Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Meatballs: Your Choice - Lamb, Pork or Beef

Lamb Meatballs

I am in love with the lamb meatball recipe from Nigella Lawson that I found online.  I am so in love with it that I went right ahead and invented a new version of them within days of having made the lamb meatballs, using ground pork.  Of course, having just purchased a whole steer from my rancher friend Mary Pettis-Sarley, I had a whole shelf in the freezer full of the best hamburger ever. I had to design beef meatballs. 

What is it about these that makes them so very, very good?  I believe it's the use of semolina flour.  Semolina, a special variety of high-gluten wheat, is typically used to make pasta.  I keep it on hand for use in gnocchi a la Romana. In the Bay Area, you can purchase it in a well-stocked grocery store such as Country Cheese or Berkeley Bowl.  However, if you can't find it or don't have it on hand, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), or regular breadcrumbs ought to do just fine.

Unlike many meatball recipes, which call for dipping the meatballs in egg and then breading them, this one just calls for mixing in the semolina and allowing the mix to sit while the semolina absorbs the moisture in the meat and egg, followed by pan-frying.  They fry up beautifully; crispy on the outside, tender in the middle.  Yummy.

Pork Meatballs Frying - they are as delicious as they look!

Pork Meatballs

1 lb ground pork
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg/ 1/2 of a nutmeg, ground
2-3 cloves minced/pressed garlic
3 TB semolina (or breadcrumbs or panko if you can't find it)
OR 2 TB coconut flour (low carb)
1 large egg, lightly whisked

makes 16 meatballs

Lamb Meatballs:  Nigella Lawson

1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons semolina
OR 2 TB coconut flour (low carb, high fiber)
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Beef Meatballs
1 lb beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
3 TB semolina (or breadcrumbs or panko if you can't find it)
OR 2 TB coconut flour (low carb, high fiber)
1 large egg, lightly whisked
 2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions and/or finely chopped yellow onion

For either recipe, combine all of the ingredients well, mixing with your hands to make sure that the spices are evenly distributed.  Allow the mixture to sit for half an hour, then form into 16 or so meatballs and place them on a large plate.  (Wetting your hands to prevent the meat from sticking to your hands as you roll them works well, as does using disposable food service gloves.)

When they are all rolled, heat up about 1-2 TB of olive oil or drippings in a large, cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the meatballs.  Be careful not to crowd them; crowding causes them to cook up grey rather than crispy and brown.  If you have a very large pan, you can do them all in one batch.  Otherwise, you can use two frying pans or fry them in batches.  Cook them until crispy and brown, then turn and repeat on all of the sides.  Serve them with well seasoned brown rice.

For an easy pan sauce for the lamb meatballs, squeeze the juice of one half of a fresh Meyer lemon into the frying pan, combine well with the drippings, and serve over brown rice, bulgur wheat or couscous.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scrapple: A (Seriously) Whole Hog Recipe

I still remember the first  - and only - time I ate scrapple.  We were on our annual summer camping trip (Daddy taught public school, and camping was our big vacation of the year) and were somewhere in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  I remember seeing local Amish people in their horse-drawn buggies... and I remember the scrapple that my mother bought at the grocery store and fried up in the iron skillet that always accompanied us on our trips.  Meaty, crispy on the outside, soft and savory in the middle.  Oh my; clearly, it was memorable.

Scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish breakfast staple, made by slow-cooking the scraps and odds and ends of pork that cling to various bones until they fall off of them, and then seasoning the meat and broth and adding cornmeal to it.  After the cornmeal is cooked, the resulting savory mush/polenta is poured into a loaf pan and chilled, then sliced and fried until the exterior is brown and crispy.  You can eat it straight up, or with maple syrup, apple sauce, or eggs.

Cooked Meat Scraps, Head and Trotters

Fast forward 40 or so years....  I've been buying whole meat animals from my rancher friend, Mary Pettis-Sarley for several years now, including many half pigs and a few whole ones.  When Vicky at Ibleto Meats calls for my cutting instructions ("how many chops to the packet, how thick, etc.") there have been several occasions when she has asked if I want the head.  "Uh, no thanks!" has been my reply every time.  I just didn't know what to do with it, and it was (presumably) huge, and well, you know - yuck.  Not that I'm proud of the "yuck;" I do believe that if you eat meat it's respectful of the animal and its sacrifice to use all of it that is humanly possible, but frankly, I just couldn't deal.  But then one day.....

