Friday, 7 October 2016

French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs

I'm starting to "winterize". 

The perennials are starting to turn brown and get cut back.  The oil in the lawnmower is changed.  I got the dirt in the backyard garden turned up and two ugly plants removed.  And then.  There was the snowblower debacle.

The snowblower was purchased in February of 2011 after a ridiculous amount of snowfall in the few months leading up to "the last straw".  The snow was over my head on the lawn!  So, the snowblower came into my life.  And - well.  I just got around to changing the oil in it - this year.  Oops.

Being an individual of somewhat handy means, I checked the instructions and proceeded.  The oil drains from a pipe that about 5 inches long and has a cap on it.  I was unscrewing the cap and it seemed to be taking an amazingly long time.  But I persevered and suddenly, the drain pipe falls COMPLETELY off the snowblower (into the pan I was using to catch the oil), and oil starts going EVERYWHERE.  Ugh. 

So I slammed the pipe back into the machine and screwed it into place.  For whatever reason, the cap was completely stuck in place and I needed to use a pair of vice-grips to hold the drain pipe still while unscrewing the cap. 

Tip from me to you.  Kitty litter will soak up oil like nobody's business.  It's amazing.

Then, after letting the machine sit for a few days to see if the drain pipe was set properly and the cap was tight, I went ahead with starting the stupid thing to see if it would leak when it pressured up.

I hit the primer button, the tilted the machine to roll it closer to the open door so that I wouldn't suffocate and gas dripped on the floor.  So I pressed the primer button a few mores times and MORE GAS leaked out.  Naturally, I needed to rip the thing apart to find out if a piece of tubing had blown apart.

After monkeying around for a little while (and basically emptying the fuel tank into a Ziploc bag), I gave up and headed inside.  After a little bit of research, I discovered that "over-priming" causes the carburetor to over fill and spill over. 

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the snowblower.  Since then, I've moved it around, started it up, and let all the parts move.  With no problems at all.

Tip from me to you.  Research before ripping apart a machine. 

And with that.  The winterizing continues.  Gardens are being cut down, tulips are being planted for the spring.  The garage is getting cleaned out.  I'm surprisingly busy!

So - with the winterizing in progress, it is with just the slightest chagrin that I'm going to slightly switch gears from the summery fun of BBQ to more..... wintery type of meals.

But though the snow and cold is coming to stay - there is totally nothing wrong with the deliciousness that I'm about to share with you.

These French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs are beyond unbelievable.  Caramelizing the onions and stuffing the meatballs is somewhat time-consuming - but WORTH IT.

So let's start with the onions. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add in the onions.  To get them super-even, I used my mandolin.  But if you have killer knife skills and can slice those onions up evenly - knock yourself out.  

Add the salt and pepper.  And then let cook over medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently.  You don't want those babies to burn.

Once the onions are caramelized, add in the thyme and cook for another minute or two.

Then add in the red wine.

And add the beef broth.

Stir to coat the onions and cook until the liquid is nearly reduced.

In a medium bowl, combine the beef.

And the bread crumbs.

And the parsley and egg.

Salt and pepper.  And combine.

Cut (about) 2 ounces of mozzarella into half-inch cubes.

Divide the beef mixture into sixteen equal-sized pieces.  Flatten each piece into a patty.

Then stuff with a half tablespoon of the caramelized onion.

Then add in a cube of mozzarella.

Wrap the patty around the onions and cheese and seal as much as possible - rolling into a ball.

Then you're going to brown the meatballs in a skillet.  I would absolutely recommend being lazy and using the skillet that you caramelized the onions in. 

Next is to make the sauce.  Combine beef broth, red wine, and cornstarch and whisk together.

Now.  If you're lucky enough to be using an oven-safe skillet, pour the sauce over the meatballs in the skillet, top with the remaining 6 ounces of cheese, and bake in the oven.

But - if you're like me and you haven't yet acquired a skillet like that, you can transfer the meatballs to a casserole dish, top with the sauce and cheese, and bake in the oven.  I would say that a 7 x 11 inch dish would be just the right size.

Oh, the cheese.  Oh, the meatballs.  Serve them on rice.  Serve them on mashed potatoes.  Top with fresh parsley if you happen to remember.  

But mostly, the glorious, glorious cheese.

The sauce thickened while it was baking, the meatballs came out tender and juicy.  The cheese..  I mean - I'm probably boring you with the cheese business, but if you lust after cheese the way that I do, this meatball dish will be totally perfect for you.

I hope your lawnmower is put away, and your snowblower is all ready for the new winter season.


French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
8 ounces mozzarella cheese (1-2 ounces cut in into sixteen, half-inch cubes, the remaining 6 ounces shredded)
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the 1 Tablespoon oil until it shimmers.  Add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook about 15 - 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently until caramelized.
  2. Add the thyme and cook for an additional 1 - 2 minutes. 
  3. Add the beef broth and red wine.  Stir together.
  4. Cook until liquid is almost cooked away.  Let cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, fresh parsley, salt, pepper, and egg.  Mix to combine.
  6. Divide into 16 equal-sized pieces and flatten into patties.
  7. Place half a Tablespoon of onions and a cube of cheese in the center of each patty.  Roll up the edges, seal as best as you can and roll into a meatball shape.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. Heat the 1/2 Tablespoon oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  Add the meatballs and brown quickly. 
  10. In a small dish, combine the beef broth, red wine, and cornstarch.  Whisk together. 
  11. If the skillet is oven safe, pour the beef broth mixture over the meatballs.  If you are using a casserole dish, transfer the meatballs to the dish and top with the sauce.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes.
  13. Remove the meatballs from the oven and top with the remaining 6 ounces of cheese.  Place back in the oven and back an additional 15 - 20 minutes, until cooked through.  Turn the broiler to high and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until the cheese is browned.
  14. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired) and serve over top of rice or mashed potatoes.

Source:  Cupcakes and Kale Chips

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