The kids over at Three Olives Vodka asked me to remind you that the only cure for too much cheap champagne on New Year's Eve is a healthy, vitamin-rich bloody mary on New Year's Day. If you're so riddled with the jimjams that the noise of a spoon hitting a glass makes you shudder, Three-O Tomato vodka can help you on your way back to a happy, productive life: It's already infused with tomato, pepper, horseradish, and spices. All you need add is lemon and tomato juice, both of which are blessedly silent. I'd pass on the celery stick, though.
My mother never liked to cook, and would much rather have been doing something more pleasurable, like ironing, at which she excelled. I'm sure I was the only kid on the block who started the day wearing underwear still warm from the iron. I'm not casting any aspersions, mind you. Edna worked a full-time job, and cooking was just an added burden, not a pleasure. I'm sure she heaved a great sigh of relief when I was old enough to toast my own damn frozen waffles.
What she did like was pleasing my father. And what he liked, inexplicably, was Spam. He liked it plain, he liked it fried (these days, in Florida, he likes it "lite"). How or when this led to square meatballs, I can only guess, but by the time I was ten , the only meatballs I ate at home were squares of fried Spam, served in Spatini spaghetti sauce. I knew that there were round meatballs out there, big and messy and spicy, but it would be a few years yet before I would be picking at leftovers after school in the kitchens of the Guidarellis and the Ricciardis.
Still...it wasn't all that bad. Could it be updated? Should it be updated? One recent afternoon, looking over the slice of Polish meatloaf I had just bought from the Ukrainian butcher, I decided that it could. Spam comes from SPiced + hAM, which is what Polish meatloaf is, anyway. In homage to my Marine Park roots, I chose to used a jarred sauce from Michael's of Brooklyn, a restaurant located a few blocks from the ancestral home.
Cut the meatloaf into cubes, heated some butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and tossed in the meat. Brown them on all sides, about 10 minutes total (yeah, like anyone is actually going to do this), remove them from the pan and set aside.
More fat, if needed, to fry chopped onions, garlic, shallot until soft and aromatic. Add a large jar of good-quality sauce (Rao's is another favorite of mine), and a very healthy slosh of red wine. Add some oregano, red-pepper flakes, whatever tickles your fancy--this ain't a classic recipe. Simmer until thick.
Add the square meatballs (I think it's fair to call them that at this point) to the sauce and let simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Toss in some chopped parsley and parm. I ladled it over Italian bread,topped with more parm and parsley, but its spiritual home is spaghetti, overcooked for extra authenticity.
Sigmund Pretzel Shop, which I talked about not too long ago, has made it onto my list of happy places; a happy place being defined as a store/restaurant/bar that you know you will leave feeling better than when you walked in. The garlic-parsley pretzel tastes--and-smells--like the sensational spawn of a pretzel and a garlic knot. No excess oil, lots of garlic. I passed on the dip, as the only condiment I could envision with it was marinara.
Another happy place? Yes, Luke's Lobster. Again. I'll keep this brief, for those of you who have heard enough about the crustaceans of East 7th Street for the present. The Maine Man (my husband, not Luke) and I were being a little spitty and hissy about various nothings, when he suggested that we hoof it over to Luke's and have a couple of crab rolls. We opted for shrimp rolls instead, as they were on sale to commemorate the start of Maine shrimp season. I felt we might have been taking a chance, as I hadn't had perfectly sweet, diminutive Maine shrimp in any satisfactory guise since eating a shrimp parfait somewhere in Falmouth Foreside (I once made an unfortunate slip and called it Falmouth Foreplay) in the 1980s.
It was our favorite roll thus far, an exemplar of how little one needs to do to Maine seafood except let its flavors sing out. Parfaits notwithstanding, of course.
A meeting of the denim-and-down convention, otherwise known as my tourist-riddled neighborhood. Some of them were eating slices while waiting; I can only guess they joined the line because there was a line.