Friday, November 18, 2011

A Rustic Italian November Dinner

Last night my sister, Lindsey, and her beau came for dinner, which gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a recipe I've been carrying around in my back pocket for awhile now. About a month and a half ago Design*Sponge posted a recipe by food editor and stylist Dani Fischer for orecchiette with orange-spiced lamb meatballs. I immediately knew this was one I'd like to try and bought a pound of lamb at the farmer's market that very weekend. It has been sitting in the freezer since, and last night I triumphantly sculpted it into these lovely meatballs.

The recipe itself is very rustic and earthy, and it felt fulfilling to make. I started the stock earlier in the day and followed the instructions to the T, boiling down a few potatoes, celery stalks with leaves, and I even found arugula to add into the mix. It smelled quite tantalizing as it simmered. The most actual labor came into play mixing and forming the meatballs and thinly slicing the eight celery hearts. I nearly always underestimate how much time cooking will take, and these two things definitely slowed my progress. Luckily, our dinner guests were also running late.
More on this culinary adventure after the jump!

In addition to cooking a special dinner, I wanted to take the opportunity of having guests to class the joint up and set the table nicely. Some little sunflowers in a mason jar spoke to the perfect balance of simplicity and autumnal warmth, and I offset them with a few left-over oranges (just to stay on theme) piled in a vintage bowl on the table. Linds had given me a pair of metallic, log-shaped candles for my birthday and they complimented the rustic warmth of the table decor.
Finally it came time to serve the meal. I was excited for it, since I'd taken a pretty large chunk of my time to work on it that day, and I'd never made meatballs before either. I'd like to say I was totally satisfied with the dish, but in reality there were some things that worked and some that didn't. I loved the meatballs. They were tasty and that little hint of orange zest made them stand out nicely. Using lamb instead of beef is brilliant and adds a more gamey, rustic flavor to the whole dish. The sauce is what could have used just a bit of a spark, in my opinion. I think if I made it again I might add the stock to a bit of cream and cheese over a medium flame for a couple of minutes before adding it into the celery mixture. I needed just a bit more depth, and though I worry they might be overpowering, next time I might want to try adding sliced wild mushrooms to the recipe. I'm aware that would make the taste completely different, but I think it would taste really great and add a new dimension to the dish.
Overall, the recipe was just a bit of a letdown, though I'm very glad I made it. I feel I've added another set of skills to my toolbox and I'll certainly use that idea for meatballs again. The concept of reducing the stock with celery wasn't my favorite, however, and I would like to experiment with that and modify it a bit. I'll keep you posted. Thanks, Design*Sponge, for the recipe!

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