Monday, March 28, 2011

Pork & Lemon Polpettine

The last two weeks have been a blur. A hazy, churning blur. What day is it? Which way is up? Why do none of my socks match? I don’t even know.

First, Matt was on spring break from graduate school. I wish I had had the foresight to budget/plan for an official vacation myself. But last time I checked, self-employed freelancers weren’t swarming the beaches of Cancun in mid-March. Not that Matt wanted to go to Cancun. Not that we're even really beach people. But still.

Anyway. So instead of being on vacation, I spent a week trying to pretend I was on vacation—staying up late, spending money, yes please I’ll have another glass of wine—even while working like crazy. Let me tell you, this doesn’t lead to the most relaxing (or healthy) of times. I spent the next week trying to catch up.

As you know, Matt’s sister got married in New Orleans. Then we spent a few days in upstate New York with friends. On top of that, I got some article assignments and had a few job interviews. There’s that impending book release date, and all sorts of other stuff to wade through before June.* My friend had a baby and my mother, a birthday. There was a black-tie West Point celebration thrown in there, too. Phew.

And so when I think about what I’ve been eating in the last week or so… hmmm. What have I been eating? I had good intentions, certainly. A whole lotta plans. But right now all I really remember is the late-night Indian takeout that we got as a last resort. Last resort Indian food is always a gamble. But put some spicy chana masala and creamy chicken madras in front of two starving people who already know they’ll be up late scrambling to finish homework and meet deadlines, it’ll be devoured in minutes. Coupled with a rerun of The Office and a cold Harpoon IPA? Heaven.

But! But. I remember now. On Friday night we paused to celebrate my mother’s birthday at her home in Brookline. It was just four of us: Matt and me, my mom and her boyfriend, Charley. We drank some nice wine. Ate some melty cheese. I cooked.

I decided to make Nigel Slater’s Pork and Lemon Polpettine from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The Kitchen Diaries. (You’ve probably guessed my love for this cookbook already as I do quote it a lot...) (Here’s another good one: “Almost anything is edible with a dab of French mustard on it.” I live by that.)

Don’t let the name “polpettine” intimidate you. It sounds fancy, but these are nothing but meatballs at heart. Small, juicy, pork meatballs. Slater calls them “delectably moreish little balls.” Exactly.

To make them, you mix together the ground meat with breadcrumbs, herbs, a bit of Parmesan and a lot of lemon juice and zest. There are some anchovies thrown in there as well. If you’re afraid of anchovies, don’t worry. My mom is terrified of anchovies (Hi, Mom!) but she had no complaints. In reality, they add a subtle but rich and salty depth that I love. These polpettine cook quickly with a bit of olive oil and butter in a sauté pan on the stove. I served them and their simmered stock juices over pasta: linguini with a simple sauce of melted butter, grated Parmesan and Gruyere, salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Roasted Brussels Sprouts on the side. (Good with a dab of French mustard, FYI). 

The meal was quick and humble, but good enough to clear the blur of these last two weeks, to make us stop, laugh, and wipe our plates clean.

Pork & Lemon Polpettine
Adapted (barely) from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

1 ¼ cup white breadcrumbs
1 pound ground pork
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 large handful of parsley, chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
10 anchovy fillets, chopped
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup chicken stock

Combine the breadcrumbs, pork, lemon juice and zest, parsley, thyme, Parmesan, and anchovy in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. (I used my hands.)

Roll 18 or so balls of the pork mixture. (About a heaping tablespoon-full each). Place them on a baking sheet that you’ve dusted with flour. Roll the meatballs in the flour just before cooking to coat.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the polpettine in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for five or six minutes, turning for even browning. (I rolled them only twice during this time, to create a good crust on each side and make sure they don’t fall apart.) The meatballs should be crisp and golden. When they’re bronzed, put them all back in the pan, reduce the heat a bit, and sauté until they’re cooked through, an additional seven or eight minutes.

Now, remove the meatballs and pour out most of the fat. Add the chicken stock. Let it simmer down for a few minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Serve the meatballs, and their sauce, over pasta.

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Lauren said...

Your writing always leaves me wanting more... I cannot wait until I get my hands on your book.

brie. said...

and that's dinner tonight sorted...

Molly said...

Thanks, Lauren!

Let me know how they turned out, mbb!

Jacqui said...

love the blur of that table shot -- so fitting! and indian takeout is nothing to be ashamed's actually a treat at our house. these meatballs sound so yum! i'll have to try them, but i won't tell murdo about the anchovies. ;)

Molly said...

Am I the only one who thought of Emperor Palpatine when I saw the name of this recipe? :-) Those meatballs sound delicious. Is there anything anchovies can't do? Lovely post.

Bookdwarf said...

Yum, I might have to make those this weekend. Something to look forward to doing and taking my mind of the possible snow!

--Megan S.

Molly said...

jacqui: thanks! oh, indian food is usually a treat here, too. this was indian food from a particularly questionable (though close! and quick!) locale. no shame, though. no shame at all. :)

Molly: hah! and no, there is most definitely nothing anchovies cannot do. (hmm, there are a lot of negatives in that sentence... but you get my drift...) xo

Bookdwarf: snow! say it's not so. sigh.