Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Shalane Challenge: Day 1 Dinner

I'm challenging myself to prepare all of my meals this week using Shalane Flanagan's cookbook. Last night for dinner I made her Bison Meatballs with marinara.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of minced kale, bound with the buffalo meat using an egg, almond meal, and parmesan cheese. One cup of kale, the book says, is about 4 leaves. It looked like my leaves were a bit scrawny, so I started with 6. That may have been a mistake. I ended up with a huge pile of minced kale, much bigger than a cup. But once I'd put in the work to chop up all that kale, I was damned if it wasn't going in the recipe! I mixed everything together with some spices according to the recipe, forming into 2-inch meatballs that looked quite green. But they were holding together, so I decided to press on.

Next I was supposed to brown them on all sides in about 5 minutes using a Dutch oven. I don't have a true Dutch oven but I do have a nonstick pan with tall sides and a thick bottom, so I figured that was an adequate replacement. Despite the pan being nonstick, the meatballs stuck. They were also taking much longer than 5 minutes to brown. Eventually I got them partially browned and removed them from the pot as directed.

Then I was supposed to make a marinara sauce in the same pot, sort of deglazing the stuck bits from the meatballs. I had decided that was too much work, so I used a jar of store-bought Classico sauce. Then the meatballs got put back into the pot with the sauce, to simmer for 30-40 minutes. The meatballs were not even close to being covered with sauce! Looking back at the recipe, I saw that I had about half the volume of sauce needed. I found a container of crushed tomatoes and added those in with some oregano and red pepper flakes, and now the meatballs were mostly submerged. By rotating the meatballs every 10 minutes or so I was able to get them cooked through in the sauce.

Meanwhile I prepared store-bought rigatoni to match the photo of the recipe in the book. The recipe says it makes 4 servings using 12 ounces of pasta but I decided that I'd make about 1.5 servings of this for myself, so I weighed out 5 ounces of pasta to cook. Then I plated with 3 of the 8 meatballs and some sauce. This being winter I didn't garnish with fresh basil like the book does, but I think it looks pretty good with Parmesan. It looks to me like whoever made the recipe in the photo cooked the pasta with some of the sauce before plating. I didn't do that because the directions don't say to, but in hindsight that would have tasted better!

My effort next to the food-stylist's version in the book

That said, this was a tasty and satisfying plate of meatballs. I think if I did it again I'd use 4 leaves of kale, no matter how puny they looked, and that might have helped the meatballs stick together a bit better. The recipe isn't much different from one Greta and I have made for years using spinach and turkey, but it is definitely heartier with the kale and buffalo, which I like. I think the recipe is a keeper!

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