Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off The Shelf: Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food

Comfort Food by Rick Rodgers (commissioned by Williams-Sonoma) is a large book full of delicious photos of all the food you want to eat when you are in need of relaxation or respite.

Thumbing through you will come across recipes such as: Blueberry Pancakes, Cinnamon Buns, French Onion Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, Reuben Sandwiches, Shepherd's Pie, Meat Loaf and Gravy, Texas Beef Chili, Real Sloppy Joes, Roast Lemon Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, Creamy Coleslaw, Maple Baked Beans, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peach Cobbler, Apple Pie, and Strawberry Shortcake.

I tried the Spaghetti and Meatballs. They came out great, and I liked the blending of the two meats. However, I felt that, true their nature, Williams-Sonoma had to add in a few extra steps that just didn't seem that necessary for the home cook (such as soaking the breadcrumbs in milk and then straining them rather than just adding a small amount of milk). However, the book does have quite a number of really appealing recipes and perhaps not all of them would be as involved.



SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
(Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food)
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1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (can use gluten-free breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1   1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1   1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 pound ground beef round
1/2 pound EACH ground pork and veal (I just used 1 pound ground pork)

6 cups Marinara Sauce (see below)
1 pound Spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. In a small frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, place the bread crumbs in a small bowl. Add the milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a sieve and drain, pressing hard on the bread to extract the excess milk. Add the soaked breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt, oregano, and pepper to the onion mixture and mix well. Add the ground meats and mix with your hands just until combined. Do not overmix, or the meatballs will be dense.

Using wet hands, shape the mixture into 18 meatballs, and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the tops are browned, about 20 minutes, then turn and bake until cooked through, 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven.

In a large saucepan, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Add the meatballs. Discard any fat on the baking sheet, add 1/2 cup boiling water to the baking sheet, and use a wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits. Pour into the marinara sauce and stir. Simmer until the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and stir occasionally until the water returns to a boil. Cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the pot. Add about half of the sauce to the pasta, without  the meatballs, and toss to combine. Divide the pasta among individual pasta bowls, and top each serving with more sauce and an equal number of the meatballs. Serve hot, with Parmesan.

Serves 6.

MARINARA SAUCE
(Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food)
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2 can (28 ounces each) plum tomatoes with puree,
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup hearty red wine
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Pour the tomatoes and their puree into a large bowl. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes between your fingers. (Don't squeeze too hard or you'll be squirted with tomato juice.)

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and their puree, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, and adding water if the sauce thickens too quickly, until the sauce has thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last 15 minutes of the simmering, stir in the basil.

Discard the bay leaf. Use the sauce at once, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes about 6 cups.