Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meatloaf Meatballs

Ever since my hands could roll, they have been rolling meatballs. When I was a little girl, my mom would pull a stool up to the counter and I would help her to make the meatballs for Sunday dinner’s sauce. One by one, I would follow her lead and try to roll them as perfect as I could. I can still remember seeing them all lined up on the counter and feeling so proud of my contribution to the meal.

Making meatballs with Mom is one of my earliest memories in the kitchen. Perhaps it was then, that a little seed was subconsciously planted inside of me; a teeny tiny little baby speck of a meatball seed that would someday grow into the desire to become a chef and nourish the drive to eventually help me flower into one.

With the flavor of meatloaf and the portability of a meatball, meatloaf meatballs are the perfect combination of favorite homemade dinners.  I put a hunk of mozzarella in the center for a delicious melted surprise. And for extra flavor and even more appeal, I wrapped it all in bacon. The bacon melts right onto the seasoned meat as it cooks, incorporating a delicious saltiness on the outside that only a slice of pork belly can do so well. 


Of course, the best thing about classic meatloaf is a good ketchup glaze. Wouldn't you agree? Half-way through cooking, the meatballs are basted with a simple, no-cook ketchup glaze made with maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce, then receive one more good slathering right before they are served. Enjoy! 

Meatloaf Meatballs:
Yield: 10-12 Meatballs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds ground sirloin
- 1 cup panko breadcrumb
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 egg
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 cup mozzarella, cut into cubes
- 5-6 slices of bacon, cut in half
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant.
3) In a large bowl, combine the cooked onion and garlic with the meat, breadcrumb, garlic powder, thyme, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, cumin and the egg. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Mix until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
4) To prepare the glaze, mix together the remaining Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, maple syrup and hot sauce in a medium bowl.
5) Form the meat mixture into balls a little larger than the size of golf ball; insert a cube of mozzarella into each, forming the meat completely around the cheese. Wrap each meatball in a slice of bacon and place seam-side down on a broiler pan.
6) Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes, and then baste with half the glaze. Bake 15 minutes more until the meat and bacon are fully cooked. Brush on the remaining glaze and serve immediately. Serve over rice, if desired.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tapping into Tapas

A few years ago, I purchased a tapas cookbook that I found on sale at the book store; it wasn’t a New York Times best seller and it didn’t carry the name of any big time chef or television personality, but it stood out to me (though they tell me I shouldn’t, I can’t help but to judge (actual) books by their covers—especially when there is a pretty picture of food on the cover). Boring story, I know. But as random as it was, that last-minute, cheap impulse buy turned out to be one of my favorite cookbooks and one that I always look to for inspiration.

It is no wonder I am drawn to tapas, the small appetizer and snacks served in the bars of Spain. I am one who would rather get full on tasting a bunch of little things than one big meal any day. I think I could live off of the crostini, marinated vegetables, cheeses, olives, croquettes and other various fried things which tapas menus are made of; in just one or two satisfyingly delectable bites, they are just enough and more than you could ask for all at once.

I was recently flipping through the pages of my trusty cookbook, when a recipe for empandillas caught my eye. Empandillas are a smaller version of the baked or fried turnovers, empanadas. What I enjoyed most about the recipe was that it used frozen puff pastry dough. To make, you simply thaw the dough, roll it out, cut out circles, prepare and add the filling, fold into a crescent and crimp the edges to seal; 15 minutes in the oven, and done. How ridiculously easy is that? I love it. Plus, there’s definitely something therapeutic about folding and crimping those miniature pockets of deliciousness.

You can stuff the empandillas with any creative filling of your choice. My version includes goat cheese, diced prosciutto and caramelized onions. I think I found a new “go-to” recipe and hope that I introduced one for you too. Make frozen puff pastry a freezer staple (always handy to have anyway) and prepare this whenever you need a quick appetizer or snack for guests. I served them on the side with the feast that I cooked up for Christmas. They are best warm and crispy straight from the oven.

Empandillas with Goat Cheese & Prosciutto
Yield: 16-18 empandillas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces goat cheese
- 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1box (2 sheets) prepared frozen puff pastry, thawed
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 egg, beaten
• Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 30-40 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray 3 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
• In a medium bowl, mix together the caramelized onion, goat cheese and prosciutto until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• On a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry dough. Using a medium-large round cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out circles. Add a teaspoon of goat cheese filling to the center of each circle. Dampen half of the circles with a little bit of water, then fold the dough over the filling to form a crescent; pinch the edges to seal, then press with the tines of a fork to secure. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets.
• Using a sharp knife, make a small slit in the top of each pastry. Brush with the beaten egg to glaze. Bake until risen and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.