My friend and cooking compadre, Ondine, scored half of a teeny, tiny Ossabaw hog.  And by half, I do mean half.  I don't know what happened to the tail, but the half included a front and a rear trotter, and half of the head, sawn right up the middle.  They were vacuum packed and frozen, and when Ondine kindly agreed to split the split with me, she asked me to put the half head and trotters in my freezer, for us to use in a project later.  And lo, the time came for me to make room for the whole steer we had purchased from Mary (to be shared by a team of 7), and it was time to do something with those trotters and that head.  I thawed them out, and we got ready to make hogshead cheese (aka "souse") because we couldn't think what else you would do with a head.  But then our neighbor Natalie mentioned scrapple, I remembered that breakfast in a Pennsylvania campground 40 years ago, and we "scrapped" the headcheese plans and went for scrapple instead.
Yeah, it wasn't easy dealing with this.

Now, there was a fair amount of work involved, I'm not going to lie to you.  And there was the moment when I unwrapped the thawed head and thought "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into!" (Ondine was busy that day; she says my message to her as I examined the head was priceless.) But I dealt.  It took place over a couple of days; day 1, I cooked the meat and picked through the bones.  Day two, Ondine went through the meat again to make sure I didn't miss any bones or cartilage and chopped the meat.  Meanwhile, I skimmed the fat off the broth, and made sure I got all the bones and such out of the stock.  Then we seasoned it all, cooked up the meaty cornmeal mush and put it in our assortment of loaf pans to cool.  Time consuming, yes. But, it was fun, it made a big batch (I've been generous with it  - so far!) and oh, day three, when we fried it up - it was so gooood! 

You are probably wondering; was it as good as the long-distant memory of scrapple?  Why, yes.  Yes, it was.  But even better was how much my wonderful neighbors, Betty and Jimmy Pugh enjoyed the pieces I gave them.  They grew up in Alabama and have lived in Berkeley for years and years. They had never heard of Scrapple before, but when I mentioned a hogs head and head cheese to Betty, Betty told me that she had made head cheese all the time growing up.  I just knew they would love Scrapple, and they did.  Betty begged me for the next hog's head, as did my Guatemalan friend Lidia.... I doubt I'll ever pass one up again if it's offered to me!

Ondine and I used a recipe from Bette Kroenig, owner of Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkeley, and adapted it.  Ondine says their scrapple is good stuff, and we do like this recipe - with the adjustments we made to it.


Makes 6 loaf pans full.

1/2 a small pig's head (ahem: brain removed), cleaned
2 trotters, cleaned
several pounds of meaty pork neck bones

or: 1 pork butt roast (about 5 pounds)
4 trotters/hocks, cleaned

1 whole yellow onion, cut in 6-8 pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 2-3 pieces each
1 TB whole peppercorns
5 or 6 whole cloves
4 bay leaves
a handful of fresh parsley

2-3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TB fresh ground black pepper
1 TB crumbled dry sage leaves, or chopped fresh
1 whole nutmeg, grated finely
3 TB salt
3 cups white cornmeal
3 cups yellow cornmeal

Put all of the ingredients from section I into a large stock pot, and cover them with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the meat has fallen off the bones, about 3 hours or so.

Cool the pot, and scoop out the solids.  Discard the bones, skin, cartilage, hunks of fat, and anything else you don't consider fit to eat.  (My friend Lidia snatched up every one of these discards except the bones, and cooked them with black beans that night.  It was "Muy delicioso!" she says!)  Discard the peppercorns, celery, etc.  When the meat is cool enough, chop it into small pieces.  (You can use a food processor - we didn't.)  You should have about 5 or more pounds of meat.  The more meat, the merrier.

Strain the broth - reserving it!  If you want to do this over a few days, chill the broth and meat overnight.  This makes it easier to skim off the fat.  Otherwise, use your best talents to skim off the fat - there will be plenty of it!  Measure the stock; you should have about 1 gallon to 5 or 6 quarts.  If you are a bit short, you can add some water to it to make up the difference.

