Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
Skillet-Fried Corn and Tomatoes
Meatballs in BBQ Gravy
Grilled Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Bread
To get the recipes:
Michael is doing a tribute to the spaghetti westerns that he's loved all his life. His homage involves taking some Italian dishes and giving them a Western spin, including GRILLING spaghetti. THIS, I have to see.
MC cuts 1 pound of bacon into lardons. He's making a kind of sofrito base. "The ORDER your ingredients go in is as important as what your ingredients are." I couldn't have said it any better myself. In fact, I recently ranted about that. Michael adds some olive oil to the pan, so the bacon doesn't stick. While that's cooking, he chops his vegetables to show us the most time-efficient way to do stuff. That's just one reason he can be called chef.
Garlic goes in first to get lightly browned. Make sure you keep a good watch on that, because it can burn in an instant, bitter-izing the entire dish. Then he adds his onions, celery and carrots to the bacon and, lastly, rosemary, so that it gets "cooked in" with the vegetables. THIS is the order he's talking about.
He stirs the pot, telling us to use a little bit of shoulder and a little bit of elbow "to really get down into the pot with your wooden spoon“. He stirs vigorously to get all the brown bits off the bottom. He cooks it 6 to 7 minutes until the veggies are light brown and adds 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar and a little glass of Chianti to make an agridulce sauce. He boils away the wine until “just its bare essence is left. (Plus) the acid of the vinegar and wine has cleaned the bottom of the pan.”
Michael adds tomato paste, which he tells us is tomato juice, which has had all its liquid removed, and stirs for a minute. Then he adds a can of chipotle chilies (smoked jalapenos in adobo sauce) and chopped tomatoes in their own juice. (Never buy tomatoes in purée, he advises us. It's too sweet.) He adds salt and pepper and cooks the sauce for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
For the meatballs, he places 1 pound of ground sirloin in a bowl. He adds chopped onion and garlic (from his choppie chop). The other ingredients for the meatballs make up a long list: oregano, dry breadcrumbs, egg, a dash of woooshie sauce (just kidding, but he did stumble on the pronunciation a bit) plus salt, pepper, parsley and basil, which has also been choppie-chopped.
Wait, he’s not done yet. A couple tablespoons of Parmesan go in. His secret ingredient is a half cup of cold water to keep the meatballs moist. (I use ketchup in mine for that.) He squishes all the ingredients together. “Here’s the big controversy. Do you fry them or boil them?” Oh my, I didn’t know THAT was even an issue.
Remember when I ripped into Rachael for lazily throwing her meatballs into the sauce without browning them first? Well, my, gosh, is it possible?…Could it be?…Was I wrong to malign RR? MC says that he doesn’t brown his either. He POACHES them…in water. Huh??! Whah? Never heard of that.
You know, there’s stuff I know, a lot of stuff, but there is also stuff I don’t know and I will never pretend to know something I don’t. THIS I’ve never heard of. THAT’S the reason I like to watch the Food Network in the first place - to learn something new - which IS becoming much rarer these days.
Okay, back to the action. Michael pours water into a wide sauté pan and brings it to a simmer. He wets his hands well and forms large meatballs. He places them in the barely simmering water. They steam for 30 to 35 minutes. How do I feel about this? I am not so sure. I trust MC, of course, his cooking is unimpeachable, but STEAMING meatballs???
We come back from a break to see a gorgeous horse being saddled. Saddle ‘em up, Michael! Oh, it’s woman…A pretty one.
Michael starts preparing the corn dish. He places an ear of corn in the center of a bundt pan and cuts off the kernels, letting them fall into the pan. Very clever. He minces half a Serrano chili, seeds and all. Hey, lookie here! (Not to sound like Ingrid.) Michael is chopping his garlic clove the way you classically chop an onion. His masterful horizontal, then vertical slicing results in a tiny perfect dice. I never thought of doing it that way.
I must say, I almost always use a garlic press and I also remove the green stem. Old wives tell us that that is the indigestible part of the garlic clove.
Michael puts some extra virgin olive oil in a pan. He adds the garlic. He tells us to tilt the pan bringing all the oil to the edge, so the garlic cooks in a kind of bath of oil. This prevents it from burning. So clever.
Next the chilies go in, then the ears of corn. He shakey shakes the pan. Do it, Michael! (He’s the best tosser of ingredients in a sauté pan on the FN). He adds salt and pepper. HEY! INGRID! He’s seasoning his layers. Watch and learn!
He adds 2 cups of tomato puree. No spoon for him…just shakey shake.
Michael tells us about a quick way to roast garlic. He puts 10 cloves of garlic in a little frying pan with ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil. He turns the heat to high and when the garlic begins to bubble, he turns it down. The cloves get turned once and cooked low and slow for 7 or 8 minutes.
The meatballs look exactly how you think steamed meatballs would look: grey and institutional. But the sauce is SO robust, it just may be ok.
He puts the corn in a Le Creuset type pan, so it can be kept hot on the grill. He adds butter and chives to the top and will stir them in just before serving.
The meatball water (ewww!) goes into the sauce to thin it a bit. MC places the meatballs in another Le Creuset pot and pours the smoky pasta sauce over. While he boils the pasta, he removes the roasting garlic from the pan. He smashes it in a mortar and pestle with salt and pepper and the rosemary that he rescued from the garlic pan. He beats in one stick of unsalted butter to finish up the garlic butter.
Michael cuts a baguette in half lengthwise. He drizzles the bread with the oil left in the garlic pan. Yum! Then he spreads over the garlic butter AND THEN he sprinkles over ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. He puts it back together. “That’s a manwich.” Right you are, Michael. He wraps the whole thing in foil.
We come back to Michael riding his horse with some babe and a really cute dog. Oh, he tells us it’s his friend, Janet Trefethen. Trefethen is the winery where he tapes his shows. “She’s the fifth in the world on 3rd year cutting horses.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds impressive.
Michael has brought everything out to the grill. The spaghetti is cooked half-way and tossed with some olive oil. He places it on a grill pan on the barbecue and actually cooks it on the grill for 3 or 4 minutes.
Janet leads the horse over. Michael says to think of the spaghetti like fried Chinese noodles - brown, crispy and smoky. Okay, I get what he’s after now. He places the spaghetti in a bowl and ladles some sauce and meatballs over, mixing well. “Anyone can WATCH a spaghetti western, we wanted to see if we could actually cook one,” he explains to Janet.
She pours the Trefethen Merlot. It looks like a 2003. (I saw the bottle…I couldn’t tell when they poured it, for goodness sake.) He adds a little Parmesan on top, serves Janet the Western Spaghetti, corn and garlic bread and they enjoy a great lunch, inches from their horses, vineyards and the beautiful landscape of Napa.