Friday, January 20, 2012

Women In Food ~ Alex Guarnaschelli's Pork Meatballs

Welcome to the first-ever installment of Women In Food!

For centuries the food world has been dominated by men, but that's beginning to change. I have immense respect for the talented women who've made it to the top of the proverbial food chain in today's culinary world.

I hope to be featuring one of these incredible ladies who are boldly and deliciously paving the way for new generations of female chefs, food writers and industry entrepreneurs on a regular basis. The plan is to provide you all with a little background, maybe some video and certainly lots of delicious recipes throughout the series.

(If you'd like to know a little bit more about why it is that I admire these ladies so much, just click HERE)

Update: I've had to put this series on hold for the time being. I'd like to bring it back at some point in the future, when I can give it the attention it deserves.

So, Without further ado, this month's Woman In Food is...

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

Executive Chef:
415 Lafayette Street NY, NY
The Darby
244 W 14th Street NY, NY

Alex's Book


Alex's Pork Meatballs
  • 2 pounds lean ground pork (not too lean), cut from the pork shoulder 
  • Kosher salt 
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes 
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 2/3 cup packed curly parsley with stems, washed, dried and chopped 
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan 
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, toasted 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon for testing 
  • Alex's Mother's Marinara Sauce, recipe follows

Add the meat to a large bowl, spread it out and season with salt, to taste. Add the remaining ingredients leaving the bread crumbs until last. Mix until all the ingredients are combined. Create a small patty and test it in a small saute pan in 1 tablespoon of oil. When browned on both sides, taste and re-season the meat mixture, if needed. Roll the mixture into about 20 to 25 or so balls that are about 2 inches in diameter.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, shut off the heat to avoid splattering, add the meatballs in a single layer and spread them somewhat apart so they have a chance to brown instead of steam. You may need to do this in batches.

Brown the meatballs, over high heat, turning them so they brown all around. Treat them like hamburgers and cook them until they are medium-rare, about 3 to 5 minutes. Touch them to make sure they are still tender in the center. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove them from the pan to a tray and cook off the remaining balls, if needed.

Add the meatballs to the hot tomato sauce and allow them to bubble slightly and simmer over very low heat for a few minutes. Shut off the heat and allow the mixture to rest for a few additional minutes before serving.

Marinara Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled, halved and diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 cups water, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup basil leaves, washed
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, the garlic, red pepper flakes, and sugar and season with salt, to taste. Stir in the carrots and reseason with salt. 

Cook for about 2 minutes, and then add canned tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break up some of the whole tomatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add half of the water to prevent the veggies from getting too dry and continue cooking another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. 

The tomatoes should be fairly broken down and the flavors coming together. Add remaining water, as needed, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. The sauce cooks about as long as it takes to make the meatballs from start to finish, about 45 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves and season with Parmesan.

Alex's Bio:
(courtesy of Food Network)
There are few American chefs, much less female chefs who can boast staying power in Michelin-starred restaurants. Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli can boast indeed — she embarked on a culinary journey in France and ended up working in some of the country’s top restaurants including esteemed chef Guy Savoy’s eponymous three-star kitchen. 

Not surprising for the daughter of esteemed cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli, who spent her childhood surrounded by food. Guarnaschelli learned to eat according to whatever book her mother was working on at the time: one year was devoted to Indian with Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni; another year was devoted to Italian with The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
"My mother was always coaxing me from my ‘Barbie land’ under the dining room table to peel potatoes, knead bread or assemble a trifle,” says Guarnaschelli, who jokingly continues, "what else could a seven-year-old have wanted from life?"
This early emphasis on her palate truly shaped her future in food. On the day of Guarnaschelli’s graduation from Barnard College in 1991, she decided to explore her culinary interests and began working under the tutelage of the acclaimed American chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione.
Forgione encouraged Guarnaschelli to travel and expand her skillset, so she obligingly moved to France to do a work-study at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy. After school and traveling throughout France, she moved to Paris to begin a four day stage at the Michelin three-star restaurant Guy Savoy. Four days turned into four years with Guarnaschelli rapidly being promoted to sous chef at La Butte Chaillot, another Savoy establishment. “The first three months were terrifying — imagine being a young American woman in charge of a French kitchen with 10 young, male cooks under you? Professionally, it was a life-changing experience,” she says.
After seven successful years in France, Guarnaschelli returned stateside. Though she left the country, she maintained her connection with the cuisine, joining the venerable Daniel Boulud at restaurant Daniel, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become sous chef at the Manhattan standard. Always looking to expand her culinary knowledge, Guarnaschelli moved to Los Angeles for two years to join Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group, where she worked at the acclaimed Patina restaurant in West Hollywood before moving to New York to open Splichal's first New York City venture.
In 2003, Guarnaschelli was given the opportunity to expand her repertoire and become the executive chef at Butter Restaurant, where she would create her own eclectic American and green market-inspired menu. In addition to her restaurant work, Guarnaschelli inspires budding chefs as a Chef-Instructor at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Guarnaschelli is also helming the kitchen of the NYC modern dining and cabaret concept, The Darby.
Chef Guarnaschelli has appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America as both a challenger and a judge, a reoccurring judge on the popular primetime series Chopped, along with her own shows, The Cooking Loft, as well as Alex’s Day Off launching in October 2009.

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  1. Oh yum! I love Alex. I enjoy watching her on Chopped as well. I really like the idea of adding sour cream to the mix. I am going to try that the next time I make meatballs!

    1. Hi Diann! I think Alex is one of the better judges on Chopped. She's honest, but she's fair and not at all arrogant when giving her critiques. The sour cream is what put it over the edge for me!

  2. I make pork and turkey meatballs, but these look amazing. I am a fan of Alex too!

    1. I generally use pork, beef and veal in my meatballs, so I'm curious to see how they'll be with just the pork. Adding pork to turkey sounds like a great way to add a little moisture and extra flavor to such a lean meat. Great idea!

  3. Hi Mary! Thanks again for stopping by. I don't use ground pork enough. I love it. I'm your newest follower. Loving your blog.

    PS I have a linky party every Thursday called "Thriving on Thursdays" and I'd love for you to stop by and link up some of your recipes.

    Anne @ Domesblissity

    1. Thank you, Anne. It was my pleasure! I'd love to link up with Thriving on Thursdays. Thanks for the invite!

  4. You wouldn't think, these days, that it would still be tough for a woman in the culinary world; but you'd be wrong, unfortunately. More power to the ones who shine!!!

    1. I totally agree Mary. It shouldn't be as difficult for women to break through those barriers in the world we live in today. I hate to come across as some uber feminist (which I'm not) but it's time for a change and I'm 100% behind these amazing women who won't take no for an answer.

  5. Chopped is one of my favorite shows. I love that you are featuring women. I noticed that the women are usually chopped first. Alex is fantastic.

    1. Hi Dree! Thanks for stopping by! I think you're right. I don't watch Chopped every week, but I have noticed that the women seem to get chopped faster than the men. I'm sure there are men who would think we were biased, but I'd love to see the stats on that!


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