Friday, October 26, 2012

chicken sausage balls with fennel and waffle-ized polenta

Thanks to pinterest, I have learned that my waffle iron is not just for waffles anymore. Biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cookies... all kinds of things can be cooked in a waffle iron! There's even a blog called Waffleizer, dedicated to all things waffle iron. Waffleriffic!! So I decided to stick some pre-made polenta into mine... I was so excited about this idea. It took way longer than I expected to get any sort of browning on them, but they did turn out super cute, and the different surface areas added more crunchy texture than just pan searing them.

I made some quick cheater meatballs from fresh chicken sausages, and sauce chunky with fresh fennel. This is definitely a week-night meal... fast and easy 30 minute semi-homemade without the obnoxious television hostess. Speaking of obnoxious... will 2013 be year of the waffles??

Chicken Sausage Balls with Chunky Fennel Marinara and Waffled Polenta

-2 Tablespoons olive oil
-4 fresh chicken Italian flavored sausages (or make your own with ground chicken and your favorite Italian herbs and spices)
-1 small white onion, chopped
-1 shallot, chopped, 3 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 fennel bulbs, chopped
-splash of wine
-1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
-pre-made polenta (comes in a roll)
-salt and pepper

Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven or large skillet. Pinch the chicken sausages out of their skins into small balls (about 5 balls per sausage) and cook in the oil until well browned and cooked through. Remove sausage and set aside. Add the other Tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the onion, garlic and shallot in it, scraping up some of the browned pits of sausage fond as you cook them. When they are translucent, add the fennel and a splash of wine. Cook until the fennel is just soft. Add the tomatoes, juice and all, crushing the the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the meatballs back in and heat through.

Meanwhile, slice the polenta into 1/2-inch slices and cook in a waffle iron until golden brown. Serve the balls and sauce over the polenta.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

St. Louis' Best Balls! Installment 3: Pastaria & Completely Sauced

In this installment of St. Louis' Best Balls (see installments 1 and 2) , two different rice-based balls are featured from newcomers in the area, Pastaria restaurant  and Completely Sauced food truck. Not only do these two have impressive food, they also make my graphic designer parts tingle with their branding.

Pastaria has only been open for about a month, but it was one of the most anticipated new restaurants in the whole country (no really! Eater said so!). Gerard Craft, Beard Nominated, Food & Wine Best New chef, etc. etc, opened it. Responsible for 3 of the area's best restaurants, Niche, Brasserie and Taste, many of us locals were expecting great things from this much-needed pasta dispensary. And we have not been disappointed. The hand-made pasta and pizza at Pastaria has indeed elevated this town's Italian eats. And let me tell ya, that's a big deal for a town that prides itself on it's Italian roots. Okay, yes, we have strong Italian neighborhoods, but the :"Italian" food we pride ourselves on is... lacking. Sorry, but we're the home of Provel "cheese" and WAY too many people settle for Olive Garden-esque  boring sauces and soggy salads. PASTARIA IS OUR SAVIOUR. 

Maybe I shouldn't write blog posts after drinking.... 

Ammendment: St. Louis has some great Italian food... fantastic Pizza joints, especially. I actually wrote about the best Italian food as a guest post for my friend's travel blog here. We were lacking in the pasta department though.

Seriously, such good food at Pastaria. And the balls! Fried Risotto Balls to be exact. Basically, smaller Arancini ... risotto encompassing molten-hot magma cheese. So much happy. 

Local ad agency Atomic Dust did a great job branding (sorry to break the 4th wall, consumers!) Pastaria. From the simple noodly logo, to the colors (Pastaria Orange!) and the menus, the whole space just makes you smiley. My favorite is the postcards that come with the (so so reasonable) check... a happy retro mustachioed fellow exclaiming "Yum!" It is meant to be interactive! We've certainly had fun with this 4x6 hunk of paper:

On a larger ball scale, food truck Completely Sauced's Fried Jambalaya balls are almost baseball-sized morsels of spicy creole mouthfun. They don't always have these available, but you should seek them out. Follow them on twitter to find out if their mobile trolley of delicious is near you. If they don't have the balls (they seem to be reserved for special events such as Food Truck Fridays), you still can't go wrong with the normal menu. For instance, Cochon de Lait (pork slowly braised in milk!!!) po-boys. That is some elevated food truck goodness, to be sure. 

