Recipe Road Test: Meatballs Marsala from "Smitten Kitchen Every Day"

Seira Wilson on November 27, 2017

SmittenKitchenEveryDay200.jpgOne of the first recipes I tried from Deb Perelman's new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites, was the Marsala Meatballs with Egg Noodles and Chives.  Like Perelman, I love egg noodles, and this recipe is pure comfort food and came together easily.  Using ground chicken and panko makes the meatballs lighter and faster to cook without drying out or falling apart.  I used a MeatballsMarsala_mine.jpgcookie scoop to get the meatballs approximately the same size, which also helped them cook evenly in the pan. 

I've made this recipe a few more times and it's consistently turned exactly as promised.  Just one of the many reasons why we chose Smitten Kitchen Every Day as our number one pick for the best cookbooks of 2017.  Here's how mine looked and below is the recipe and photograph from the book.

MeatballsMarsala_bookphoto.jpgmeatballs marsala with egg noodles and chives
makes 4 servings

A funny thing happens when you have a reputation for being a person who knows her way around the kitchen, which is that you get asked more often than most people what your desert-island foods would be, and they’re hoping you’re going to say something awesome. I try not to disappoint. I talk about duck fat fries or a perfect steamed artichoke with a lemon-aioli dip, or hanger steak, served with salsa verde. Do know that if a desert island—or even, perhaps, this densely populated island on which I actually reside—contained these three foods, I would never leave.

What is actually closer to the truth, though, is buttered egg noodles, the really wide ones. I like egg noodles that are like pages, harder to separate when they so naturally want to stack; there is no spearing fewer than four noodles at once. I like them with not an avalanche of butter or anything, but enough so you might have a little runoff puddle at the bottom of the bowl for that last, lucky noodle, then finished with a shower of chives. But I rarely tell people this, because it’s turned out to be a total conversation thudder. You cannot explain the bliss of buttered egg noodles to people who do not derive bliss from buttered egg noodles. Not all beloved things elicit, or need to elicit, popular fervor.

Bear with me here. These are not just buttered noodles, but what happened when I was dreaming about Swedish meatballs but wanted something a little different: First, a chicken meatball, because ground chicken gets no love, but I think it can be wonderfully light. I wanted the sauce to be flavored with dry Marsala, because I think more things should be. And although I love a good mash, with pickles and lingonberry jam, my first love, those wide noodles, called to me, and I ended up making a kind of Central European meatballs and spaghetti. Nobody needs to be talked into this kind of bliss.

1 pound (455 grams) ground chicken?
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil?
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter?
1 small yellow onion, minced?
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the onion
1/2 cup (30 grams) panko breadcrumbs?
1 large egg?
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk or water?
Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup (60 ml) dry Marsala, sherry, or Madeira
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter?
3 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups (420 ml) chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream?
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces (340 grams) wide egg noodles
1 tablespoon (15 grams) butter?
4 teaspoons minced fresh chives

make the meatballs
Place the chicken in a large bowl. Heat a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Once it’s very hot, add half the olive oil and butter, and once they are also very hot, add the onion and a pinch or two of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion is a deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool slightly, then add to the bowl with the chicken, along with the panko, egg, milk or water, 1 teaspoon salt, and many grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine evenly (I use a fork).

Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture at a time, and then roll back and forth briefly in your wet palms to form a smoother spherical shape. Arrange on a plate. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture.

Add the remaining butter and oil to your frying pan over medium heat. Arrange the meatballs in one layer. They will seem very soft and you’ll worry that this isn’t going to work, but as soon as they’ve cooked for a couple minutes they will begin to hold together better. Don’t move them until they’re browned underneath, then nudge and roll them around the pan until they’re as evenly brown all over as possible. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.

make the sauce
Pour in the Marsala, and simmer until it’s almost completely cooked off, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt, then whisk in the flour; cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly add the broth, whisking the whole time. Add the cream, and bring the mixture to a simmer, then add salt and pepper to taste. Return the meatballs to the pan, turn to coat them in the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover; let them simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes. Check a meatball; they should be cooked through, but if not, give them a couple more minutes.

meanwhile, cook the noodles
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the noodles according to package directions, although please check early anyway, because many seem to advocate way too much cooking time; I find 6 to 8 minutes is usually right. Drain.

to finish
Place the noodles in a bowl and toss with butter. Add meatballs and pan gravy on top. Garnish with chives.

Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Copyright © 2017 by Deborah Perelman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.

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