Grace once said that fresh herbs really shine through in a meatloaf. It was right before the karaoke portion of the evening, so she was a little drunk, and the expression on her face, and the seven whiskey sours I’d had (Grace makes excellent whiskey sours), was enough to convince me that she was right, even if that same expression caused Nick to explode whiskey sour out of his mouth. On another evening, she made the fresh herb meatloaf, and it was true: Fresh herbs really do shine through in a meatloaf. Also, Grace makes fantastic meatloaf.
And it’s just a few days before payday now, and my arthritis has been a bitch lately, and while it’s tempting just to eat off the McDonald’s extra-value menu for the next couple of days out of laziness and joint fatigue, I think it’s probably better (for our financial state and my general health) to eat food at home. And I have felt like pasta and mushrooms and meatballs, of late, and because we’re down to very few ingredients (but just the right ingredients to have a meal of pasta, mushrooms, and meatballs), it seems like time to use up what we have, and to make the most of it.
Bitochki, which sounds like a crunchy Russian swear, are actually Russian meatballs, and they are excellent in a creamy stroganoff sauce. Add some fresh herbs? Восхитительный!
The great thing about meatballs is that they’re easy to make when your hands barely work and you’re high on painkillers.
Bitochki: Russian Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 slices bread soaked in milk, squeezed dry and broken into hunks
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or thyme – thyme would be good too)
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 cloves finely minced garlic
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup onions
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- Chopped chives and parsley, as much as you like
In a pan on the stove, caramelize the onion in the butter for the meatballs. This is important, and also delicious. If these were authentic, you’d use rendered fat from around a cow’s kidneys. But I don’t have any rendered beef kidney fat at the moment. Actually, you wouldn’t use the lemon zest or the tarragon either. Do it my way anyway. Fifteen minutes, minimum. When that’s done, take them off the stove.
Mix together the meatball ingredients, and once cool enough to handle, add your onions. Once again, it’s important to use your hands for meatballs. And if your hands are crippled and sore, the cold meat actually feels kind of nice. When your meatball mixture is, well, mixed, roll your meatballs – an inch in diameter is ideal, or close to the size of golf balls. Before throwing them into the pan, roll each ball in bread crumbs. A little paprika in your bread crumbs would probably be lovely.
Oil the onion pan, and fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. This takes longer for me than most people because I second-guess my playlist and have to keep running back and forth from the kitchen to skip the songs.
When the meatballs are done, put them on a pan and throw it into a warm oven. The idea here isn’t to cook them further, just to keep them warm while you make your sauce. Since I recommend serving this dish with noodles, you could probably put on a pot of pasta right about now as well. I like spaghetti. But you already knew that.
Pour the grease out of the onion/meatball pan, but don’t scrape the solids out. If the pan is quite dry, add butter, and throw in your other chopped onion. Soften, and add your mushrooms, adding water to caramelize the onions and soften the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms have soaked up all those delicious pan flavours (you may want to add a splash of water, just to help things along), add in your wine, milk, and your sour cream, as well as your pepper, nutmeg, and any salt. Stir together, and allow to simmer over medium-low heat until thick, and until your pasta is done.
Just before you drain your pasta, add the meatballs back to the sauce. Drain your pasta and dump the noodles into the pan as well, and toss to coat. You may want to throw in some chopped spinach, if you feel like your vegetable requirements aren’t being met here. Serve topped with chopped chives and parsley. Accompany with the remainder of the wine. Or vodka. Unless you’re perpetually out of vodka, like me.
This is good the first day, and remarkable the second day (fresh herbs, you know). And it’s so easy, if you’re really really not feeling well, it’s a breeze to delegate, which I think is the ultimate test of a recipe. Can monkeys do it? Perfect. So can Nick (or whoever you prefer to boss around). And even though it sounds like it would be impossibly rich, it’s really not – you won’t feel disgusting after eating it. I am very much looking forward to this for lunch tomorrow. And now I am going to eat some more painkillers and start in on that wine….