Monday, December 13, 2010

The Meatballs Aren't Bitter, I Am

I was very excited at the beginning of my sophomore year when I found out there was a kitchen in the basement of my dorm. I imagined all the fanciful feasts I would prepare for my hallmates while getting 100% on all of my exams and going to the gym daily. I was to be showered with gratitude and adoration.

It didn't quite work out that way. Somewhere in between switching majors twice and my obsession with naps, I'm pretty sure I only used the kitchen once (and the gym never). And even then, it was only to store mixers for alcohol and reheat leftover fried rice from Shanghai Cafe.

Actually, there was one instance where my roommate and I went down to the kitchen with the intention of cooking pasta. I guess he didn't know that I knew a little bit about cooking because he took on this domineering role, patronizing me about the proper method to boil water and reheat pasta sauce from a jar of Prego. He acted like I'd never seen a mezzaluna or prepared a mise en place before.

I crafted this recipe for meatballs out of my bitterness from that incident and a 50/50 combination of ground pork and ground beef.

Linguine and Meatballs

1/2 Pound Ground Beef (70/30 lean is best)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
2 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Onion
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Fennel
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Dash of Bitterness (don't go looking for this in the grocery store, it comes from the heart)

Mix all the ingredients together with a drizzle of olive oil. When all the ingredients are combined, form into small balls and line them up on a baking sheet.

I topped them with more cheese because I am fat, another source of bitterness.

While baking in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes, I made a simple marinara out of sauteed garlic, caramelized onions, and fresh tomatoes. I then added about two cups of San Marzano tomato puree. Season to taste and simmer to reduce slightly.

Yes, that is who you think it is: Jake Gyllenhaal (circa Prince of Persia).
When the meatballs are done (they may take longer if you made giant, baseball-sized ones), plop them into the sauce you made. Stirring gently didn't really help keep the exterior coat of cheese on the meatballs. I watched as they tragically disintegrated into the sauce.

So I put more cheese on the whole thing later. 

I prefer meatballs on wide pasta like linguine because the two components are more evenly matched. Putting meatballs with angel hair would be like a marriage between Taylor Swift and the oldest, nameless, unpopular Jonas Brother; it would be dysfunctional and unsatisfying.


I may be a college student, but I refuse to be treated like I eat like one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

If The Turkey Is Dry I Might As Well Die

Thanksgiving is a complex holiday for Asians (shoot me because I can't stop talking about being Asian, God.) I've always wanted to replicate the "Rockwell Thanksgiving" and all the other quintessentially American portrayals of the holidays. This was made difficult by my parents, who not only do not try American food, they preemptively decide that they do not like it. 

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving were of a conspicuous Cantonese roast duck in the center of the table (head,, surrounded by sides like pea shoot leaves, eggrolls, and the omnipresent bowl of white rice. For all the people who appreciate an ethnic take on this decidedly American holiday, bless your heart. But I wanted nothing more than to assimilate. I wanted a turkey.

This was achieved ever since I took over the Thanksgiving day menu a few years back. With this turn of events, my mother seemed at odds with herself. On the one hand she was ecstatic about being able to watch her Korean soap dramas in the morning and take a nap in the afternoon. But she was also bewildered by her inability to contribute and the extremely foreign tartness of cranberries. She copes with these feelings in two ways. First, she makes it clear to me that a dry turkey would be the end of the world. This is no pressure at all. Then, she quietly assembles ingredients in the corner of my eye for a last minute batch of eggrolls. I allow her this one concession.


Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey (10-15lbs)
Black peppercorns

I've tried brining previous years but find that the end result is not really worth the hassle. This year's method produced a turkey equally flavorful and moist (praise the lord).

The night before Thanksgiving, grind three tablespoons of salt, one tablespoon of black peppercorns, one tablespoon of dried thyme, half a tablespoon of dried rosemary. When the herbs and spices are uniformally small, season the inside and outside of the turkey liberally. Refrigerate, covered tightly in plastic wrap.

An attractive look into the body cavity of this year's turkey. I've named him John Smith.

Three hours before you intend to serve, take the turkey out of the fridge. Season with a little bit more of salt and black pepper. Stuff the inside of the turkey with a quartered onion, a quartered lemon, several smashed garlic cloves, fresh sage, and fresh rosemary. Save some sage and rosemary to chop up and fold into room temperature butter.

Layer the bottom of the roasting rack with onions, celery, and carrots. Cover the breast and upper part of the legs with tin foil and bake at 450 degrees fahrenheit for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, remove the foil, and spread the butter over the turkey. You don't have to use the butter all at once. You can check the turkey periodically and spread more butter on spots that have not browned as nicely. Spread a little butter over the turkey at the very end to give it a glossy sheen and an extra 100 calories.

OK so we didn't monitor the browning as intently as we should have and the color turned out less "Rockwell" and more "Snooki." But it was crispy and salty, the only two things that matter in life.


One of our guests for dinner was from Taiwan (literally just got off the plane). She sniffed everything before putting it on her plate. I tried not to take it as an insult. I also tried to stay calm while my father got drunk, kept calling me "Iron Chef," and demanded that I recite all the ingredients to every dish on the table. Later on in the night, my mother relented, saying that the turkey was, "better than last year's." 

There was a compliment in there somewhere and I am going to take it as her one concession.