MA’S MEATBALLS

Ma’s Meatballs

I make these while making Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce. This is the only change I have made over the years. Mom used to fry them in the pot in a bit of olive oil along with hot and sweet sausage before making the sauce.

I always ate two with a big plate of spaghetti until they were gone. Then I switched to sweet sausage. Now, I like the hot sausage. How our tastes change over the years.  

COOKING UTENSILS NEEDED

Large Bowl

Baking dish or large pot

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. Beef

2 cups flavored bread crumbs

½ cup milk

½ cup water

½ cup onion or 1 small onion minced

3 eggs

¼ tsp. pepper

½ tsp. salt

1 large clove of garlic crushed

½ tsp. oregano

1 tsp dry parsley or fresh is always better

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all the INGREDIENTS in the large bowl. Shape into meatballs the size of a handball and place in a very shallow baking tray or jelly roll pan. Bake in 400° oven for 25 minutes. Turn over meatballs half way through. Add to sauce and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. You can also fry them in the Spaghetti Sauce pot for an even richer tasting sauce.

Serving suggestion: See Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce

Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

6 hot sausages

6 sweet sausages

2 cans whole tomatoes (Red Pack)

1 plum tomato (imported)

2 or 3 small cans of tomato sauce (DeMonte)

1 8 oz. can of paste (Contadina)

4 cloves of garlic (crushed)

2 large onions (chopped )

¼ cup water

1 tbsp. Olive oil

1 tsp. dry Basil or a few leaves of fresh

1 tsp. dry Parsley or a few leaves of fresh

½ tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. oregano

2 large bay leaves

¼ salt

¼ pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Mom cooked this in her large pressure cooker. I use a very large pot with a lid. Brown the sausages on med-low heat in olive oil and drain. I cook the sausages and meatballs in the oven. Then, add them to the pot and cook them in the sauce to add more flavor to it. Mom fried all the meat directly in the pot, then added the sauce ingredients next starting with the tomatoes first.

In a blender, chop one can of the Red Pack whole tomatoes and add this to the pot with the meat. In the blender, chop the one can of imported plum tomatoes and add this to the pot. Add 3 cans of DeMonte sauce and one can of paste next. In a blender, add the chopped onion and crushed garlic in water and pulse in the blender until finely chopped, then add to pot of sauce.  Liquefy last can of Red Pack whole tomatoes in the blender, and add to pot. Add all seasonings: 1 tbsp. Olive oil,1 tsp. dry Basil, or a few leaves of fresh,1 tsp. dry Parsley or a few leaves of fresh, ½ tsp. sugar, ¼ tsp. oregano, 2 large bay leaves, ¼ salt, ¼ pepper.  Add about a ¼ cup of water to the blender to gather up what is left at the bottom and then add that to the pot. Cover and cook at least 1 hour.

NOTES

See Ma’s Meatballs, Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Parmesan. She also added a piece of pork for my sister and meatballs to every batch she made.

Lesson 12: SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

It was a cool wet late spring day yesterday, perfect for cooking indoors. Sam was requesting Chicken Parmesan for dinner. He always requests Chicken Cutlet Parmesan. He either asks for that or Tex-Mex (chicken enchiladas). Chicken Parmesan is also one of Jennifer’s favorite meals. I have to admit, I like Chicken Parmesan too.

            When I was a kid, my mother used to make veal cutlet parmesan. At the young age of nine, I was not a big fan of veal cutlet parmesan but the sauce and the cheese made it very palatable. It was at this age (I think) she started making chicken cutlet parmesan the same way as she made her veal cutlet parmesan. I enjoyed the chicken more than the veal, but always ate both with spaghetti. By the time I was 10 or 11, I saw my mom preparing dinner. I inquired what she was making. It was the dreaded veal parmesan. I asked why she didn’t make chicken parmesan more often than the veal. She looked at me with a surprised look and asked why? I said that I liked the chicken parmesan better! She said, “That’s great!” very enthusiastically. Then she continued: “Chicken is much cheaper then veal, so from now on I’ll use chicken!” This was probably much to my older brother’s dismay, but from that day on, it was chicken parmesan instead of veal. Now that I know more about veal I never make it for my own family or friends, besides that Jennifer will not eat it. Sam does not like most beef so it has always been chicken parmesan in my house. Chicken parmesan is not completely what I came to talk to you about today. Since we need spaghetti sauce for chicken parmesan, first we need a post and a cooking lesson about Spaghetti and Meatballs (Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce).

