A long-time tradition of Jon and mine has been to host Sunday night dinners at our apartment. This Sunday, we had ten people coming for dinner and I was making sage-wrapped veal meatballs cooked in a beef jus, spring vegetable pasta with a garlic-herb butter sauce and a roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula salad with an orange-grapefruit vinaigrette. As a general rule for Sunday dinners, we usually invite too many people and then leave all of the cleaning and food shopping to the last minute. Combined with a late Saturday night out, Sunday dinners for us often mean the culmination of a day of frantic cleaning, running around the city buying groceries and eventually serving dinner to a set of starved and wine-tipsy guests two hours late. This past Sunday was no different, with the exception that on Saturday I had the foresight to hit up the farmer’s market at Union Square on my way to work and picked up wild ramps, broccoli rabe, spring chives, dandelion greens, parsley, thyme, sage and oregano. I also went to our regular butcher – a little Hungarian meat market on 2nd avenue – and got ground veal for the meatballs. Jon and I thought that part of this dinner would make a good bite, and so we pared it down to the meatball, topped with the ramps, broccoli rabe and beef jus.
Ingredients (Serves 10)
For the Meatballs:
3 lbs ground veal
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup brown ale (we used Newcastle. You could also use red wine)
1 tbsp Dijon
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
For the Beef Jus:
1 shell steak, bone-in
2 medium carrots, rough chop
1 medium parsnip, rough chop
1/2 white onion, large dice
1/2 red onion, large dice
1/2 fennel bulb, large dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sherry
1 cup white wine
1/2 qt mushroom stock
1 qt beef stock
2 bay leaves
16 black peppercorns
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, parsley, and oregano
For the vegetables:
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 bunch ramp leaves, bulbs removed
For the Beef Jus:
For this jus I used a shell steak with the bone in because that’s what I had in my freezer – but you can really use whatever you like. If you have some beef bones or anything of that nature, it really will work well in this jus, which is full of so many delicious mirepoix vegetables.
- Heat a saucepan on high heat. Coat with canola oil. When oil is near smoking, sear off the steak so that it forms a nice brown crust on both sides. Be sure not to burn the proteins that form at the bottom of the pan, these will flavor the sauce later when you deglaze the pan.
- When steak is golden brown, add the mirepoix vegetables and sweat until they begin to get some color. Add the garlic and shallots and sweat for an additional minute or two.
- Deglaze with sherry and white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the browned deliciousness off the bottom of the pan. Allow alcohol to cook off until reduced by half.
- Add the ½ qt of mushroom stock and the quart of beef stock. Add bay, peppercorns and fresh herbs and allow to reduce for 1 ½ hours on medium-low heat.
- When jus has reduced and is flavorful, strain through a fine chinois and pour over seared meatballs. The jus will later be further reduced and used as the sauce.
For the Meatballs:
- In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients gently with clean hands. Do not overwork the meat to prevent meatballs from becoming tough.
- If sage leaves are large, you may slice them in half with a sharp knife, or leave whole if leaves are small. Wrap each meatball with a single leaf / half leaf. You may need to secure with a toothpick until meatballs have been seared.
- Heat a large sauté pan and coat with a thin layer of canola oil. Begin searing off meatball in batches – do not crowd the pan. You do not need to cook the meatballs all the way through as they will finish cooking in the oven.
- When all the meatballs have been seared, remove toothpicks if necessary, and arrange them in a large glass baking dish. Pour beef jus over them and bake at 350° for 10 minutes until fully cooked through.
- Allow meatballs to rest in jus for 5 minutes and serve with pasta or warm French bread.
For the Vegetables
- Blanch broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling, heavily salted water. Shock in an ice bath and chop into 2-inch lengths.
- Separate ramp bulbs from leaves and reserve bulbs for another use, maybe pickling. Clean ramp leaves and dry well. Cut into 2-inch lengths and sauté in olive oil.
For the Bite
- To make the sauce for the bite, we used the beef jus. Reduce the jus until it is nearly a glaze and mount with butter.
- To assemble the bite, top the meatball with the ramp leaves and broccoli rabe. Sauce liberally and snack away.
© 2010 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle