Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coronado Concerts in the Park: Grandma Maroni's Meatballs for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Jim and Carmen hosted Sunday's Concert in the Park with The Mar Dels, a well-known San Diego nostalgia band that performs dynamic renditions of the best music from the 50's - 70's. We all agreed 50's diner food would be a fun culinary theme to pair with the music, and we certainly made up for any calories saved during our healthier Mushrooms, Flowers and Weeds theme a few weeks ago.

Although I nicknamed this week's theme Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives after Guy Fieri's Food Network Show, I consulted Bobby Flay's Throwdown cookbook, based on another popular Food Network show, and came up with Spaghetti and Meatballs for my diner dish. 

In the Meatball Throwdown episode, Bobby's mission is to challenge Italian superstar Mike Maroni and his award-winning meatballs, a recipe handed down to him from his grandmother. Customers of Maroni's in Northport, NY buy pots of them...500 - 600 pots of meatballs a week of takeout to bring home to their own tables. Mama Mia,  that's a lot of meatballs!

It was no big surprise Grandma Maroni's Meatballs easily won the Throwndown against Irishman Flay's meatballs. Both the meatballs and the marinara sauce have only a few ingredients and are super easy to prepare. The meatballs are baked in the oven, and the sauce takes a mere 20 minutes of simmering. Key ingredients include ground beef chuck, Pecorino Romano cheese, and lots of garlic, fresh basil and parsley. Bobby's meatballs featured a mixture of ground beef chuck, veal and pork, parsley, and Parmesan cheese.

My preparation of Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

"Unless one of you guys can score me some coon meat, I'll be making baked chicken and gravy from Earline-Edison Broomfield's Davey's Halfway Home - a cafe way out in the woods near my hometown, Decatur, Mississippi. The restaurant looks the same as always and - as you can see from the guest list - several famous people including a few U.S. Presidents have dined there over the years. I'm also making cracklin' corn bread and vinegar pie - so come on, put your dish down on the table - bring on the tuna melts, hot pastrami, casserole and meatloaf and let's all have some supper!" - Carmen

Hostess Carmen

It was a great surprise when Jim and Sam arrived with the most amazing birthday cake for Jim's birthday! Sam decorated it with all sorts of fondant-sculpted diner food and signs, and said it took her 8 hours a day for three days to create the masterpiece. For her first attempt at cake decorating, I'd say she did a marvelous job! We all did our best to polish off the cake, but Jim was giving away pieces at the end of the evening to anyone who wanted some.

Sam (Photo courtesy of Jim)

The amazing Diner Birthday Cake

Jim and Carmen kissing the birthday boy

Carmen and Jim

Sam's design pieces for the cake were so realistic

The aftermath

Carmen's Baked Chicken and Gravy

John came up with Farmhouse Breakfast Deviled Eggs for this week, featuring mini sausage patties, toast, and sausage gravy.

John and his latest deviled egg creation

Adding sausage gravy

Farmhouse Breakfast Deviled Eggs

Grace (photo courtesy of Jim)

Since I doubled the recipes for the meatballs and sauce, there was enough for leftovers the next night.

Mike Maroni's Grandma Maroni's Meatballs
(100-year-old recipe)
Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown
Serves 4

Meatball Ingredients:

1 pound ground chuck
1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 small Spanish onion, grated or minced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
Pinch of kosher salt, or to taste

Maroni Sauce Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
12 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
2 (28-ounce) cans imported crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (small leaves left whole for garnish)

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente

Meatball Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl. If mixture seems a little loose add more bread crumbs.

Roll meatballs loosely about the size of a golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.

Maroni Sauce Preparation:

While the meatballs are baking, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until sightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and let simmer 20 for about minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the basil, and gently stir. Add the meatballs to the sauce and serve over spaghetti. Garnish with small whole basil leaves. Buon appetito!

Did somebody say leftover meatballs?


Alma said...

I make these meatballs all the time and they are amazing! I always have leftover sauce though, so I freeze it and whenever the boys and I order white pizza, we defrost it and dip it as an outstanding marinara sauce. Excellent choice!

Ann Mah said...

What an amazing evening! The cake is seriously impressive and I'm going to have to hide the meatball recipe from my husband, or we'll be making and eating them in a heat wave!