Monday, September 5, 2011

Friday Dinner: Meatballs With Mushroom Gravy and Homemade Noodles

Friday night, Lynn (my culinary confederate) and I prepared dinner. She was responsible for the meatballs, the mushroom gravy and I prep'd the mushrooms, made the green beans, the salad and vinaigrette and the pasta.

I'll tell you right now, I am not going to share my preparation method for the pasta. MY method included starting with the pasta rollers on the highest (closest together, instead of widest) setting and wondering far too long why the pasta was lacy and broke apart as well as the internal stress of thinking "Aw, crap! I hope Lynn has dried pasta or rice, 'cause I'm f'king up these noodles big time! Dinner is ruined!".

Bad things happens to me when I am making something that requires flour with volumes larger than 1/2 cup.  First, even before I take the flour out of the cupboard I'm covered in it, and second, my brain stops working. Once I took the dough out of the food processor, I made every mistake possible and practically dislocated my shoulders before I figured out my problem with the pasta machine was that I had it on the wrong setting to start with. I mean, I know that you're supposed to start on the lowest (furthest apart) setting, but with a non-functioning brain and all, it took a long time for it to sink in.

That being said, everything about this dinner (even the noodles) was delicious. Lynn did a fantastic job on the meatballs and mushroom gravy, and the salad and beans (green, haricots jaunes and romano) were good, too. Our dinner conversation consisted of those happy sounds you make when something is so good, you don't have words. The recipes are after the jump, below. As for the pasta preparation, Lidia's (Bastianich) method will steer you in the right direction.

Recipe: Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy and Homemade Pappardelle

Serves: 6-8

If you don't have a pasta machine, the desire to roll out the dough yourself, or a nonna with upper arms like Superman to knead and roll out the dough, any commercial fresh or dried wide noodle - like pappardelle - will do the job.

If you don't have two people in the kitchen, you can approach this two ways: make the noodles ahead, let them dry and cook them off at the end when the meatballs are simmering away in the gravy, or make the meatballs and mushroom gravy ahead and reheat it as you're rolling out the noodles. Either way works.

Wide Egg Noodles (Pappardelle)

  • 2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour, 1/3 cup reserved
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • warm water (may not be necessary)
Food processor/manual pasta machine method from Lidia Bastianich's, "Lidia's Italian Table". I made so many wrong moves (so many more than I've even admitted to here...), it's amazing that it turned out so well, but I heartily recommend following her method. I know that next time, I'll refer back to it before I start.
  • Add 1 2/3 cup of the flour to the work bowl of your food processor (metal blade). In a bowl, beat the eggs, salt and olive oil until just blended. Turn on the food processor, remove the feed tube and pour the egg mixture through the feed tube. Mix until it comes together into a rough dough that has nearly all come together (a few little lumplets that haven't cleaved to the big ball o'dough is okay). If it is too stiff, add a small amount of the warm water - and by small, start with a couple of teaspoons - into the feed tube and pulse until it is incorporated. Remove the dough and knead with the remaining flour about 10-20 minutes until it is silky and smooth.
  • Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest on the counter for an hour at room temperature - or up to a day in the refrigerator before rolling the pasta. If you refrigerate it, let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour.
  • Rolling the Dough with a Manual Pasta Machine & Cutting the Papardelle
    • Cut the dough into six equal pieces and shape each piece into a rectangle, about 5 by 3 inches. Lightly flour each piece and store all but the one you're working with under a kitchen towel.
    • Set the rollers of the machine to the widest setting. Pass one of the rectangles through the rollers, long side down, then pass it through a second time.
    • Repeat these two steps with each of the pieces of dough, setting them back under the kitchen towel remembering to keep them lightly floured.
    • Turn the the machine's knob to the next setting - reducing the space between the rollers. Pass the pasta between the rollers two times. Repeat this step on each of the subsequent settings until the machine is set to the next-to-the thinnest setting. Sheets should be 5 1/2" x 30" long. Once rolled out, rest the pasta under kitchen towels for 15 minutes before cutting.
    • To Cut Pappardelle: Cut each of the strips in half, crosswise and then cut 1 1/2" wide strips lengthwise. dust the strips lightly and store the ribbons on a clean kitchen towel dusted with flour until you are ready to cook them. (Note - we cut ours about 1" crosswise - this was perfect for us)
  • Cooking the Pappardelle
    • Bring 6 quarts of salted water (2 tablespoons) to a rapid boil in a large pot. Shake off any excess flour from the pasta by tossing it in a colander and drop it into the boiling water by handfuls. Stir after each addition. When it has returned to a full boil and when the pasta rises to the top stir, then take out a piece and taste it. Let it cook for a couple more minutes until you taste it again - it shouldn't be flabby and soft, but still have just a little resistance as you bite down on it. 
    • When it's ready, lift it from the pot with a strainer or spider skimmer, shaking it to remove excess water and remove to the pot of sauce or to a plate for serving.
Meatballs with Dill and Mushroom Gravy
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/3 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 large onion, medium dice, divided
  • 3 tablespoons dill, chopped, divided
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt + more, if necessary
  • Fresh, ground pepper for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil +  a little extra
  • 1/2 lb brown mushrooms, sliced in 1/4" wide slices
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream 

Pour the milk over the bread crumbs and sit for at least 10 minutes. In a big bowl, add the ground turkey, ground pork, half the onion, half the dill, the eggs, soaked bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt and ground pepper to taste. Combine well. Heat a little olive oil in a small skillet. form about 1-2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture into a small patty and cook it in the pan. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Cook off a second small patty and taste. When the seasoning is right, form 2" meatballs and set aside on a platter. While you're forming the meatballs, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy dutch oven over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer.

Add the meatballs to the pan in batches - don't crowd the pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides and remove each batch to a platter or bowl. When you are done, pour off all fat and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up the brown fond with a wooden spoon or spatula until the bottom is cleaned. Pour off this liquid and set aside.

Add the butter to the pan and when the foam subsides, add the onions and saute until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and saute for 10 minutes. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the beef broth, chicken broth. Cook to reduce the sauce until it coats the back of a spoon. Turn the heat down to low and add the reserved deglazing liquid and cream (or half and half). Simmer for 5 minutes and taste for seasoning, adjusting with salt and pepper if necessary. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the dill and the add the meatballs back to the sauce.

Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Take the pan off the heat and add in the sour cream and stir until it is completely combined. Serve over pappardelle noodles.

1 comment:

Susan said...

This is my kind of meal! It looks and sounds delicious. I'm feeling your pain on the homemade pasta making, but everytime I do make noodles, I'm so satisfied at the end results. Well done!