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The Rewards Of Cooking Meatballs

As mundane as it might seem, cooking meatballs can make you a celebrity. Just about everyone loves them, and if you put a little extra effort into making them, your meatballs may become famous far and wide. In fact, there’s something special about Swedish meatballs. Just the mention of them will make mouths water, and if you’re not careful, friends will be inviting themselves over to dinner if they know you’re planning to prepare and serve them.

The meatball is a rather humble thing, consisting of ground meat and some bread crumbs and perhaps a few spices, or bits of onion. They really don’t have to be fancy. Most people enjoy the most basic meatballs one can cook. Sliced, they’re even great in sandwiches. Of course a little gravy can make a big difference, and should be on the table whenever meatballs are served.

If you’re planning on cooking meatballs for the first time, here’s a very basic recipe. It was mentioned above that a meatball was basically ground meat, breadcrumbs, and some onion. There’s a little more to it, though not all that much.

The Basic Ingredients – Start with 2 pounds of ground meat. Beef is usually used, but you can use most any meat. Elk, venison, bison, moose, and veal are all great. You can even make fish balls if you wish, but let’s stick to meat to begin with, and you can’t go wrong with ground beef. Don’t use too lean a beef or your end product may seem a bit dry. Use ground meat that has a little fat to it.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl, add a cup of chopped onion, 1/4 cup of milk, and a large egg. Sprinkle in 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs, seasoned ones will be best. Add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt and pepper. Some like to add a tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil to the mix.

This is your basic mixture. If you want to experiment at this stage, try adding some chopped garlic or other herbs, or you can wait until you see how your “basic” meatballs have turned out before getting too fancy. With all the ingredients in the mixing bowl, start slowly mixing it all together. A wooden spoon somehow seems proper, but any utensil that will do a good job is fine.

Forming And Baking – When it’s all mixed together, take out a spoonful at a time. The size of the spoon is only important in terms of the size of the meatball you want. Swedish meatballs are generally fairly small, and bite-sized meatballs seem to have the greatest appeal to many. Anyway, take the spoonful of mixture and form a round meatball with it. Either wear gloves or wash your hands first, as the easiest way to form a meatball is by rolling the mixture between the palms of your hands.

Arrange your little round creations on a greased baking pan, stick them in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees), and bake them until they turn golden brown, which usually takes about 20 minutes.

You can serve the meatballs right out of the oven, or if you want, serve them in a soup or stew. If you do this, it’s best to sauté them first to form a crust, so they don’t fall apart. Assuming your initial attempt at cooking meatballs was a great success, and it’s admittedly a little difficult to ruin them, try adding nutmeg, oregano, parsley, or Parmesan cheese to the mixture the next time around.

Swedish Meatballs – If you want to give Swedish meatballs a try, the major differences are that Swedish meatballs usually contain about 4 tablespoons of butter to two pounds of meat, and are often made with moose meat (called elk in Sweden). The sauce is a little special too. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, get a couple of pounds, frozen, at IKEA, and you’ll soon understand the Swedish meatball’s popularity.


Cooking Halibut: Spicing up Your Seafood

Are you a weekend top chef looking for tips for cooking halibut? You have come to the right place. Not only will you get tips on ways to cook and serve this delicious white fish, you will also learn how to make your dish a stand-out experience for your guests.

Getting to Know Your Halibut

Halibut is a truly versatile whitefish and the fact that is has a mild flavor makes it a great candidate for experimenting in different recipes. The fish is best described as white and flaky and cooks should note that the fish has little oil in it. When choosing your halibut, be aware that there is the Pacific and Atlantic halibut and each have a slightly distinctive flavor. You may want to experiment ahead of time with the two types before you decide which one to serve to company. Halibut’s relatively mild flavor makes it a great substitute for flounder or tilapia as well.

For those who do not go out and catch their own fish, it is a delight that halibut is widely available today and is sold whole, as fillets and steaks. Here are a few guidelines for how to choose your meat. The meat of the larger fish tend to be coarse and the chicken halibut, which is the smaller fish, is considered the best for cooking. Look for halibut which has glossy, white and translucent-looking flesh. It is best to avoid discolored or dull halibut. As this is a fish that has a minimal amount of smell, if you find halibut with a strong odor it is best avoided. The other thing to watch out for in the store is getting stuck with dried out fish.

You can store large halibut sections for three days in the refrigerator and keep fillets for 2 days. It is best to use the fish at the earliest possible.

Styles of Cooking Halibut

Before we talk about the different styles of cooking this fish there are a couple of general reminders:

Halibut is a relatively dry fish and so you should watch out for this, whichever style you choose, and supplement with olive oil or butter as needed.

The other critical thing is to wash and clean the fish under cold running water before you start cooking it. Make sure you pat the fish dry with a paper towel – this way you will have a clean fish and not a soggy fish.

If you choose to marinade the fish it is a good idea to use a mild marinade that will not overwhelm the flavor of the fish. Strongly acidic marinades are known to damage the meat and leave it in a mushy state.

Grilling: As halibut is a fish with little oil, grilling takes some attention. It is a good idea to clean and oil the grate before you put the steaks down. Also make sure to brush oil or butter on the fish itself or you can try using a marinade. As a rough guideline it takes about 10 minutes to grill a piece of meat that is one inch thick over a medium high heat. Adjust the time of the grilling depending on the thickness of each section. It is best to turn the meat only once to prevent it from falling apart over the grill or while serving. It is actually a good idea to use a fish basket for grilling the halibut if you are uncomfortable with using excessive oil on the grate. While you will still need to lubricate, it may take lesser amounts.

Baking: This is an easy way to cook halibut. All it takes is greasing a casserole dish and putting in your seasoned halibut. You should remember to brush oil on the fish also. It will take about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. It is a good idea to baste the dish with oil half-way through the baking.

Broiling: This makes for an interesting texture and taste to the halibut. Preheat the broiler and prepare the broiler pan by applying oil on it. Again remember to brush the fish with oil or butter. Gourmet chefs suggest that the pan be placed about 3-4 inches from the top and that the fish be allowed to cook for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. It is also a good idea to turn the halibut at a mid-way point and to add a little more oil.

Deep-frying: This is a less healthy way of serving the halibut but as the fish tastes great fried. It is a good idea to dip it in a batter and then to fry it in oil at 375 degrees until the pieces are golden brown. Make sure that the halibut is cut into manageable chunks that are not too thick or thin. Beer batter is considered particularly good for deep frying halibut.

Pan searing: This is a via media way of cooking halibut in which you avoid deep frying and yet get some of the benefits of sautéing it in oil. And there is also the choice of completely pan searing it or removing it from the fire at the half way point and baking it in the oven to cook it through. This will give it an interesting texture and still keep it relative easy.

Have fun figuring out which of these methods brings out the best in the halibut!