Everyday Meatballs and Sauce

Everyday Meatballs and Sauce | Cravings & Crumbs After suffering through the final late-October heat wave of summer, we finally have a fall chill in the air and it has me dreaming of comfort food!  Aside from a perfectly roast chicken there’s nothing more comforting to me than a big bowl of tender meatballs in tomato sauce.  It wasn’t always that way though.  As a kid I was pretty indifferent to meatballs.  I liked them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to request them.  No, like most things, I started liking them best once I made them for myself and got to research and tweak the recipe to get them exactly how I wanted. Everyday Meatballs and Sauce | Cravings & Crumbs It was a meatball starter at a local restaurant that spurred my current meatball obsession.  Made with high quality ingredients and cooked in a wood burning oven they were amazing!  And so I started trying to figure out how to get as close as possible to those meatballs at home, but I also wanted them to be something that was easy and accessible to make so it would be realistic even for a weeknight.  That meant no wood burning oven, no deep frying, and no veal.  Although many recipes use veal and surely it would make the meatballs softer, including veal in my go-to recipe would mean making a stop at a specialty market which just isn’t going to happen as often as I want to eat meatballs.  Everything in this recipe can be picked up at any old grocery store. Everyday Meatballs and Sauce | Cravings & Crumbs The other thing I did to make this recipe more accessible was to cook them in the oven instead of on the stovetop.  Frying meatballs in a pan is messy and you always have to do them in batches.  By switching to the oven we can cook all our meatballs at once, which frees us up to tend to our sauce, cook the spaghetti, or make the side salad.    Everyday Meatballs and Sauce | Cravings & Crumbs You don’t have to have them with spaghetti though!  (I’ll wait for the Italians to finish rolling their eyes at me…if they’re still even reading!  They already have their own recipe for meatballs.)  My favorite way to eat these is with homemade sauce and a bunch of crusty bread to soak it all up with.   Don’t be intimidated by the homemade sauce.  It doesn’t have to be some sort of all day marathon cooking session to get a good homemade sauce.  I take a cue from Marcella Hazan and just simmer canned tomatoes for about 45 minutes.  I add garlic, onion, and oregano, as well as some red wine to give the sauce more complexity.  Once you make sauce this way you may never buy a jarred sauce again.  I always come back to this method because the sauce tastes brighter and fresher and isn’t as sweet as the premade stuff.  Oh yeah, and while we’re at it, let’s just make our own garlic bread.  My standard recipe for that will be coming next!

Everyday Meatballs and Sauce
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For the meatballs
  1. 1 c. panko bread crumbs
  2. ¼ c. milk
  3. ¼ c. minced yellow onion
  4. 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  5. ¼ c. chopped parsley
  6. ½ t. dried oregano
  7. ½ t. crushed red pepper flakes
  8. 1 t. ground black pepper
  9. 2 t. kosher salt
  10. 1 lb ground beef
  11. 1 lb mild italian sausage
  12. 2 eggs
For the sauce
  1. 2 - 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  2. 4 T. butter
  3. 7 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 c. earthy red wine (such as merlot or cabernet sauvignon)
  5. ½ yellow onion, sliced through the root end
  6. 1 t. kosher salt
  7. 1 t. dried oregano
To make the sauce
  1. In a saucepot over medium low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and slightly softened. You don’t want the garlic to brown, just to infuse the butter with its flavor.
  2. Add the tomatoes, wine, onion, salt, and oregano. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.
To make the meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Add the panko and milk to a large bowl and allow to soak for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and mix everything together. This ensures all the flavors get mixed evenly throughout without overworking the meat.
  3. Add the meat and eggs to the panko mixture and gently mix with your hands or a spoon. You don’t want to work the meat too much or your meatballs will end up dense.
  4. Roll into balls a little larger than a golf ball, about 2 tablespoons. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray and place the balls in rows, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If the meat has come up to room temperature by this point I suggest refrigerating them while the oven preheats, but it’s not necessary.
  5. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake for 20-30 mins, depending on size. An instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of a meatball should read 165° F.
  6. At this point you can briefly simmer the meatballs in the sauce, or you can serve them as is with sauce on top (and lots of parmesan, obviously!)
  1. The meatball mixture can be made up to a day ahead or frozen. I like to freeze half the mixture in a quart size ziploc pressed flat so that it will defrost quickly.
  2. You can also cook the meatballs in advance and rewarm them in the tomato sauce, as I did when I made them for this post.
  3. You can make the meatballs larger or smaller based on your preference, just be sure to adjust the cooking time. You want them fully cooked through, but not dried out.
  4. This recipe makes about 32 meatballs.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Fancy Mushroom Toasts

Fancy Mushroom Toast | Cravings & Crumbs

I have a sort of foodie friend in the office I work in.  We chat about recipes we’ve tried, new ingredients we found, what we’re going to cook over the weekend, cookbooks, pretty much anything food related.  I love finding people who love to cook because talking to them gets me excited about new flavors, cuisines, and ingredients that I might not have been familiar with or known about before.

Fancy Mushroom Toast | Cravings & Crumbs

A few weeks ago he came into the office on Monday morning talking about a meal he had at Gjelina over the weekend.  He led with the dessert heavenly butterscotch pots de creme then he moved on to the mushroom toast.  I have no idea what else he ate there because we couldn’t move past the mushrooms.  Oh my god, the mushroom toast.  The chef says he can’t take these off the menu because the customers will revolt.  They’re that good.

Fancy Mushroom Toast | Cravings & Crumbs

Like any obsessive home cook, he had already bought the cookbook and was ready to try to recreate them at home.  I wouldn’t have thought much more about these mushroom toasts except to ask for a follow-up the next week.  But the next week he hadn’t made them.  The week after that he bought a mixture of fancy mushrooms at the farmer’s market, but was stymied by the homemade creme fraiche, which had to be cultured at exactly 78° F…  Three weeks I waited for the report on the mushrooms toasts!  And in the meantime I found myself reading blog posts of people who had recreated them and scrolling through instagram shots from the restaurant just to see what they looked like in their natural habitat.  Yeah, I know I have problems.

Fancy Mushroom Toast | Cravings & Crumbs

Eventually i had to take matters into my own hands.  A quick trip to my local produce market to pick up mushrooms and good bread and a jaunt over to Trader Joe’s for reasonably priced creme fraiche and I was ready!  I was out of garlic confit, although I have a recipe for my version right over here, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.  I quickly infused some garlic in oil, used that to toast the breads.  You can toast them in the toaster, but for this recipe it’s much better on the stovetop (or grill, as the original recipe calls for) because the outside will be incredibly crunchy, but the inside of the slices will still be moist and springy.  A quick saute of the mushrooms, reduction of some white wine and shallots, and the addition of some creme fraiche and I was eating the best lunch I could ask for!

Fancy Mushroom Toast | Cravings & Crumbs

The recipe notes say that the chef enjoys a big slab of mushroom toast with an earthy glass of red wine for dinner and I must say he’s on to something.  Normally you might match the wine to whatever type of wine you used in the dish, but here the earthy meatiness of the mushrooms is perfect with red.  This is a decadent and delicious vegetarian appetizer or main course that I would be more than happy to eat again and again.

So here it is, a doable version of the original.  Although homemade garlic confit and homemade buttermilk creme fraiche would undoubtedly be amazing with this recipe, if they’re holding you back from making this recipe then don’t do them!  If you do want to go the extra mile, you can find the original recipe in full here.

Fancy Mushroom Toasts
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  1. ⅓ c. olive oil
  2. 5 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  3. 2-4 slices good bread (depending on size)
  4. ½ lb mushrooms (see notes)
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. 2 T minced shallots
  7. 1 T butter (optional)
  8. ½ c. dry white wine
  9. 1T fresh thyme
  10. ½ c. creme fraiche
  11. 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Add the olive oil and garlic slices to a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Cook until garlic slices are beginning to brown on the edges, then remove with a slotted spoon and save for later. Remove oil from heat.
  2. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of garlic oil on both sides of the bread. Heat a frying pan over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add the bread in a single layer. Cook until the bread is crispy and browned on the first side, then flip and cook the second side in the same manner. Remove the toasts to a plate.
  3. Separate or chop mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. This will mean different things based on which mushrooms you have so use your best judgment of what size mushroom chunks will fit nicely on your toast. Turn the heat under the frying pan to medium high and add 3 T of the garlic olive oil to the frying pan. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook undisturbed until seared and well browned, about 5 minutes. Stir the mushrooms, add the shallots and the butter if the pan seems like it needs more moisture. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the wine, thyme, and reserved garlic slices and continue to cook until reduced by half.
  4. Stir in the creme fraiche and cook until thickened slightly, 1-2 mins. Stir in the parsley, taste and season again with salt and pepper, then spoon the mushrooms evenly over your toasts.
  1. Although these are fancy mushroom toasts, you should feel free to use any mushrooms that you have access to or can afford. I really know nothing about fancy mushrooms so I picked these based on looks and price and ended up with oyster and brown clamshell. The original recipe suggests a mix of nameko, hen of the woods, chanterelle, porcini, or matsutake. However, the mushrooms share the spotlight with the sauce and toast and as I was eating these I thought they would be just as delicious with regular old sliced crimini.
Adapted from Gjelina
Adapted from Gjelina
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Chai Tea Upside Down Plum Cake


Chai Tea Upside Down Plum Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

A few weeks ago I had what I consider to be a uniquely modern dilemma.  I was on Amazon searching for a tea that I remember really liking 5 or so years ago that I haven’t been able to find in stores for years.  It’s nothing fancy, just Stash double spice chai, but it was the perfect strength for mixing with sugar and milk without the flavor being diluted too much.  Of course Amazon had a good deal, almost too good of a deal.  I could buy a standard box of 18 tea bags, OR I could buy 100 tea bags for only $3 more at the time… Here in America more is more, right? Read More

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Apple Bacon Dutch Baby

Apple Bacon Dutch Baby | Cravings & Crumbs

Here in the Bay Area we don’t get seasons in the same way everyone else does.  When others are enjoying shorts and sunshine in July we’re wearing sweaters and long sleeves.  And when everybody else is enjoying their first hot pumpkin spice lattes of the season I’m making this dutch baby in 75 degree weather with no cold weather in sight.  The thing about this dutch baby is, I’m sure it would be delicious on a chilly fall morning eaten leisurely with a hot cup of coffee and something good to read, but it was just as good eaten at 2 pm in my living room after my photoshoot with the ceiling fan on.  It’s that good. Read More

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