            My mother always started her spaghetti sauce by making meatballs. One fine Sunday afternoon, when I was probably bored out of my mind, I sat down and watched her cook. I was a teenager in high school and very interested in food—both eating it and cooking it. I even wrote down the recipe for her meatballs and sauce on an index card that I still have to this day. That was the very first recipe I typed up and put into that MS Word document back in 1999.

            I watched as she mixed the chopped meat and the other meatball ingredients by hand. Then, she carefully shaped the balls so that each one was the same size. When she was done, it was time to fry them in her pressure cooker. After adding a tablespoon or two of olive oil, she added six or so meatballs to the hot pot. She cooked them on medium high heat and turned them over and over so they were brown all the way around. This was so time consuming. No wonder it took her all day! She moved the first batch of meatballs to a plate and kept adding more until they were all fried. Next, she fried the sausages the same way when the last of the sausage and piece of pork was cooked. Then, she added everything back into the pot and started the sauce.

            She began by opening the Redpack whole tomatoes on an old style can opener mounted on the kitchen wall by a side door that led out to the driveway. The can opener was this antique golden yellow and the brand was Swing-A-Way. How I even remember that is beyond me, especially when sometimes I can’t even remember my password for my email.

            She used an Oster blender to chop the whole tomatoes one can at a time, pulsing it on and off, until they were just the right consistency. Then, she poured each can into the pot covering up all the browned yummy meat. After that was the onion and the garlic. First, she dices the onion and the crushes the garlic before adding it into the blender. She added just enough water to the blender so she could chop it all up smooth. It was probably only a 1/4 cup of water but it did the trick. Again, the blender pulsed until she was satisfied with the consistency of the onions and garlic. It smelled amazing, and there were certainly no large chunks left. She poured this into the tomatoes and meat, then stirred. The burner was on low and the sauce was beginning to heat up and bubble.

            Lastly was the seasoning. If she had fresh basil in the summer, she added that (otherwise, it was dried), she always used fresh curly parsley. The parsley she cut using a pair of scissors so it was nice and fine. She never measured anything and cut the parsley right over the pot. “That looks good,” she said. Brilliant it was. Then came the McCormick spices: Bay leaves, oregano, black pepper, (maybe some crushed red pepper), some Morton’s table salt, and a pinch of sugar. “That’s to cut the acid,” she said.

            She covered the pressure cooker and added the thingy on top. She called it a jig-gil-ar. As soon as the sauce heated up enough to start the jig-gil-ar jiggling, she set the timer for 30 minutes.

            After thirty minutes, she would have to run the pot under cold water before removing the jig-gil-ar and opening the lid. Once she said she accidently knocked the jig-gil-ar off too soon and she had spaghetti sauce all over the ceiling, but that was before I was even born. What a mess it must have been.

Now, it was time to add a second large pot of salted water to the stove and bring it to a boil for the pasta. She ALWAYS added just a bit of olive oil to the pasta water. “That’s so the pasta doesn’t stick together,” she said. Soon, we would be eating spaghetti and meatballs!

            This recipe was the same sauce she used to make the chicken parmesan. We will get to that recipe tomorrow. For now, I need to eat something. All of a sudden, I’m hungry.

            Be well, be happy, and enjoy your own family history.   

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

YESTERDAY

Today I sit with a cup of tea instead of coffee next to me. Why? In an effort to figure out why this whole fatigue thing is still happening to me, I have decided to give up coffee for the summer. Drastic I know, but drastic times call for drastic measures. Let me say this, as a lifelong coffee drinker, tea does not seem to have the same satisfaction as that first sip of coffee gives you in the morning cup.   

            Yesterday I delivered a homemade lunch to Jennifer’s classroom. Everyone seemed enthusiastic over the prospect of hot heroes and a salad. It seems everyone in her classroom LIKES salads. Since we only have a few days left of school, perhaps they will be open to the idea of me making a few of my salads for them to try. Perhaps they would even leave some comments here as to whether or not they are any good. Let’s cross that bridge next week. This weekend however, I will be posting about yesterday’s lunch and all its recipes.

Last night, I did not cook. I went out to eat at a sushi restaurant. Therefore, Sunday I will post my review of said restaurant. I will also be posting more recipes on both Saturday and Sunday because I need time to add pictures and have it edited by the talented writer and editor, Jules. I may even cook something this weekend on my grill or better yet smoke something tasty like ribs or a brisket.

Look for my posts tomorrow as the first in a series on Jenner’s classroom lunch.

Until next time – BE WELL, STAY HAPPY, and EAT GOOD THINGS!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

P.S., It’s time to go make breakfast.

lesson six: SOUP (but its to damN hot for soup)

I love soup. All kinds of soups, just not watermelon, Gazpacho, or Vichyssoise; that is probably only because they are served COLD. I like my soup HOT. I have an entire soup selection in the “recipe book”. The recipe book is just a very long word document (500pgs) that I have been working on for about twenty something years. In the beginning it was just my hand written recipes that I typed up. This included but was not limited to my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe. I hope my brother still has it. I remember he loved that sauce, and her meatballs!

