Meatballs are a pain in the ass. Maybe not to Mario or Giada, but for me, a total pain in the ass. They’re messy and raw meat totally freaks me out and I don’t like touching it. Then when I fry them up in the giant sauté pain (which is also a total drag to clean later), they always seem to stick and I have to chisel them out to flip them over and the olive oil is spitting all over the top of the stove. One giant pain. (Do you ever wonder when you read this blog, Is there nothing about which she can’t find to complain? The answer is no. It is one of my special talents that I share with you. You are welcome.) But everyone eats meatballs with exuberance which makes them little miracle balls. Let me make clear that when I say “everyone,” I mean everyone except my son who only eats 6 things. Wanna guess what they are? If you said boxed mac-n-cheese, pizza, peanut butter and jelly, waffles, nuggets and fries and bacon you win! What do you win? Nothing. It’s just an expression. (And I exaggerate. He eats, like, 8 things.) Everyone knows that when I say “everyone” eats such and such, I am excluding my son. Who is everyone? You know, just everyone. Everyone who eats meatballs. Which is everyone except my son. (Are you following?) At any rate, I had a meatball epiphany the other day. It was more like several different meatball ideas merging to create the PERFECT method for making meatballs. (At least if you are me.)
Here’s what you do.
Make your meatball mix. I always make Giada’s. (Just use white turkey meat if you can’t get dark, which mostly you can’t unless you live near a Whole Foods, which I personally do not. Or you can kill a turkey yourself. Your call.) Grab a nice cookie scoop and a mini-muffin tin.
Let me break here a moment to tell you about my mini-muffin tin.
In my kitchen, there are two skinny cabinets that flank the stove. They are the perfect size for cookie sheets and cooling racks, cutting boards and muffin tins. The people who owned this place before we did lost the house because they over-financed it. I don’t know them, of course—the house was owned by the bank by the time we found the for sale sign on the lawn. One of the neighbors told me about the foreclosure. She told me that she sometimes saw the man who used to live here drive by, which made me feel really sad. I love my house, but like most houses, it contains a history that precedes the footfalls and chatter of its current inhabitants. All the former footfalls and chatter echo.
Well, the day we moved in, my mom and I took to cleaning the kitchen cabinets in preparation for their filling with my stuff. The woman who used to live here forgot to empty out one of the skinny cabinets and I acquired a sheet pan, a tray covered with a flower pattern and a mini-muffin tin. I always wanted one, but never could justify the expense. I mean, who really needs a mini-muffin tin? But it is nice to have it. So thanks to the woman who used to occupy this kitchen—I am putting her muffin tin to good use.
Ok, back to the recipe.
Spray your mini-muffin tin with oil and drop the uniformly-sized (Who doesn’t love uniformly-sized things? Crazy people, that’s who!) meatballs in the mini-muffin tin wells. (Did I really need to articulate that? Were you thinking you would just drop the meatballs on the counter and see what happened? Anyhow, any confusion is now diffused.) Then you BAKE THE MEATBALLS (I know!) at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or so. Then, because I am a freak who worries about undercooked meat with an insistence that would shock you (or would it?), I drop them in a big pan and simmer in sauce for about 10-15 minutes. Just in case. (If you are normal, I think you can just serve them with warmed sauce.)
Can I tell you the joy I felt when all this came together?
Now, the tragic part of my little story.
I find that one jar of sauce is not enough for a batch of meatballs, but 2 jars is too much. The other day when I was making these meatballs, I happened to find a baggie of sauce in the bottom of the freezer—about half a jar’s worth. Perfect, methinks! I gleefully dumped it into the pan with the meatballs and it smelled wrong. More like misplaced. But I shrugged it off. Until it nagged at me and I took a little taste.
It was NOT tomato sauce but chipotle salsa. I’d frozen it a while back and thought I would use it in a chili or something. I was certain that I would remember what it was so I didn’t bother labeling it. I did not in fact remember what it was.
Kids won’t eat spicy food. So what would have been several meals joyously consumed by everyone (except, you might recall, my son), now it’s just me and my husband who will eat them. And we’re the least picky eaters in this house so who gives a crap.
Label them baggies, people! I mean it!
This is why you should always label baggies of stuff before you abandon them to the bottom of the freezer. You will not guess right even though you will insist that you will. Trust me.
And this is how I came to have a meatball triumph and tragedy all in the same meal.
I wrote a flash fiction story inspired by the mini-muffin tin. I will post it on Friday for your reading pleasure! Please come back.