Thursday, September 10, 2009

- Meatballs and Spinach Hockey Pucks

By all rights, I should put the product back on the shelf with an ingredient list like this:

Unbromated Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Unbromated Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat Flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Contains 2 percent or Less of: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Unsulphured Molasses, Yeast, Spices, Onion Powder, Nonfat Milk, Calcium Propionate (to Retard Spoilage), Buttermilk, Wheat Gluten, Crushed Wheat, Citric Acid, Parsley, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Sugar, Monoglyceride, Honey, Butter, Vegetable Oils (Canola, Soybean and/or Sunflower), Raisin Juice Concentrate, Soy Fiber, Vinegar, Whole Wheat Flakes, Spent Wheat (Wheat Bran, Wheat Protein, Maltodextrin), Potato Flour, Wheat Bran, Datem (Dough Conditioner), Unbleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley, Calcium Carbonate, Enzyme Modified Soy Lecithin, Cultured Whey, Degerminated White Corn Flour, Soy Flour, Guar Gum, Wheat Starch, Lactic Acid, Enzymes and Soy Lecithin.

I mean, what is this stuff? Trouble is, I love the taste of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing, made by a company which was, irony of ironies, founded by a woman who learned to bake bread because of the “severe allergies and asthma of [her] youngest son, whose condition made him unable to eat most commercially processed foods,” to quote the Pepperidge Farm website.

How did it get this crazy? I know I’ve mentioned Michael Pollan before, but his message bears repeating. And he’s put an interesting twist on that message in today’s New York Times op-ed piece. Take a look, then come on back.

Because the truth is I’m gonna keep using Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing ... it tastes that good. It makes the best filler for meatballs and meatloaf I’ve ever used, and crushed in the food processor the crumbs are unbelievably good as a coating for homemade chicken fingers.

However, it reaches its finest expression as a star ingredient in Spinach Hockey Pucks, so dubbed by a disdainful guest at the annual Laroche tree-trimming party (pictures pending) who had seen one too many spinach balls. But not these spinach balls. One taste and he was converted. Spinach Hockey Pucks became a holiday tradition, a non-negotiable must-bring requirement for entrance at subsequent tree-trimming parties. Try them for yourself. Maybe you’ll become a convert, too. And if not, you can always use the leftover stuffing mix for meatballs and chicken fingers.

Meatballs (makes a ton to freeze for future meals)

1 lb. ground veal
2 lbs. ground pork
3 eggs
1 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 Tb. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup freshly shredded parmigiano reggiano

Lightly knead together by hand in a large glass casserole dish (take off your rings first!). Roll into meatballs (or be lazy like me and make them into small patties, which are easier to flip in the pan). Fry in good quality olive oil (I know, they say it doesn't matter, but it does, it does ... I love Central Market Arbosana olive oil, btw). If you make patties, 2 minutes per side will ensure a good crust, but leave the inside par-cooked so that you can reheat the meatballs in sauce without getting tough). Drain on paper towels and freeze for future meals.

Spinach Hockey Pucks (there won't be any leftovers if you take these to a party)

2 boxes frozen chopped spinach
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick melted butter
½ cup coarse grated Parmesan
2 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 small onion, coarse grated
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and coarse grated
4 slices dry-cured bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook the spinach according to package directions, but be careful not to overcook … you want some texture. Squeeze out the excess water and combine with the other ingredients. Shape into walnut sized balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 or until firm and lightly browned on the bottom.