All my recipes have evolved over the years, including many of the soups. So, there are different “variations” of chicken soup for example. There may not be much of a change from one recipe to another, perhaps only slight differences in ingredients, but when you are cooking, you can often adapt a recipe to your own personal taste. I would suggest to try to make the dish as the recipe writer intended (being an amateur writer myself, I am partial to this). Then, the next time you make the recipe, swap out an ingredient you don’t like with something better. Then *SHA-ZAM* you’re a chef, who is now developing their own family recipe!

Like I was saying earlier, it’s too damn hot for soup, so I will not be posting any soup recipes here for a awhile yet. Don’t worry, I will get to them in lesson six along with the fall. It will all be here before you know it. Let’s not rush summer. It is my favorite time of year. School is out here in New York for the entire summer and the kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. To this very day, that’s why summer is still my favorite time of year. Plus, I love all our outdoor barbeque parties!

Speaking of parties, I am cleaning up my backyard now and trying to get it ready for guests to come over. I am looking forward to having huge crowds again in my back yard, just so I can cook for everyone. Is that crazy? Somehow it sounds crazy. If I really think about it, I’m working on cleaning up my yard so I can work at cooking all day so people can eat…OH I must love cooking! I do tend to drink while I barbeque so maybe that is why they call me The Drunken Chef at work!

Bon Appetit. I mean, be well, be happy and eat yummy food!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Chicken Salad

Tuesday and this morning I made Jennifer chicken salad for lunch. I had made the chicken on the grill after marinating it overnight in salad dressing. You can use any leftover white meat skinless boneless chicken breast. I have even cut the chicken breast right off a whole roasted chicken or one I have I’ve made chicken soup from. The breast meat from chicken in the soup gets diced up and put into the fridge, while all the dark meat goes into the soup.

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Stock INGREDIENTS:

1 whole 6 to 7 pound raw chicken

2 medium onions quartered

2 large peeled carrots cut into one inch pieces

1 large clove garlic peeled

4 celery stalks cut into one inch pieces

5 quarts water

½ tsp. dill

½ tsp. white pepper

¼ tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. marjoram

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. rosemary

½ tsp. Savory

5 or more chicken bouillon cubes instead of salt to taste

1 tbsp. Fresh parsley (chopped)

Chicken Salad INGREDIENTS:

2 chicken breasts diced

½ cup mayonnaise

2 celery stalks diced

1 carrot grated

Pinch of onion powder

Pinch of paprika

Pinch of white pepper

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Begin by making chicken stock/soup. Remove kidneys, neck or any parts that may be inside the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken in an extra-large pot with all the chicken stock ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 hours or until chicken falls apart.

Remove chicken and cover with foil until it cools and can be handled. Strain soup stock through fine mesh strainer and discard vegetables. Reserve stock for soup.

Once cooled, dice chicken breasts (reserve dark meat for soup if desired). Whisk mayonnaise with spices. Mix in chicken breasts, celery, and carrot to the mayonnaise and spices. Serve on toast or a bed of lettuce.  

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,2021

The Lobster Boil

It’s an early Monday morning on Long Island and the coffee is perking on my stove. I did not sleep well last night. I overate and over drank on Sunday at our good friend Scott and Ally’s house. It was however, well worth it. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary at their house on Sunday, and Scott, always the gracious host, offered to do a lobster boil for us.

            This was going to be the second lobster boil we have been to at Scott’s house in as many years. Therefore, I knew I was in for a treat. I still have pictures of the last lobster boil and it was quite memorable!

            We were greeted immediately at the door with a glass of wine and were led outside to the cooking area. The first glass of wine was Gabriella Pinot Grigio delle Venezie from Italy, and one of my favorite bottles of wine. This was perfect to watch as Scott began to cook up a storm.

            Scott had purchased a new pot and burner that fit onto a twenty-pound liquid propane cylinder, so the cooking was going to be done OUTSIDE. This was no ordinary size pot either. I stepped outside and I was drawn to this thing like a moth to a flame with a glass of wine in my hand. The pot was an industrial size one along with the burner that fit under it. The pot could hold enough food to feed an entire platoon of hungry Marines. Whenever I cooked way too much, my mother always asked me “are you cooking for an army?” Clearly, Scott thought we would arrive hungry and I was hungry now for sure!

