Monday, 15 December 2014

Tagliatelle with Meatballs in Red Wine

I've decided this blog doesn't give enough attention to date food. Possibly because two of the three LadyGirls are in live-in relationships, and the third (me) is a jaded serial First-Dater, we don’t consider how many people in this world are actually out there and meeting other humans in hopes that some sort of functioning relationship will blossom.

I’ve had so many first dates that I have a script that I essentially recite. My first date monologue is one of pre-crafted and charmingly quirky anecdotes, dotted with perfectly timed self-deprecating witticisms, which only work because nothing I'm self-deprecating about is an actually personality flaw, which both the date and I know. To break through my carefully fashioned exterior of a mix between Gillian Flynn's Cool Girl and Nathan Rabin’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you need to make it to at least a fourth cocktail on Date Three.
The monologue is necessary, particularly in the ADD-age of Tinder. Spending time with strangers is rarely fun, and when you are spending time with a stranger who only stood out because in the swath of gym-selfies, gun-selfies, and Unabomber lookalikes, he had a profile without any dead animals or dick pics. This in no way means they will be interesting, or funny, or even a functioning human being. It only means they realize that a picture of their nethers should not be treated as a valentine.

Rather than playing 20 Questions with men who ration their sentences, I will just start chattering to fill the void. As Pulp Fiction puts it, you have to be pretty familiar to share a comfortable silence with someone. What does a silence with a stranger feel like? It feels like the doctor’s office calling you back two weeks after those tests, and then the receptionist being on lunch break for the next hour. It feels like standing in line at Ikea with only three light bulbs to purchase during on the last weekend in August in a college town.  It feels like the moment of dread at 4:52 a.m. when you wake up and have to pee and you know that if you get out of bed, you’ll finally fall back asleep at precisely 6:57 a.m. In short, it is excruciating. The answer is to have a pre-prepared soliloquy of sorts, which you can deliver over a drink (or two, depending on how much you like the sounds of your own voice) and you’ll never have to have a real conversation with a stranger ever again.

So anyway. All that being said, after a few dates with someone, you may actually like them enough to share a meal with them. This needs to be carefully considered as well. It can’t be too slurpy (no pho or ramen), but it can’t be boring or cheap (please, please, never Kelsey’s).  

Once you’ve shared enough meals in public with someone, you then may want to spend time with them in the privacy of your own home. This is great if you actually truly enjoy someone’s company, but be warned- there is much more pressure in your home, because you lack the ability to people watch and base conversations on your observations. A helpful option? Making a great meal.

These meatballs are a great date meal. They are quick, your house will smell amazing, and they’re quite easy to make, without looking like you made some Kraft Dinner. The trick is to use fancy pasta, no basic fettuccine for this. If you use pappardelle or tagliatelle, it looks like an extra special effort. As my mother always told me, “It’s all smoke and mirrors baby,” (as I type this, I realize I really took that advice to heart since my first date monologue is essentially smoke and mirrors.)

I based the meal on this recipe, which I found on Pinterest. I changed a few things, but one thing I absolutely recommend staying with is the integration of ricotta. It keeps the meatballs wonderfully moist.

I wasn’t able to find veal, and also had a lengthy discussion with my best friend on the phone about the ethics of veal while trying to find it in the Loblaws, and was guilted out of even looking very hard by the end of the conversation. You could use ground beef, like I did, but it would probably be fine with really any ground meat you wanted.

For the meatballs, you’ll need:
  • 1 lb of ground meat
  • 3 tbsp ricotta
  • lemon zest
  • about a handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • a few cloves of minced garlic
  • parmesan
  • chili flakes

For the sauce, you’ll need:
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup red wine (or more, whatever)
  • knob of butter
  • 3 bay leaves
  • squeeze of lemon juice

I didn’t use white wine, as the recipe suggests, because I think red meat is better with red wine. You can use whatever you like though. I also put the lemon zest in the meatballs instead of the sauce and then squeezed the lemon into the sauce.

Mix your meatball ingredients together with your hands, there’s no other way. Form into balls; you’ll get about 12-14 depending on how big they are. Let chill for half an hour. Heat up a tbsp. of oil in large frying pan and brown the meatballs on each side. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and simmer for a minute or two. Then add your chicken stock, bay leaves, and lemon juice. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 15 minutes, turning the balls occasionally.

Cook your pasta in boiling, salted water. Just before serving, stir in the knob of butter to your sauce. Top pasta with meatballs, sauce, freshly grated parmesan, and maybe some fresh basil or parsley. (That’s optional, but you’re the type of person who puts effort into things.)

 Happy dating!

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