Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

April 19, 2010

The culinary planets aligned tonight for me to make boules des viandes, and I use that phrase because it seems that the French have no fancy name for or tradition of meatballs, unlike the cultures that surround them (Spain, ItalyDenmark, Hungary).  Hrmph.  What do the French do with ground beef?  Saucissons, hachis parmentier, et crepinettes, I reckon.

After sampling the meatballs recently at Farmstead (that arrive in a sizzling cast-iron pan), and being given a pound of strozzapreti (tr: priest-chokers) from Todd Maruca and a bottle of Pazzo (a Sangiovese blend in a bottle shaped unlike Burgundies, Bordeaux or Chiantis–more like gin?) by Claus Janzen, well, what choice did I have?

We found ground duroc pork and organic beef at the Sunshine, and from there it was a simple equation of (eyeballed amounts of) egg, milk, breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano-reggiano, sauteed onions and garlic, and fresh thyme, rosemary, and oregano.  Meatballs are like crab cakes in that less is more when it comes to additional ingredients and handling.

I seared the meatballs in a cast-iron skillet and braised them for thirty minutes in a 325 oven with tomato sauce, boiling the pasta on the stovetop in the meantime.  I drained the strozapretti, tossed it in olive oil, and dished it all up.  To round out the meal, we added a handful of the season’s first lettuces from Forni-Brown Gardens, tossed in a simple (I mean three ingredients) vinaigrette.  Though Rosso di Montalcino might have been the ideal pairing for this dish, the Pazzo was a wonderful and local complement, with enough acid to balance its NV ripeness, and good structure to handle the blizzard of (more) parmigiano-reggiano on my plate.

The cover page of last week’s NY Times Travel section said it best:  Mangia, Mangia! And because I’m used to purchasing and cooking in restaurant quantities, there are enough meatballs left over for us to mangia for a month of Sundays.

Leave a Reply