I then browned them in two batches, and then baked them for twenty minutes at 350 degrees.  I went with twenty minutes because they were decent sized.  After twenty minutes, into the sauce they went.

Now I had to make the spaghetti squash.  Having never made spaghetti squash (or even tasted it for that matter) I watched some YouTube videos on it to see how to prepare it.  I chose the one by Michael Chirello.  In the video, he cut the squash open with a cleaver.  What a show off!  I’ll just take my chef’s knife and….ahem…I’ll just take my chef’s knife and…what is this thing made out of?  Concrete??

So, I used a cleaver, just like that great chef Michael Chiarello, who would never show off by using a cleaver…

In any case, after much struggle, I opened it, put some olive oil on each half, seasoned it with salt and pepper, put the flesh side down, and cooked it for 40 minutes.  Then I took it out of the oven and let it cool.  Then I scrapped it with a large spoon.  Wow!  That’s pretty cool!  It looks like…spaghetti!  I tasted it, and it was a little bland so I sprinkled it lightly with sea salt.

To serve, I took a pan, heated some of the sauce that was in the pot, and then I put the spaghetti squash into the pan. cool is that?

Then I put the it in the bowls.  Then I took the turkey balls out of the sauce and put them in the bowl and put a little more sauce on top.  Then I sprinkled some more pecorino Romano, and then some parsley.

The finished dish.  I wish I hadn't covered up the meatballs so much.

I have to say, the whole meal was quite good.  The turkey meatballs were not tough at all, and very moist.  At the same time, the spaghetti squash had a lot of body to it, and stood up well to the sauce, so it gave a nice texture difference from the turkey meatballs.

I will say that this meal was higher in fat content than I usually like.  I think I would like to try it next time by using one less egg, and maybe trying to find a good quality low fat cheese.  That being said, this was a filling, flavorful meal, that I would make again.  I think Chef Colicchio would say I've made good progress.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good, solid comfort food meal---and well executed. I would definitely try this recipe again using the 99% fate free ground turkey and I think you will find it to be even better. The texture will be better, and they absolutely will not be dry (just don't brown the meatballs too much, and let them instead cook longer in the sauce. The sauce will provide all of the moisture you need---think braising).
    My two favorite parts of your post: That you made the small patty ahead of time to check for seasoning, and that you sprinkled the parsley at the end---a nice attention to detail, and definitely thinking like a chef! Keep on cooking!