            By the time we had arrived at Scott’s house, he had the water at a rolling boil on his porch in his backyard. He had even added various amounts seasoning to the water. The first was some old bay seasoning. Old Bay Seasoning was originally created in Baltimore, MD by a man named Gustav Brum, and then sold to McCormick & Company in 1990 after Brum passed away in 1985. It contains seasonings such as celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, paprika, cardamom, etc. Old Bay is a standard ingredient here in the North East for seafood (said as if I am from the state of Maine). Next, he added a sliced lemon, whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf or two, and he might have even put in an onion. When I opened the lid, it smelt heavenly. Yet, it only gets better. Potatoes and cheddar Bratwurst were next! The bratwurst TOTALLY added a lovely flavor to every cooked in the pot with them!

            The small new potatoes and brats simmered for only a few minutes and he started putting the live lobsters in. By the looks of them, they were about 2 to 2½ pounds each. The shellfish included two dozen little neck clams. These are small and tender clams perfect for a fast cooked meal. He also had a bag of mussels that were cleaned and de-bearded by the local fish market. I do like mussels. However, we soon discovered not all the mussels were alive; about half of them were open. If a mussel is not closed up tight before you cook it, then it should be thrown away since it might be bad and could make you sick. We all cried a little for those mussels, but there were plenty left and more food to go into the pot. The last bit of seafood was the extra large shrimp. It was already peeled and deveined, so there was not any work involved in eating them after they were cooked. Last but not least, was six ears of corn that were shucked and cut in half.

            The whole thing boiled for only a few minutes. It was probably less than five minutes later when Scott said it was already done. I was in disbelief that the corn did not need a few minutes more, but I was soon proven wrong. I helped lift out the HUGE strainer basket that was inside the industrial cast aluminum pot. Along with it came the perfectly cooked seafood as it emerged and the hot water drained back into the pot. Scott began by separating out the lobsters first into a bowl, and then even dividing up the rest of the seafood into three more bowls. On the table were empty bowls for the shells and a freshly opened bottle of wine. Scott paired this delightful seafood meal with a St. Francis Chardonnay from Sonoma County. Have I mentioned how much I love these St. Francis wines? If not, I am saying now that I do love them. The wine went perfectly with all the drawn butter and hot seafood.

            I myself started with the clams, mussels, and shrimp. Then, I moved on to tackling the lobster. I began by helping Jennifer with hers and giving her the claw meat once I had extracted it using a nutcracker. We both wound up splitting one of the huge beasties between the two of us. Then, did I mention the king crab legs? NO! I forgot as they went into the pot FIRST with the potatoes. They were frozen, so Scott wanted to start with them in the water first and made sure it all came back up to a rolling boil before adding the lobster. OMG, they were so good. I like them even better than the LOBSTER!

            We all ate and drank and then ate more until there was only one lonely lobster left, a few small pieces of king crab leg, a few mussels, and a few clams. We all helped clean up. I worked on the lobster and king crab legs, putting the meat in a Ziplock bag for a cold crab meat/lobster salad they could enjoy the next day.

            Once dinner was all cleaned up, I sat down and enjoyed one more glass of chardonnay before Alison announced it was time for desert. They had picked up my favorite cakes for desert as it was Jennifer and I’s wedding anniversary. Twenty something years we were celebrating. That’s about how long I have been writing down recipes in a word document that you will all be reading over the next year. The cake was delicious and I was stuffed beyond belief. We retired to the couch and I enjoyed their company while their fun and energetic German Shepard puppies kept us entertained. I love those dogges (as Jennifer calls them)!

            Thank you guys for such a wonderful and fun filled anniversary celebration!!

            The Drunken Chef (Russ)  

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,2021

Taproom review—bayshore, ny

On Monday night, I went out with two of my friends to the Taproom, a restaurant and bar located on Main Street in Bayshore. They serve a wide array of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and tacos, while also featuring a wide array of craft beers. Being that I’m not old enough to drink, I can’t say anything about the alcohol, but I can tell you the people sitting at the bar were very excited that the Islanders were scoring. I don’t know whether or not they won.

My friends and I were seated promptly upon arriving, and the tables were spaced nicely to accommodate for social distancing. Our waitress came over shortly after and asked us what we wanted to drink; we all ordered water. For appetizers, we opted for a plate of truffle fries and mac and cheese bites. The truffle fries were very flavorful, consisting of parsley, parmesan, and of course, truffle oil. It had been a while since we had them, and they are a favorite among all of us. The mac and cheese bites were tasty as well. We weren’t expecting there to be what seemed to be an anchovy dressing on them, but it added an interesting flavor to the mac and cheese. I would definitely be interested in trying a plate of mac and cheese there—the bites left me wanting more!

