Hebrew School


Feed Me Bubbe
October 27, 2008, 10:45 pm
Filed under: ess | Tags: , , , , , ,

With days growing shorter, light going dimmer, and wallets growing thinner, we all seem to be taking more and more of a cue from Cathy, enjoying “not eating out in New York.” It seems like this is my natural tendency when fall comes, not to mention the sorely-awaited prospect of being able to turn on a stove in an un-airconditioned, third-floor apartment.

Bubbe’s sweet and sour meatball recipe (video) was our inspiration. To me, the basic structure of the preparation hit a nostalgic nerve, but with an idiosyncratic twist. And there’s Bubbe, too, a strong and compassionate proponent of Jewish soul food, emphasizing thrift, health, flavor and tradition. Though I can’t help but think that her grandson and his coterie of advertisers have her tied up in some suburban Boston basement, releasing the poor woman every month or so to slave over a hot stove without so much as an electrical appliance. Nonetheless, the recipes are great, and Bubbe gently encourages you along the way, flatly rejecting the notion that there is simply one way to make the food right.

Anyway, the meatball recipe and its odd mixture of ingredients just seemed so patently ridiculous that we had to try it on our own. First, Bubbe has you assemble the meatballs in a manner that mostly transcends ethnicity, though this speaks more to the assimilative process of Ashkenazic Jewish-American cuisine as a whole: ground beef (we used a lean, grass-fed variety), breadcrumbs (fresh, from white bread), an egg, minced onion, spices. Form into balls, brown in a skillet, reduce heat, cover and let cook through.

Then it’s time for the secret ingredients:

That’s right: Grape jelly and chili sauce in equal proportions. We went with the Smuckers Concord grape jelly, which is what Bubbe uses, de-branded, in her video. For chili sauce, we went for some sweet Thai. Amused? Repulsed? Incredulous? So was I.

Combine both in the pan with the meatballs. (This is different from how Bubbe did it.) The jelly and chili sauce melt together, co-mingling with the meatball drippings, to create a deep reddish brown gravy. There’s a little inexplicable magic in this that I can’t quite understand. Perhaps too many novitiates have been studying the kabbalah; I don’t know. A very strange and wonderful synthesis happens:

“9 acres is not an amusement park.”

Coat the meatballs with this juice using the spoon. Cover and simmer some more.

Bubbe suggests serving the meatballs with rice, or in a “sub sandwich,” (or “extra meatballs”), and with no harm intended towards the real genius, we mixed meat and dairy by concocting a fresh tomato and parmesan risotto. I guess we figured that the initial flavor combinations were so bizaare that any futher missteps would simply cancel out. Double transgession theory.

They did.

See Bubbe make the meatballs > >

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ve tasted all kinds of meatballs and believe me, mine are the best kind in every way. They’re out of this world!

Comment by Marv

Grape jelly and chili sauce… I am truly fascinated and would like to try one of those meatballs right now.

I also live in a 3rd floor apartment and cooking during the summer was a sweaty affair. And now that the building has turned on the heat it gets terribly warm in the kitchen. We had maybe a one month window of comfortable kitchen temps. Oh well :)

Comment by vanessa

[…] Feed Me Bubbe October 27, 2008, 10:45 pm Filed under: ess | Tags: bubbe, feed me bubbe, grape jelly, smuckers, chili sauce, risotto, meatballs […]

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