No. 257 & 258: Wine Country Almonds & Pork Meatballs with Marinara

Mr. McC had a late Wednesday night with a dinner meeting in Monterey, so it was the perfect night to have Nicole over for an evening of delicious eats and equally delicious gossip. Such fun.

Wine Country Almonds

While at Hartwell (a favorite) in Napa a few weeks ago we tasted Cabs alongside some perfectly wonderful La Saison almonds and Manchego cheese.

La Saison

The almonds were as memorable as the reds. I took a photo of the bag so that I could recreate these at home:)

Ingredients

2 cups almonds
Splash (2 tablespoons or so) of extra virgin olive oil, just enough for the spices tos tick
2 teaspoons Hickory sea salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence

To make

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until lightly toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven but keep the oven on.

In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the almonds until well coated.

Coated

Return to the parchment lined baking sheet and bake until they turn deep brown, about 8-10 minutes, tossing the almonds once halfway through cooking.

Finished

Remove from the oven and transfer to a clean baking sheet to cool. Taste and add a sprinkle of salt if needed. Store in an airtight container.

Pork Meatballs with Marinara

I had some leftover ground pork from our meatloaf earlier in the week. I combined it with some ground beef to make these meatballs. Nicole brought some homemade marinara to toss over them but the original recipe has a nice sauce as well.

Ingredients

2 pounds ground pork (lean), cut from the pork shoulder
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons chili flakes
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup tightly packed curly parsley leaves with stems, washed, dried and chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup bread crumbs, toasted
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Marinara sauce of your choice, for serving

To make

Add the meat to a large bowl, spread it out and season with salt, to taste. Add the remaining ingredients leaving the bread crumbs until last. Mix until all the ingredients are combined. Create a small patty and test it in a small saute pan in 1 tablespoon of oil. When browned on both sides, taste and reseason the meat mixture, if needed. Roll the mixture into about 20 to 25 or so balls that are about 2 inches in diameter.

Meatballs

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, shut off the heat to avoid splattering, add the meatballs in a single layer and spread them somewhat apart so they have a chance to brown instead of steam. You may need to do this in batches.

Browning meatballs

Brown the meatballs, over high heat, turning them so they brown all around. Treat them like hamburgers and cook them until they are medium-rare, about 3 to 5 minutes. Touch them to make sure they are still tender in the center. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove them from the pan to a tray and cook off the remaining balls, if needed.

Browned and waiting

Place all the meatballs back in the pan, put the lid on, and slide into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cooked through the center.

For serving, add the meatballs into a dish and cover with hot marinara.

The results

Let's start with the almonds - the glorious almonds. Smokey hickory salt with the fresh herbs make for a terrific combination. Nicole and I couldn't stop eating them, to the point of almost spoiling our dinner.

But I'm glad we didn't completely go nuts on those nuts, because these little meatballs are lovely.

Final plate

I'd never think to include sour cream, but all of the ingredients come together in a tender and flavorful mouthful.

And big kudos to Nicole who brought a fantastic homemade marinara over to dress them in.

All in all, a great night. If only there hadn't been dishes to do after:(

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