Herbs de Provence Crackers

  
Crackers?  I never really considered making them myself since I have a pretty mean addiction to cheezits.  I came across this recipe for Sourdough Crackers over at King Arthur Flour when I was looking for ideas for my starter.  The ingredients were pretty minimal and I’d never made crackers before…so, why not?

 

  
I grabbed the ingredients and then pondered herbs.  Oregano? Rosemary?  Then I found this jar of Herbs de Provence–something I hardly ever use.  The topping called for sea salt or kosher salt but since I was feeling FANCEE, I grabbed my jar of Fleur de Sel salt.

  
The dough was incredibly easy to bring together and, after a rest in the fridge, rolled out easily.  I was skeptical I’d be able to roll a wheat dough out so thinly since my usual sourdough bread doughs are so stretchy and elastic.  This dough rolled out in a jiff and I set to work brushing it with olive oil, sprinkling on the salt and cutting it into squares.  The last step was to prick the crackers with the tines of a fork but, next time, I’ll do this before cutting.  My fork kept grabbing the dough squares and lifting them off the parchment.

  
Baking them was…interesting.  The edge crackers brown well before the center ones are done.  I found myself removing the pans and pulling off the outer ring a couple of times.  It made the bake time longer with so many interruptions but if I had left them all in until the centers were done, the edges would have been inedible.

  
These are quite delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Nice and crisp and a great way to use up some herbs (and sourdough starter) that otherwise would either be discarded or languish until expired.  I could see these being  a regular thing around here with different herbs mixed in.  I bet this dough would make excellent long thin crispy breadsticks for pairing with italian meals.

 

Fancee Crackers

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup unfed sourdough starter (mine happened to be fed and they still turned out fine)

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence or other dried herbs

olive oil for brushing

Fleur de Sel or other coarse salt–about a tablespoon

Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and optional herbs to make a smooth(not sticky), cohesive dough.  I ended up adding about an extra tablespoon of flour to get mine to the non-sticky stage. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares and prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Bake the crackers for about 20 minutes, until the squares are starting to brown around the edges.  I checked mine at 18 minutes and started removing outside crackers every minute or so until the interior crackers were finished.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Spicy Meatballs

Meatballs.

Meatballs

MEATBALLS.

Meatballs are something I only really came around to later in life when I married Mr. Piehole. I was a seriously picky eater and since I didn’t really know what was in them, I just opted out. Plain spaghetti with red sauce for me.

Meatballs are now often one of the first things I can make from ingredients from the garden. Before any of the other vegetables are ready, I can steal enough herbs from the small plants to make up a batch.

Herbs

I don’t always use the same herbs since it depends on how my plants are doing. Its always some kind of basil, lots of oregano (I used two kinds here–greek and italian), thyme, and a new “globe basil” I am trying for the first time this year.

I follow a pretty classic meatball method: breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, and a little milk.

bowl

Mix all of this up first so you don’t have to overwork the meat. I use a 90% or so beef for mine. Sometimes I use ground pork or veal mixed in. I had ground beef to use up, so today it was 100% beef.

Raw Balls

Shape them into balls–either small or large–your preference. These are about golf ball sized.

Browning

Brown ’em up! Nothing beats cast iron here. NOTHING. You just can’t convince me that your oven browned meatballs are better. Brown them in a skillet. It’s worth the time and extra dirty pan. Singing “On Top of Spaghetti” is optional but encouraged.

If I make small meatballs, I usually don’t put them in the oven since the browning stage cooks them through but the big guys go in the oven for a few minutes until they reach about 155 degrees.

In sauce

Time for a swim! I nestle mine in the sauce while my pasta is cooking.

finished

Dive in! I’m not a purist when it comes to pasta shape, clearly. If you must have spaghetti, then go for it. I usually opt for ziti or penne.

Spicy Meatballs
Makes about 18-20 large meatballs

2 pounds of ground meat. All beef or a mix of your choice.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
A mix of herbs. I end up with maybe 1/3-1/2 of a cup chopped
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
salt and pepper
(coconut oil for the pan)

Preheat oven to 350-400.

Mix everything except the meat together in a large bowl. Add the meat and combine, taking care to not overwork the meatballs.

Shape into golfball sized meatballs and brown over medium-high heat. I like to use coconut oil here since it has a high smoke point but vegetable oil or bacon fat would also work. You’ll need to do a few batches to give the meatballs room in the pan. Don’t futz with the meatballs at this point or they will stick a little. Once they brown, they will release from the pan. Do your best to brown on as many sides as possible.

Stick them on a sheet pan (if you line it with parchment, it will be super easy to clean up!) and put them in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 155-160. They will still be slightly pink in the middle.

Either add them to the sauce or put them directly onto the pasta and top with sauce.