Saturday, February 9, 2013

Veal and Pork Meatball Sandwiches

There is this sandwich shop called The Sentinel in San Francisco.  Zagat's Guide tells of long lines at the take-out only shop.  It was opened by chef Dennis Leary.  After having served as the chef at Rubicon, Chef Leary decided to downsize to a small shop, one that would serve simpler, yet authentic fare for breakfast and lunch.  The result is the Sentinel.

I have never eaten at the Sentinel; and, until a few weeks ago, I never even knew about the restaurant.  I was researching recipes, looking for an appetizer or sandwich that I could use to represent San Francisco at the Savage Boleks Super Bowl Party VI.  I had already had the recipe that would represent Baltimore, the Charm City's classic, Baltimore Pit Beef with Tiger Sauce. That sandwich originated on Pulaski Highway, sold by restaurants like Chaps.  I needed a similar type of recipe to represent San Francisco.  That is when I came across The Sentinel.  I looked at its menus, and I came across a menu item ... Veal and Pork Meatball Sandwich, with cabbage. I thought that this recipe could work for a Super Bowl Party.

The only problem is that I did not have a recipe.  Chef Leary has not posted any recipes for the dishes that he creates or makes.  I scoured the Internet and eventually found a recipe for pork and veal meatballs.  I decided to make a few, very minor alterations to the recipe, such as making the meatballs larger than the size called for in the recipe.  The Italian side of my family seemed to be calling out to me for bigger meatballs.  They got their wish.  I also used breadcrumbs instead of stale bread for the meatballs, and adding more dried herbs to the tomato sauce.  I think these modifications worked well.  

The one thing I would have done differently is add some additional herbs and spices to the meatballs themselves.  The recipe calls for the use of fresh oregano, which is fine.  However, it is not as potent in terms of aroma and flavor as dried oregano.  I would have also added some basil and some crushed red pepper, both of which are usually standards for when I make meatballs.  If I felt a little adventurous, maybe some dried thyme or dried parsley would be added to the mix. 

Nevertheless, in the end, I think the recipe worked well.  I do not know how it fared being pitted head to head against Baltimore Pit Beef at a Super Bowl Party held about one hour away from Charm City.  I think the outcome may have been reflected in the final score of the big game itself. Who knows? The one thing that I know is that this is a fairly easy dish to make for a party, which means that I'll be making it again. 

Recipe for the meatballs adapted from Tiny Test Kitchen
Serves 4-6

Ingredients (for the meatballs):
1 pound of ground veal
1 pound of ground pork
1/4 cup organic whole milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh flour, for dusting
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

Ingredients (for the sauce):
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 tablespoons of dried basil
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper

Ingredients (for the sandwiches):
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
Hoagie rolls

1.  Saute the onions and garlic.  Heat 9 inch frying pan over medium heat.  Add oil to hot pan.  Add onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft.  Add garlic, cook for 1 minute and make sure it does not color.  Let cool.  While the onions and garlic are cooking, add bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl, stir to combine.

2.  Make the meatballs.  In a large bowl, combine cooled onion and garlic, milk and crumbs, pork, veal, egg, parsley and oregano.  Season with a sprinkle of kosher salt and a couple grinds of pepper.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Form 1 inch meatballs and place them 3 inches apart on the lined baking sheets.  (You should have 3 rows of 6 on each sheet).  Place flour into a sieve or sifter and dust meatballs with flour.

3.  Bake the meatballs.  Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Place meatballs in oven and cook for 20 minutes.

4.  Make the sauce.  Heat oil in large sauce pan.  Add garlic, cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, making sure it does not color.  Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium, to prevent splitting and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes.

5.  Add meatballs to sauce.  When meatballs are done, remove from oven.  Using tongs, place the meatballs in the sauce.  Reduce heat to low and cook covered for an additional 20 minutes.

6.  Finish the dish.  Toast the hoagie rolls.  Add 3-4 meatballs to a roll and spoon some sauce over the meatballs.  Garnish with some sliced cabbage and serve immediately.


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