In your smaller stockpot, put the stock, all of the spices and salt, and the meat, stir well, and bring it back to a boil.  In a separate stockpot, large enough to hold everything, put the cornmeal, whisking it to combine it well.  Turn the heat on under the pan to medium. Using your best ladle, ladle in a few measures of the hot stock and stir well.  Continue to add the stock, stirring well to incorporate it, until you have added all the stock.  Stir constantly until the mush has cooked and thickened, about 15-30 minutes.  When it is done, rinse each loaf pan in cold water before filling it.  Use your ladle to fill the pans, then press the scrapple into the corners of the pan and spread the top smooth with a spatula.  When all of the scrapple has been put into the pans, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator to chill.

To prepare it for serving: run a knife around the edges of the loaf pan, then use a butter knife or some such to help dislodge the loaf from the pan.  Carve slices about 1/2" thick.  Heat some bacon drippings, butter or oil in your iron skillet over medium high heat until hot, then add the slices of scrapple.  When the underside is truly golden brown and crusty (don't rush it!) flip it over and repeat.  Serve alone, or with maple syrup, apple sauce or eggs.

Fudgy Rich Chocolatey Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Low-Carb Brownies

Just in case you need to be sugar-free AND gluten-free, here is a recipe that is sure to please.  It will surely please you, the sadly deprived baker (although you cannot possibly feel deprived when eating one of these luscious, moist, chocolatey treats.)  And it will just as surely please anyone else who eats one, whether or not they have to abstain.

Last night I made the maiden batch of these brownies for a school potluck.  (Naturally, I ate one first to make sure it was of the highest quality.) It was immensely gratifying to be able to offer one to a friend at the potluck who is actually allergic to sugar, as well as to those who are gluten intolerant; something for everyone!

And as with all of my recipes, it is super high-protein and super low-carb.  How satisfying is that?

5 oz sugar-free, sweetened dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter

1/2 cup erythritol
1/3 cup xylitol
7 tiny scoops stevia extract powder

2 TB unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB quinoa flour or gluten-free baking mix
2 TB soy protein
2 TB unsweetened, unflavored whey powder
1 TB almond meal

1 cup walnut meats - optional

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and put rack in the lower third of the oven.

2. Line a 9" square baking pan with foil, letting the ends of the foil run up the sides and hang over the edges of the pan.  Do not butter or flour the pan.

3. If using walnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until lightly toasted and
 fragrant, 7-10 minutes.  Cool them and chop coarsely.

4. In a small bowl, combine all the sweeteners and whisk to combine.

5.  In another small bowl, combine the flours and salt and whisk to combine. 

6. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the chocolates and butter and melt over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

7. When melted, remove mixture from the heat, and stir in the sweeteners and vanilla, until well-combined.

8. Stir in the applesauce, then stir in one egg at a time until well-combined.

9.  Stir flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until well-combined.

10. Add the walnuts, (if desired) and stir well.

11. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, on top of the foil, using a spatula to scrape all of it out of the pot and into the pan.  Spread evenly in the pan.

12. Put pan on a rack in the lower third of the oven and bake until the surface is glossy and smooth, and a toothpick comes out fairly clean from the center, about 40 minutes.  (A few crumbs may stick to it; that's okay.)

12. Cool brownies in the pan, on a rack.  Use the foil to remove the whole batch from the pan when cool.  Cut into squares of the size you desire (keeping in mind that these are rich.)

Brownies will keep in an air-tight container for several days.  Well, theoretically.  

Notes:  You can get pretty darned good sugar-free dark chocolate at Trader Joe's, sweetened with maltitol.  This has become my go-to baking bar, because the price is very good for decent chocolate.  Bob's Red Mill makes all of the other flours, and you can buy them in a well-stocked health food store.  (We can buy them in bulk at Berkeley Bowl or Berkeley Natural Grocer.)  If you want to, you can substitute 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour instead.

Sweeteners:  Erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols; low-glycemic, low-calorie, sweeteners suitable for use by diabetics or those with metabolic disorders.  You can easily buy xylitol  at a well-stocked grocery or health-food store.  Erythritol is more readily available on-line.  Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the stevia leaf.  It is readily available at grocery stores, including at Trader Joe's.