Onto our entrees, one friend ordered the Fried Wonton Duck Tacos. It came as a set of four tacos paired with chips and salsa. The chips were more chewy than expected, so we weren’t a huge fan of them. Our other friend ordered the Chicken Alla Vodka sandwich, since she loves Penne Alla Vodka, and enjoyed it as well. I ordered the Shrooms and Bulbs craft burger and the strawberry side salad with it. Both were phenomenal. I asked for my burger to be cooked ‘well done’ and I was impressed that it was cooked all the way through, since in the past I’ve found that can be hard to come by at restaurants. Another feature I like about the Taproom is that for their craft burgers and sandwiches, you can choose your side. You can either get french fries or sweet potato fries with your meal, or for an extra dollar, you can order Cajun fries, or for two dollars, you can choose from the strawberry side salad (this is also served as an entrée on their menu), truffle fries, or onion rings.  

Overall, the food was fabulous, but filling. Half of my burger and salad, along with half of my friend’s chicken alla vodka sandwich came home with us since we were so full. I’m looking forward to coming back here in the future, and maybe The Drunken Chef can write about the beer. In the meantime, you can check out the restaurant here. In addition to their Bayshore location, they are in Patchogue and Massapequa Park as well. 

Mac & Cheese bites
Truffle fries
Chicken alla vodka sandwich.
Fried Wonton Duck tacos

AntiPasto SALAD

This is pre mushroom, roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts etc..

GADGETS:

Salad Spinner

Chef Knife and Cutting Board.

INGREDIENTS:

Iceberg lettuce

4-6 slices Di Lusso Genoa Salami

4-6 slices Hormel Slicing Pepperoni

4 Provolone cheese

½ can Mushrooms (small can of sliced)

2 Roasted red peppers

½ Tomato (optional)

1 slice Red onion (optional)

Wishbone House Italian Dressing

1 Tsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tsp. cider vinegar

Shake of Italian seasoning

Shake of fresh crushed black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Wash, dry, and rip lettuce into bite size pieces and place on a large plate. Cut salami, pepperoni, and provolone into quarters and place on lettuce. Top with mushrooms, roasted red pepper, tomato, marinated artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and onion. Sprinkle black pepper, Italian seasoning, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and then add Wishbone dressing over the whole thing and mix well.

NOTES Serve with pizza

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 7 – Salads

I love salad. I usually eat some kind of a salad before dinner or just as a meal for lunch. Sometimes I will eat a salad for dinner on a hot summer night. One of my favorite salads to eat as a meal is the antipasto salad. The first place I ever had a good antipasto salad was at a local pizza place here on Long Island 30 years ago. After that day, I started making it myself. There is nothing to cook after all. No oven and no stove heating up the house. Which as a cook on a hot summer night, is a blessing. The main ingredient in most salads is just lettuce, usually Iceberg. I have found that as good as iceberg lettuce is, I often like to use Romaine and “spring mix” to change thing up.  

Let start with the Antipasto Salad. Begin by washing and drying the lettuce and greens. I have a salad spinner to dry my salad greens and I love it. My sister in-law simply just uses a colander and lets the greens sit and drain well. I have even used paper towels in the past, because if your lettuce and salad greens are too wet, they will literally water down the salad dressing.

Now I begin to build my antipasto salad right on our large dinner plates instead of using one big bowl. Sometimes, if I am making an entire tray for the women in my wife’s classroom or for a party, then that’s a different story.

The lettuce goes on the dinner plate first. Now, I cut the deli sliced salami into quarters. I repeat this with the pepperoni, and the provolone cheese. I place all these items carefully on the lettuce, spreading them all out. On top of that goes some quartered plum tomatoes or garden fresh tomatoes. I add thinly sliced red onion and roasted red pepper that I cut into strips or diced into one-inch squares. Then, I add some canned sliced mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts that I drained the juice off. If I have it, lastly I put on a whole pepperoncini right on top.

To season, I sprinkle with black pepper, Italian seasoning, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and add just a bit of either Wishbone Italian dressing or Olive garden salad dressing on top.

This is the first recipe I choose to talk about in the section on salads not because it is alphabetically first, but because right now, it’s my favorite.

So, get out there and make a salad. Here is another one of those places where you can experiment freely with the ingredients. I will be posting many more salads and homemade dressings in the future including:

Chef’s Salad

Chopped Salad

Rotelle Pasta Salad

Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing

Caprese

Italian Vinaigrette Dressing

Creamy French dressing and thousand island

Caesar Salad dressing

Green Goddess

SO, watch for my salad recipes ALL summer before it gets too cold to eat salad…