And look how cute their logo is! Look closely if you haven't notice the food elements in it yet... see it? Fantastic! Fleur De Ladle... (Fleur De Lis is a symbol often seen in both New Orleans and St. Louis as part of city pride... so good use in an STL-based New Orleans food truck, right?) Clever!!

Man I love this town's balls.

Previous Year of the Balls posts:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

cider bourbon cocktail with maple and bacon plus some favorite fall recipes

Light sweaters against crisp cool air. Necks wrapped in soft, vibrant earth tone scarves. Sidewalks crunchy with a mosaic of fallen leaves. An over-abundance of Pumpkin Recipes on Pinterest. It's FALL, y'all! Celebrate with this Cider Bourbon Cocktail... rimmed with maple syrup and bacon salt, it is a glassful of Autumnal bliss!

Cider Bourbon Cocktail with Maple and Bacon 
-2 parts bourbon
-1 part apple cider
-fresh lemon juice
-maple syrup
-Bacon Salt 
Put bourbon and cider into a shaker, with ice and a generous squeeze of lemon. Shake. Dip rim of glass into some maple syrup on a plate, then dip into bacon salt. Add ice to the glass, then strain the bourbon mixture into the glass. Watch leaves fall and sip while wrapped in a light blanket.
Now check out some of my favorite Fall recipes from the Iron Stef archives. These dishes are sure to get you snuggled into the joys of October:

Happy Fall, everyone! What are your favorite things about Autumn?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Ham Balls

I recently read the first book I've read in what seems like a very long time. I was seriously worried that between a busy life, facebook and twitter, I had lost any semblance of an attention span. Would I ever go back to that activity I once so treasured? Reading books? It certainly helps that I surround myself with smart food people. After a road trip to the Iowa State Fair, my friend Kelly (fittingly, she is an English teacher) mentioned Beth Howard's book, Making Piece, A Memoir of love, loss and pie.

A group of my food blogger buds decided to read the book, then meet about it and eat pie. Food book club turned out to be a great way to get me back into my old book worm ways. It helped that I am just Smitten with Beth's life... she has traveled and had adventures all over. She currently lives in the house that is in the painting American Gothic, which is in Eldon, Iowa. Very cool! In fact, us book clubbers are going up there in a couple months to take a pie class from her.

I liked the book. At points I was scared that it was going to be too much like Eat Pray Love, which I couldn't finish because of the whining. No worries, I liked Beth's voice and attitude, and I read the whole book with enthusiasm! Making Piece is about Beth grieving the sudden death of her husband, so there are a lot of soul-searching and soul-wrenching moments. I empathized with her on many levels, and found the story mostly inspirational. Especially the parts about pie.

Pie is Beth Howard's savior. It helps her stay calm and meditate. It also helps her connect with people, because... everyone loves pie, right? Making pie and making people happy is warming for the spirit, like a hug for your soul. In short, it makes the world a better place. I have similar feeling about cooking and food. Everyone on the planet eats, and everyone has some sort of food that they just LOVE to eat. A food that comforts them. Everyone can GET that about other people, if they think about it.

Kelly read the book before I did (see her related post... Better Than Sex Silk Pie... oh my!), and was swift to point out that the book had a part about Balls. Ham Balls. We knew that was what I had to bring to our book club meeting. So perfect. There is not a recipe in the book, but it mentions that they contained ground ham, ground beef, tomato and... graham cracker crumbs. Yep. Googling Ham Balls, Iowa gave me several results that were exactly like what the book described. Of course, they all made enough balls to feed a church group, and I was only feeding 5 pie-eating ladies. So I pared it down, and this was the result. At first I thought the graham crackers were a really weird ingredient, then I remembered I had made some stew that had ginger snaps in it and it was delicious. The crumbs add a deep, toasty sweetness to the meats.

Ham Balls
-1.5 lbs. ham, ground or chopped as finely as you can manage.
-1 lb. ground beef
-1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
-.5 cup milk
-2 eggs, beaten
-2 cans tomato soup
-1.5 cups brown sugar
-1 cup vinegar
-2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well. Form into golf ball-sized balls. Heat some oil in a skillet and brown the balls, in batches, on all sides (you do not need to cook them all the way through at this point, just brown them for flavor). Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Put the browned balls in a crock pot and pour the sauce over them. Cook on low for 5 hours. Serve hot.