French Onion Meatballs

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Ever eat a delicious bowl of french onion soup and think, ‘wow, this is really good, but I wish I had some meat!’ Yea, me neither, because a bowl of french onion soup is a treasure just how it is. BUT, if you were thinking that, you could turn to this handy recipe for French Onion Meatballs, that combine the flavors of french onion soup with some juicy meatballs. These meatballs are smothered in a savory gravy – the definition of comfort food!

I came across the inspiration for this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks back (see: Cupcakes & Kale Chips) and have been thinking about it ever since! An NFL Sunday afternoon, with weather that finally feels like fall, turned out to be the perfect day to try it. It does take a fair amount of active time to make this, which is why I did it on a weekend afternoon, where I could half watch/listen to the football games (and chat with Selim!) at the same time.

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We ate our meatballs on top of some toasted baguette slices, smothered in the gravy, which I cannot recommend more highly. I also ate some plain in a bowl – that’s excellent too. I’m thinking it would be amazing over top of rice or some egg noodles, OR as a seriously messy appetizer with some toothpicks. The onion flavor is the star here, as in traditional french onion soup. But I think the thyme comes through really nicely, giving it an herbaceous quality as well. Simmering your meatballs in the gravy keeps them nice and juicy. And speaking of the gravy… I was eating it with a spoon. Caramelized onions, beef broth, red wine… if you’re not licking the spoon, then I’m worried about your taste buds.

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French Onion Meatballs

(Adapted from this blog post, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1+ tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef (85/15)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • ~4 oz Gruyere cheese
    • ~2oz , cut into small bite-sized cubes
    • ~2oz, shredded (or more! 🙂 )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup unsalted beef broth
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Begin by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a medium pan over just under medium heat. Once the oil is hot, toss in the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper.
  2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, at least 30-40 minutes, perhaps as long as an hour!
  3. While the onions are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, fresh herbs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 10 more turns of fresh black pepper.
  4. Form the meatballs by wrapping meat mixture around the small cubes of cheese and forming medium-sized meatballs.
  5. Once the onions are done, deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up all the delicious, browned, stuck-on bits.
  6. Bring the wine to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Continue simmering, with the lid off, for 5-6 minutes, browning the meatballs on both sides.
  7. Now add the beef broth and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and lower heat slightly if needed, so liquid is still simmering. Cook another 15 minutes.
  8. While that is cooking, prepare a beurre manié by kneading together the butter and flour and forming a little ball. (I do this in a ramekin with my fingers.)
  9. Remove the lid from the pan and add the beurre manié. Adjust the heat so the liquid is still simmering (if need be) and stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened. This may take another 10+ more minutes.
  10. Discard the bay leaf and serve topped with the additional shredded cheese. Spoon over a crusty baguette or on top of any type of starch. Garnish with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 4 as an entree; more as an appetizer

Fig Chutney

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Ok y’all. Remember that fig chutney that we made last weekend to go on top of some roast pork (Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney)? We’ve been talking about it all week. It was that good! So good that we felt the need to make it again and share it as a standalone recipe. The super sweet figs create a balance with the acidic vinegar, creating just the perfect flavor! We planned to put it on some grilled cheeses last night, because we’re fancy like that, but we got home from work a little late… That meal might make an appearance in the next few days though. We did made enough to keep in the fridge, not that it’s going to last more than a few days! Tonight for dinner, we had a perfect football-watching snack meal, including this chutney with some cheese and crackers.

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This is a little different than the original chutney that went with the pork, though obviously that deliciousness was the inspiration for tonight. We added bacon to this recipe and made a few other tweaks tamp down on the sweetness a little bit more. It’s not that we don’t still love what we made last weekend; it’s just that it was the perfect topping to the pork as it was, whereas tonight we tried to think of how we would want it with a variety of other accompaniments! If you’re looking for a suggestions… cheddar cheese and crackers topped with this was delicious! We’re also thinking about it on top of a juicy cheeseburger or warm on top of baked brie. Or, obviously, as part of a snack-dinner platter ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

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Fig Chutney

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12oz fresh figs, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: 
  1. Put a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Slice the bacon into lardons and fry until crispy and the fat has been released. Then remove the bacon to the side, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. Lower the heat to a medium-low and toss the onions in the bacon grease. (You can add some additional oil here if you need to.) Season with a pinch of salt and 10+ turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Cook until caramelized, stirring every five to ten minutes, for 45+ minutes. Remove to the side with the bacon.
  4. Add the garlic and the figs to the pan. Cook for just a few minutes prior to deglazing the pan with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Meanwhile, blitz the bacon and the onions in a food processor for just a few pulses. Then return this mixture to the pan.
  6.  Simmer over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed and you’re left with a jammy concoction. Add crushed red pepper and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve hot or cold. Refrigerate when not eating.
Makes roughly 2 cups

Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

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Fall is so close we can almost taste it! It’s September, college football debuted yesterday, the NFL regular season starts this coming week, and Halloween candy and pumpkin-flavored everything are starting to show up in stores. The bad news? It’s still 90 degrees and sunny outside. The forecast is calling for 90+ degree days for the entire rest of the week 🙄🙄 So, while we’re waiting for our fall weather to show up, we’ll try to celebrate the shoulder season… with a longing gaze towards fall 🍁🍂 The figs we used tonight are the perfect fruit for this concept – a bridge from summer into fall. The main season for figs runs from August to October, when you can get these fresh, juicy, sweet fruits. We got a big pack of them this week and decided to pair them with a pork tenderloin, half because we thought they’d go well together and half because, for some reason, I associate pork tenderloin with early fall, which is in keeping with this theme we’re working on here.

We were really happy with how this came together. Figs are naturally very sweet, and that sweetness combines perfectly with the acidity of the vinegar to make this chutney. No extra sugar needed here! The choice of sage for our herb tonight was tasty and reminiscent of traditional fall dishes, so that worked well too. If you can’t find sage or dislike sage, try this recipe with rosemary or thyme. Our pork came out with a nice little crust from the sear and was juicy in the middle. Furthermore, I think pork is a great meat to stand up to a sweeter sauce. We loved every bite.

A little bit about the star of this recipe… the fig. This post should actually be called fig chutney over roasted pork, since the fig is really the pièce de résistance. Figs are native to the Middle East & Western Asia. Turkey is the largest producer of figs in the world. Interestingly enough, we have the California Gold Rush to thank for the fig’s popularity in the US. The agricultural areas of the the Bay Area & surrounding counties are along the same latitude as Turkey’s fig producing region, Smyrna.        

(Side note, I gave the figs by weight in the recipe because they can come in quite the variety of sizes. Ours are fairly small, but you can definitely find larger ones.)

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Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, halved vertically & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4+ large fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • ~2lb pork tenderloin
  • ~12oz fresh figs, stems removed & coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Once the oil is warm, cook onions, topped with a pinch of salt and several turns of fresh ground black pepper, over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  2. Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the chopped figs and sage. Then, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up any brown, delicious bits that are stuck. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until well thickened.
  3. While you’re making the chutney, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season all sides of the tenderloin with sprinkles of salt and pepper. Sear all sides in a cast iron skillet over high heat for just 1-2 minutes on each side.
  4. Once the tenderloin is seared, move it in the skillet to the hot oven for ~15 minutes. You want an internal temperature of 145 degrees, at minimum. Allow to rest for ~5 minutes before slicing. (If you prefer pork on the medium-rare side, remove it at an internal temp of 135-140, since it will cook a little more while resting.)
  5. Slice the pork and serve with the fig chutney on top! Sprinkle with some additional fresh sage.
Serves ~6

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

Most people out there enjoy a good snack, but on Ally’s mom’s side of her extended family, they really embrace the snacking thing. When they’re together for a holiday or any sort of large gathering, they don’t just have three meals in a day. They add a fourth, solely devoted to snacks. Somewhere along the way, someone named this fourth meal “Dip Thirty.” (The alternate, but less popular name is “Dip O’Clock.”) Dip Thirty occurs between lunch and dinner, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. This allows dinner to be pushed back well into the evening, originally so no one had to waste the last hours of summer sunshine on preparing dinner or listen to whines of “I’m staaaaaaaarving!” Dip Thirty is so successful because with such a large family, everyone feels the need to bring something to contribute… which leads to counter-tops and picnic tables covered with a variety of snacks to sample!

Today we had a just-for-fun family gathering at Ally’s aunt & uncle’s home along the banks of the Potomac River, in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now, Dip Thirty really isn’t the time to be calorie-counting, but we decided to bring a snack that leaned towards the healthier side of the spectrum, knowing there would be plenty of delicious cheese-packed dips from other family members.

This dish, sabse borani, is an Afghan spread which is more commonly eaten on flatbread. We decided to use it in more of a dip fashion with pita chips. It’s actually quite simple to make, with only a few ingredients, but your result is a lovely and flavorful yogurt-based dip/spread. I see why it’s used as a spread, but it definitely works as a dip too! We made a larger amount to share, but this recipe is easily halved.

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

(Adapted from one of my faves – Global Table Adventure, with tips from the rest of the Internet in general)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or any yogurt, strained)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 heaping cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 20+ minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown, soft, and nearly caramelized. Stir frequently.
  2. In the last few minutes of the onions cooking, add the garlic so it can soften
  3. Remove the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
  4. Lower the heat to a low-medium and then add the spinach to the same pan. Cover and wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. This only takes a minute or two.
  5. Allow the spinach and onions to cool and then stir them in with the yogurt.
  6. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Adjust salt if needed.
Yields ~ 3 1/2 cups

Pickled Red Onions

 

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Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.

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My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.

Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.

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Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions:
  1. Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
  3. Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.

