Sunday, December 26, 2010

What a Meatball!

veal meatball sandwich with fennel and mushrooms

If you grew up in New England like I did, then you know that the word "meatball" has more than one meaning. It's more common usage refers to the food -- a small, round ball of meat that is cooked and served with tomato sauce. It's less common but more colorful usage refers to someone, usually a big, beefy guy -- also called a "chooch," -- who does something rude or bone-headed. In that situation, you'd say, "What a meatball." Get it? Good.

Now you need to get yourself some ground veal from Strauss Free Raised Veal, a Wisconsin based company committed to raising calves more humanely, to make my Veal Meatballs with Fennel, Mushroom, and Shallot Tomato Sauce.

Now, it's time for a meatball.

Strauss veal hot dog DSC_0015
Italian Style Veal Hot Dogs with Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms. 

Veal Meatballs with Fennel, Mushroom, and Shallot Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
Printable recipe.

1 pound ground veal
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup sliced white button or cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (32 ounce) can crushed tomatoes with juices, preferably San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 (6-inch) torpedo rolls
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crushed red pepper flakes for garnish

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Using your hands, mix until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. If it's too dry, add a little bit of water, or another egg. If it's too moist, add some more bread crumbs. Using your hands, roll meat into 1 1/2-inch balls. It should yield 14-16 meatballs.

3. Place meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallots and saute 2 minutes until just wilted. Add fennel and saute 3-5 minutes until just softened. Add mushrooms and saute 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add white wine and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add cooked meatballs to the sauce and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until heated through. Turn off heat, and stir in basil.

5. Place torpedo rolls under the broiler until lightly toasted. Place 3-4 meatballs per roll, and top with a couple of spoonfuls of sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. Serve hot.