Friday, February 19, 2010

Swedish meatballs

Pardon my French, but what in H-E-double-hockey-sticks is wrong with recipe writers?

Yesterday I had a craving for Swedish meatballs.

I've been watching a lot of Winter Olympics cross-country skiing and while I feel a little sorry for the hapless Norwegians and their maddeningly inferior waxes, those crazy Swedes and their rhythmic, hypnotic, ponderous crab walks have swept me off my feet!

So, I went to my favorite online recipe source for Alton Brown's Swedish meatballs recipe. As always, I got sucked in by the relative simplicity of the recipe and the claim of convenience that it would only take me thirty minutes to prepare.

Oh, puh-leeze!

Having undertaken many previous cooking odysseys by the absurd assertions of ease of preparation you'd think I would know better.

It's not Chef Brown's fault, of course, that the blade in our food chopper is mangled and I had to finely chop the onion by hand but that, alone, took ten minutes. And even if it hadn't, even if I was as fast with a knife as a Benihana cook carving a chicken, you will notice that Master Brown's directions say nothing at all about the need to actually CHOP the onion. It simply and blithely says to ADD it to the pan.

Aha! Now I understand!

As a wordsmith it kills me to do this but I now must validate a superfluous and redundant (and repetitious) phrase that turns people like me frigid with contempt: PRE-PLANNING!

In order to prepare food in the length of time promised by the recipe you have to get all your ingredients at the line, in the starting blocks, before you pull the trigger on the clock.

The good master directs me to weigh and shape the meatballs by hand... mention of how long that should take, so let me tell you: fifteen minutes! Maybe you're faster than I am. Maybe you're less persnickety about perfection of size and uniformity in shape. Good for you. It will still take you ten minutes to shape 30 meatballs by hand.

Then, you can simply ADD the meatballs to your chopped onions, which are happily "sweating" in a pan with clarified butter.

Now, there's nothing I dislike more than people who gripe about things without offering solutions, so here's mine.

I propose the following example be adopted as the standard guideline for all future publications of recipes:

Cooking time: 25 minutes.

Alton Brown's prep time: 30 minutes.

Your prep time: one hour.

Your prep time if your food chopper is broken: one hour, 10 minutes.

Your prep time if your spice cupboard is disorganized: one hour, 15 minutes.

Your prep time if you have to go next door to borrow nutmeg and/or allspice: one hour, 30 minutes. (Add 15 minutes for excessively chatty neighbor.)

Your prep time if you don't have a fancy, expensive KitchenAid
® stand mixer: one hour, 50 minutes.

Your prep time if you have to Google "clarified butter:" one hour, 55 minutes.

Your prep time if you this particular meal was a spontaneous decision rather than planned and you don't typically keep heavy cream in your fridge, so you have to "run up to the store" and get some:
two hours, 30 minutes.

Your prep time if you're a big believer in "cleaning as you go:"
three hours.

Speaking of go, I must. The curling semi-finals are about to begin and I'm getting a hankering for some nice Schweinemedallionen mit Spatzle.

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