Although both of my parents could cook, my mother is the one who taught me how. She never really cared for cooking, I think, and she was happy to train us children up to take over dinner duty now and again for her. (Can’t blame her, there!) She taught me how to read recipes and substitute on the fly with whatever was available or economical, instead of being a stickler for accuracy, and how to streamline the processes to make a recipe as easy as possible. (Some people might call that lazy, but I call it smart. Busy mamas don’t have time to be fussy!) She was always game to let me try any odd recipe I picked up, and ate it anyway, even if it turned out terrible. (I’m talking to you, Cinnamon-Apple Chicken! I know it sounds good, but just don’t.) My dad seemed to enjoy the culinary arts a little more, but he really didn’t do much of the daily cooking. In spite of that, he was quite firm about the Right Way To Do Things, so if one was planning to improvise a bit, one had to make sure he wasn’t looking.
Even if my mom doesn’t like cooking much, there are quite a few things that she makes really well. Her meatballs are one of those things. Unfortunately, I learned how to make those meatballs by smell – yes, by smell! – and that has proven difficult to pass on to my own children. She’d mix the breadcrumbs up first, and they had to smell just right, the scent of the garlic powder not overwhelmed by too much Parmesan. Then, just a little finger dip to test the salt. My kids haven’t been dedicated enough to their sniff-and-dip training, so I’ve been trying to measure things out for them.
This is my smell-proof version of my mom’s really delicious meatballs.
I usually feed my family on two pounds of meat, but I’ll often mix up a bigger batch and freeze the extras for another meal or two. If you want to get a large batch done in a hurry, you can bake them, and my mom sometimes just freezes them raw. I tested this myself, and you can use them in sauces that way, but they really do come out best if they’re fried.
The recipe is given for one pound of meat, but you can multiply it as many times as you want.
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Grandma Linda’s Really Delicious Italian Meatballs
1 lb ground beef, pork, or combination
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs, plain or Italian style
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
lard or oil for frying
Mix together well all the ingredients, except the lard or oil. Form the meat mixture into balls. I favor smaller, two-bite-sized meatballs, no more than an inch across, a rounded tablespoon-full, but you can make yours bigger, if you like. I also like to get all my friends involved, because I really dislike rolling meatballs, and it goes much faster with a couple of extra pairs of hands.
Meanwhile, you can start heating the oil in a heavy skillet. You need enough oil so that it comes about halfway up the meatballs when the pan is fully loaded, so figure 1/3 of the height of your meatballs deep. Meatball math! The oil is ready when a tester dropped in the middle is sizzling nicely. Load it up! Cook them for a few minutes, till the first side is nicely browned and the meatball is starting to cook up above the oil line. Roll it over with a pair of spoons and cook the other side. When they’re done, use a slotted spoon to move them to a paper-towel lined bowl. Reload your pan, and continue until all your meatballs are cooked. Now you can use them in whatever recipe you like, but I always give everybody one “taster” on a toothpick. It’s the best part of Meatball Day.