I don’t think it constitutes a trend but two of my food magazines published recipes for basically the same dish this month. The magazines in question hardly rival Gourmet. “Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food” is geared to the home cook and one who generally doesn’t like even the mildest surprises when they cook. “Cuisine-at-Home” comes with 3 hole punches on every page so you can build your own cookbook with their pretty basic recipes. These are not generally go-to resources for me: I prefer to be more adventurous and at least challenge myself with new flavors and cooking styles. But somehow, I cannot resist a new take on meatballs. And Beef Stroganoff is one of my favorites from way back. Calling as it does for fillet of beef however has dimmed my enthusiasm. With the price of beef fillet approaching the stratosphere, if I am going to cook one, I am not about to cover it in sour cream. Not too long ago, I made a version using sirloin, which is about the best buy in beef I can find—at least here in New York. What a disappointment that was! Way too tough! But the dueling photos in the two magazines really did appeal to me. Topping egg noodles in one and spaghetti in the other, they were just the kind of comfort I was looking for. And in Chinese menu fashion, I made the dish with the meatballs from one and the Stroganoff from the other.
The meatballs came from Cuisine-at-Home where they were called “Mini-Bacon Meatballs”. Now I realize Bacon has almost become a cliché. But think of another ingredient that is as easy to work with and so transformative whether you wrap a scallop in it or top your meatloaf with it. The smoky flavor, the glorious fat in the streaks of pork, the crunchy texture—put them altogether and they seem to improve almost anything from bread pudding to a simple green salad. Here they let you use a very lean ground beef which relies on the bacon for its fat content. The idea here is to cook them ahead in some quantity so that you can freeze them, put them into airtight containers and take them out of the freezer any time you want. Smaller than ordinary meatballs, they’re about the size of a golf ball. Cuisine at Home claimed they can be used in soups and even as appetizers. I have a container of them in the freezer now. But when I first made them, they went right into the recipe for “Meatball Stroganoff”.
Here’s where we flipped over to the Martha Stewart version of the dish. What I loved about it was that the Stroganoff sat atop a bowl of spaghetti, its rich creamy sauce coating the noodles. True to true Stroganoff, there are slices of mushrooms throughout and a blizzard of dill which brings both flavor and color to this otherwise beige meal. I served it with a simple green salad. I must say it accomplished exactly what I wanted: the sour cream taste of Stroganoff and the comfort of a great bowl of spaghetti. Here are the recipes:
Recipe for Make-Ahead Meatballs from Cuisine-at-Home Magazine
Makes about 4 dozen meatballs
4 strips of bacon
½ cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb ground sirloin
½ cup dry bread crumbs (I used Panko)
4 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a sheet pan with non-stick spray
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium high heat until starting to crisp. , about 4 minutes. Remove and set aside on paper-towel lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tbsp. bacon drippings from skillet
Saute onion in the same skillet in the 1 tbsp. of drippings over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic to skillet and cook for 1 minute.
Combine sirloin, cooked bacon, onion mixture, bread crumbs, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in beaten eggs.
Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on prepared sheet pan. Bake meatballs until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove quantity needed for stroganoff (about 6 per person) and keep warm. Put remaining meatballs in airtight container and freeze.
For the Meatball Stroganoff:
1 -16 oz. package of Spaghetti
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, diced small
1 pound mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas) trimmed and sliced 1/3 inch thick.
2 cups Beef Broth or Stock
1 ½ cups sour cream
½ cup chopped fresh dill, divided
Salt and Pepper
Fill a large pot with water and cooks spaghetti per package instructions. You may want to start the water first and wait to add the spaghetti until you are half way through cooking the sauce.
For the Sauce:
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook until softened, 5 minutes.
Season with Salt and pepper. Add the beef broth, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, and bring to a rapid simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Add the meatballs and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among four bowls and top with the meatballs, sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons of dill.