Friday, September 18, 2009

Kitchen Klutz: Look out! It's raining pasta

By Michèle De Meglio

In honor of the September 18th release of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” — which is based on my all-time favorite children’s book about a town where food magically falls from the sky — I tried my klutzy hand at spaghetti and meatballs.

In the land of Chewandswallow, residents simply hold their empty plates out to the heavens and yummy goodies trickle down. But here in Brooklyn, I gotta work for my grub.

Making the pasta was relatively simple — boil water, add angel hair, cook until soft.

For the sauce, I lazily heated up some marinara from a jar. Now now, don’t shame me. It would’ve been too much work to make meatballs, pasta and sauce from scratch. Remember, I am a completely clueless cook.

Then it was time for the main attraction — meatballs.

Following my mother’s recipe, I dumped chopped meat into a mixing bowl and formed a well in the middle of the sticky mess. To that I added an egg, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.

This is the part that’s super disgusting. I had to use my hands to mash all the ingredients together. There’s only one word that could describe the feeling of molding mushy raw meat with my fingers — yuck!

As I suffered in silence, actually I whined a bit, I formed small balls and set them aside on a plate.

The next step required coating a frying pan with olive oil and placing it on a medium heat. I knew this was going to be a terrible experience when a stream of oil shot up two feet in the air before a meatball ever touched the pan. Geez!

Putting on a brave face, I grabbed my tongs and placed the meatballs in the pan.

Immediately the meat started screaming. Yes, screaming! The sizzling was so loud I can’t describe it any other way. As I attempted to turn the balls, thereby browning each side, hot oil splashed at me like daggers hitting my skin.

The splatter (and my own screams of agony) became so unbearable that I donned a rubber glove usually reserved for cleaning dirty dishes, wrapped my forearm in a dish towel and secured the makeshift armor with a hair elastic. This is nuts! I need a bulletproof vest to cook!

The meatballs were well done. Seriously well done. Actually, completely and utterly disintegrated.

The inside of the meatballs was right on the border of really well done and overcooked. That means somewhat edible in my book.

As for the outer shell, it was a rock. I managed to force it open with a steak knife but there was no joy in eating the brick.

Oh, I also overcooked the spaghetti. I think I’d be very happy living in Chewandswallow.

Kitchen Klutz follows 20-something Michèle De Meglio as she burns casseroles and her fingers, all in hope of trading frozen dinners for home cooking.

(Cloudy with a chance of) Meatballs

1/2 lb. chopped meat
1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup breadcrumbs


Put chopped meat in a mixing bowl and mold into a well. Add remaining ingredients to well and mix with hands. Form mixture into balls about two inches in diameter. Coat a frying pan with olive oil, about 1/4 inch thick. On medium heat, add meatballs and brown on all sides. Switch to low heat and cover pan. Continue to turn meatballs until cooked inside, approximately five minutes.


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