Bacon Jam

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I have a confession. I am not on board with the bacon trend. I do not think EVERYTHING is better wrapped in bacon. I know this is an unpopular opinion around here. I mean, is there anything more American than being obsessed with bacon? My brother even informed us when we were planning our wedding that he wouldn’t attend if our cocktail hour didn’t offer bacon-wrapped scallops, his favorite hor d’oeuvre. (He was joking, obviously.) So when I first heard of bacon jam awhile back, on a menu somewhere I think, I thought 💭 ‘Ugh… and here it is, another perfectly good dish that people felt the need to add bacon to so they can be cool and bacon-centric.’

I still feel this way – I’m looking at you Bloody Mary with four strips of bacon hanging out, bacon sprinkled donuts, and chocolate-covered bacon👀 BUT… I have definitely been convinced when it comes to bacon jam. I think I thought bacon jam was like regular jam (ie: raspberry or strawberry) with bacon bits stirred in. Which, in case you were wondering, is NOT what bacon jam actually is. It’s a sweet and savory spread, with just as much of a caramelized onion flavor as a bacon flavor. The use du jour is on top of a gourmet burger, but I think it’s much better used on foods that don’t already have meat in them. Hence, we made some bacon jam to slather on our Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones. Such a good decision! I’m already dreaming about bacon jam grilled cheeses, scrambled eggs topped with bacon jam, and adding bacon jam to my cheese & crackers regimen. But you do you, put this stuff on whatever you want!

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Bacon Jam

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5+ turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions: 
  1. In a large skillet, cook all of the bacon until slightly crispy. Remove to the side. Retain enough grease to coat the bottom of the pan, but discard any in excess.
  2. Cook onions, topped with salt and pepper, over medium-low heat for ~1 hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  3. Once onions are caramelized, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up all the brown, delicious bits. Now stir in the sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for ~15 minutes. Then combine the onion mixture and the bacon in food processor. Pulse to desired consistency – we like it well-combined, but with some chunks remaining.
  5. Refrigerate when not in use.
Makes ~1 1/2 cups

Our Dublin Coddle

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While the rest of you are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m vacillating between the five stages of grief over UVA’s loss last night. I guess this post is helping me move past the denial stage, given that I just wrote the words “UVA’s loss.” My very caring and loving husband, is being even nicer to me than usual, which is actually relevant to this dinner. Selim is basically the opposite of a simple meat and potatoes kind of guy, whatever that is. This dinner, which not only checks the box of timely blog post, but also caters to my wanting to wallow in comfort food self, is definitely not what he wants to have for dinner tonight. Yet, here we are.

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I love this team and all of these guys! Proud of them & their season! We’ll choose to remember this moment instead ❤ [Photo by Matt Riley, primary photographer for UVa Athletics]
I, however, love a simple carb-filled dinner of sausages and potatoes. Dublin coddle is basically just that. Recipes for Dublin coddle should include pork sausages, potatoes, and onions. Many don’t include much more than that and water. Parsley is a common garnish. We’ve added a few more ingredients for a little more flavor, as you can see. We also didn’t cook the dish the way the Irish mothers back in the day would have. This hearty winter dish dates back to the 1700s and many believe started out as a way for Catholic mothers to use up meat before Fridays during Lent. I think we turned our version into a flavorful dish that still pays significant homage to the original. And honestly, since the “original” was basically a vehicle to use up leftovers, variations from household to household are basically a given. So, I give you our personal version! I’m not going to lie, though the sausage and potatoes are delicious, I think my favorite part is all the onions! They absorb all the delicious flavor from the broth and are just perfect! This dish may not look like much (the stews and braises that we tend to favor never do), get past our humble photos and give it a whirl the next time you’re feeling Irish.

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And, from an approximately 18.9462874% Irish person on the day when everyone claims to have Irish ancestors:

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! 🍀☘️🍀☘️🍀

 

Our Dublin Coddle

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 lb pork sausages (traditional Irish bangers would be the most legit option)
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, etc)
  • 3/4 cup stout beer
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 lb potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the bacon roughly and cook in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Stir occasionally until they are brown, but not yet crispy. Then remove to the side.
  3. Place the sausage whole into the dish with the bacon grease, still over medium heat, and brown on all side. (You do not have to cook them all the way through at this point.) Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Now add the onions and garlic to the dish, stirring to coat in the remaining bacon grease. Top with 10+ turns of fresh black pepper. Partially cover and cook, until softened and browning, roughly 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the broth, beer, worcestershire, mustard, and thyme.
  6. Remove the onions/garlic when they’re done and again set to the side.
  7. Add the potatoes and a splash of liquid stock mixture to the dish. Stir to coat and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook potatoes for ~5 minutes.
  8. Slice the sausages into large chunks and then return all of the removed ingredients to the dish. Remove from stove heat and stir everything together.
  9. Top with the stock mixture and add the bay leaves.
  10. Place in the oven, covered, for at least an hour. Keep cooking up to an hour and a half if the potatoes aren’t cooked to your liking at the hour mark.
  11. Serve in bowls with a good amount of broth. Add a dash of salt if you think it needs (save this for the end, given that your bacon, sausages, and even broth may have a fair amount of salt in them).
Serves 4-6