I told Gil I’d make him meatballs for his birthday. His 60th. I assembled the beef, the pork, the eggs, the breadcrumbs. Plenty of cheese.
I was making the same meatballs I always make, from the delectable recipe served at Patsy’s restaurant on 56th Street in Manhattan. Frank Sinatra’s favorite joint.
That was a man who knew how to age gracefully. (Maybe eating Patsy’s meatballs helped?)
So does Gil. He said he’d take part in the meatballs’ production, though he had other things he could have been doing this afternoon. I showed him how you roll the meat in a pile of breadcrumbs. Good breadcrumbs. The better the quality, the better anything you make with them.
I asked Gil how it felt to be almost 60. “Quoting Danny Aiello in Once Around,” he said, “just when you feel like putting a gun in your mouth everybody wants to come over and celebrate.”
Mortality on your mind? I went on scooping meat. An ice cream scoop cures a myriad of cooking ills. The right size works for cookies and meatballs alike.
“No,” he said, “I don’t really feel like putting a gun in my mouth. But I do feel like quoting Danny Aiello.”
The meatballs sizzled in hot oil. We split a few open and almost burnt our mouths stealing a savory bite.
“How does it really feel,” I persisted.
“It feels great,” he said. “Everyone’s telling me I look 50.”
Gil’s had a habit, ever since I’ve known him (that’s about 20 hundred years now) of doing kitchen work with a towel slung over his shoulder. “No woman ever shot a man who was doing dishes,” Gil says. Now he’s of a certain age, he could give husband-ing lessons to the younger generation. Love and marriage, love and marriage…
We play Ry Cooder’s One Meatball — he couldn’t afford but one meatball — and toast the perfect specimen with cider.
Gil’s someday epitaph: He chopped the onions for his own birthday meatballs.
Patsy’s Meatballs Recipe
Combine ¾ c. breadcrumbs and 6 T. whole milk in a small bowl.
Heat 2 T. oil in a skillet; fry 2 medium onions chopped fine and 6 cloves garlic chopped fine.
In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ lb. ground beef, 1 ½ lb. ground pork, 3 large eggs and 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten, 3 T. chopped parsley, 3 T. chopped oregano, 1 ½ c. grated Parmesan. Salt and pepper. Combine well.
[Now, Patsy’s recipe entails an elaborate method of rolling out the meat mixture, cutting it, rolling it, etc., which I find too burdensome. I take a simpler route, which gets the meatballs to the finish line faster.]
Roll small balls of meat mixture in bread crumbs and fry them well in oil. Invite all your friends over, as this makes around six dozen meatballs.