Now that my mother is living with me, I’m cooking (burning) food more often. Fortunately, I own a kitchen chisel, useful for digging out burnt spatter on the sides of the oven and microwave.
Cooking for two is so much more pleasant than schlepping a can out of the pantry, throwing the can-shaped contents into a pot and stirring. Stirring isn’t cooking, after all. And I love sitting down to dine with my mom. It’s a wonderful part of my day. She doesn’t even admonish me when I put my elbows on the table.
Cooking for two is all about respecting each other’s food issues. Mom’s not crazy about garlic—at least in mega doses. But she’s not picky. She’s discerning. That women can detect rancid overtones at subatomic levels. (No stale nuts in my house. ) One of the great things about her is that she’ll willingly try my different concoctions and mixtures. She wasn’t crazy about the sausage and apples I made one evening, but she ate it and then washed it down with a bowl of ice cream. I haven’t gotten up the courage to serve her tofu. I hid the 25 packages of it somewhere deep in the bottom of my freezer. They’ll be there until the next ice age.
My mom grew up in an era when ground beef wasn’t a menace, the ticking time bomb that it is today. I’m still determined to avoid ground beef, believing it to be one of the riskiest meats to consume. In the last year, more ground beef packages were being yanked out of the stores than were ending up in greasy McD burgers.
My mom and I love spaghetti and meatballs. Hers are what every meatball should be: juicy, tasty, “I want to eat a bathtub full of them.” Her meatballs are more than a conveyance for the sauce. They are the epitome of good eating. (Rumor has it that Julia Childs tried to wangle Mom’s meatball recipe out of her, and despite my Mom’s diminutive size, she put the chef into a headlock and that was the end of that.)
I attempted making my own meatballs the other evening, but I decided to substitute ground turkey for ground beef. I also decided to fool my mom into not being able to tell the difference. While my mom was in the shower, I quickly made the mixture, formed the balls and popped them in the microwave to cook a bit before browning them under the broiler. Sneakiness doesn’t pay off.
I was partly successful in my ruse. I avoided having to mention that I replaced the ground beef with ground turkey. I didn’t have to fess up to that switch. No, instead, I had to convince my mom that I hadn’t substituted golf balls for meatballs.
I can’t recall whether it was her pained expression or her sawing at the meatball on her plate that alerted me to my abysmal failure. Perhaps it was the clink of the hard surface of the meatball against her plate. A well-made meatball shouldn’t make noise. It shouldn’t crack the tile floor if it rolls off one’s plate. It shouldn’t ricochet off a knife. If you have to use a knife with a meatball, you’ve already lost the game.
I discovered this: You can’t hide a granite meatball in spaghetti sauce, believing that the sauce will somehow magically transform the object into something succulent and tasty. You can’t get blood from a turnip and you can’t turn a large marble into a juicy meatball. The glass-like surface of my meatballs resisted moisture.
My failure was more than embarrassing—more so, because I tried to deceive her. During the after meal debrief, my mom and I discovered that I had left out a critical ingredient: Moisture. Oh, that. Plus, there was the burning of the meatballs under the broiler. Whatever moisture had been in the meatballs is now burnt onto the inside of my oven.
I’m not going to give up, however. I’ll try the meatballs again, but not expect them to hang onto their juice without some added help. I’ll forgo the broiling. I’m not yet courageous or crazy enough to try out tofu meatballs on her. Later, perhaps, after I perfect the turkey meatball. Or, we’ll use the 25 packages of tofu for repairing the cracks in my driveway.
Here’s a recipe that just might convince my mom that using ground turkey instead of ground beef is a perfectly acceptable, and tasty, thing to do.
Ground Turkey Meatballs
2lbs ground turkey
1 medium onion chopped
1tsp garlic (or to taste)
1 cup cracker or bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all of the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl.