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Holidays call for meatballs in some circles, and why not?

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I noticed that the Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, makes meatballs every year along with her mother-in-law, who lives next door. If you follow this television program, you know that Theresa is not an enthusiastic cook, to put it diplomatically. But she does have a friendly meatball cook-off with her in-laws, which seems to be a family custom.

Theresa takes a simple approach to meatballs, concluding logically that they should be made of meat. By that I mean that she does not customarily add bread crumbs or beaten egg. I would advise her to do so, though, because the purpose of bread crumbs in meatloaf or meatballs is to soak up some of the meat juices. The egg acts as an agent to hold either preparation together.

Skipping these ingredients will result in meatballs that can become tough with long cooking, much as you would get if you rolled up ground beef into little balls without any additions. The vegetables and seasoning really are there just for the flavor, not the texture. So if you want to make some meatballs for appetizers or an easy main dish on New Year's Eve--because you can make them the day before and hold them in the fridge--try these for something comforting while you count down to midnight.

MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk or beef broth
2 pounds ground beef
1 large egg, at room temperature, slightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
2 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil
Pinch of poultry, Italian or Greek seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk or broth (if you go dairy free) until it is absorbed, about five minutes. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, onion and carrot in a large skillet. Saute the mixture until the vegetables have softened.

Place the vegetables in a mixing bowl with the beef, egg, parsley and poultry seasoning. Mix lightly but thoroughly, preferably with a mixing fork rather than your hands. Finally add the moist bread crumbs and mix completely. Form the meat mixture into meatballs about the size of half a hamburger.

Return the meatballs to the skillet and brown them on all sides. Transfer them to a baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Serve hot with mashed potatoes or noodles.

A salad would be a good accompaniment to this hot dish, along with a light red wine. Dessert could be delayed in order to give everyone something to do between dinner and midnight, and the more festive the better on this party night.

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