My cousin Chris is a very competitive person. I'm probably one of the few people who can match her intensity when challenged. A few years ago, she claimed she made the best fried chicken. Gauntlet thrown. The Great Fried Chicken Throwdown was on!
I will confess now that prior to this challenge, I had never made fried chicken. But I couldn't let that stop me. Fire up the computer, look up world-class fried chicken, and learn the techniques. Buttermilk. That's the key. Marinate overnight in buttermilk and Frank's Hot Sauce. Everything is better with a little Frank's.
The day arrived and we set up in my kitchen. She was pissed because I actually went out and bought a deep fat fryer. When it comes to beating my cousin, I will spare no expense. I did let her use my deep, cast-iron frying pan, however, so I thought we were even.
With the judges assembled in the dining room, we served our fried chicken and waited for the judgment. I have to admit hers looked pretty good, but mine was crunchier. Clearly, the fryer had been worth the investment.
Finally, the judges announced their decision—I was the winning chef. Victory is mine! I suppose it would only be fair to tell you that she used nutmeg to season her skin … and failed to check the expiration date on the nutmeg. It had expired five years earlier. Five years! Didn't matter though; I won and I didn't care how.
Chris hates to lose almost as much as I do, so she immediately challenged me to a Meatball Throwdown. She claims to have the best meatball recipe in the world (except that I found out that it isn't hers; it's her sister Leslie's). No matter, I'll still kick her butt.
The Meatball Throwdown hasn't happened yet but, when it does, I'll let you know who wins. In the meantime, I'm going to reveal my secret meatball recipe and hope she doesn't read this blog (Chris, if you’re reading this, you can stop right now).
I want my meatballs to be soft, juicy, and full of incredible flavor. What ingredient could possibly achieve that better than good old bacon?
So, I take a pound of 80/20 ground beef, half a pound of ground pork, and half a pound of ground veal, and then I add bacon. I grind up about ¾ of a pound of bacon in the food processor and then add garlic and onions until I get a nice bacon paste. Add a couple of eggs, some panko breadcrumbs, and your herbs of choice, and you've got a winner. Roll them into one-inch balls, brown them in a cast-iron pan, and then throw them in the oven and bake them at 350° for about twenty minutes to finish them off. Light, juicy, and full of dripping fat and goodness, these meatballs will change your life.
If you want them Italian, add oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary. If you're feeling adventurous and want to go Moroccan or even Indian, use turmeric, coriander, and cumin for seasoning. Mexican? Lots of spicy peppers and cheese. For Greek, add some mint.
I know that when the challenge happens, I'm going to destroy her again. It's fine that I've disclosed one of my meatball secrets because I have others just waiting to enter the fray. How about a dessert meatball? I'm thinking pork with apple and an apple pepper jelly glaze.