A16 Food + Wine – Cookbook Review

I went to A16 many years ago, when it first opened. It was pretty good, though I disliked the burnt crust of my pizza and there were some service problems ( you can read my full review). There was one wonderful pork dish, which I’m hoping to recreate sometime soon. I started cooking from the A16: Food + Wine cookbook, however, by making the Short Ribs alla Genovese.

I chose that recipe because short ribs were on sale and I love short ribs. The results were, as expected, very good (I’ve seldom have had braised short ribs that were not good) – though this wasn’t necessarily the best short rib recipe I’ve made. Aegea, a picky 5 yo good friend of my kids, really liked them and I think she ate at least 3 short ribs by herself! (I’m always glad when I can make something little kids will eat). That said, I’d probably not make them again, but just because I’m still searching for the perfect short rib recipe (and there are many, many to try). This is a perfectly good one, however.

I should note, because the book notes, that despite the name this dish does not come from Genoa. It’s Neapolitan instead, and predates the arrival of tomatoes in the region – with onions taking center stage instead. One different ingredient that shows up in this recipe is an anchovy. I put it, but I wonder how much of a difference it made. Probably not enough to justify having to buy a whole anchovy tin (unless, of course, you’ll consume the rest of the anchovies). I followed the recipe pretty closely, I did only use 3 (rather than 4) red onions, more wouldn’t have fit into my pan. I also used dried rosemary rather than 1 sprig of rosemary, as I didn’t want to pay $2 for a package of fresh rosemary only to use 1 spring. Anyway, here is the recipe.

A16’s Monday Meatballs have (or did) become pretty famous among the crowd of the Craigslist food forum, where I often hang out. Still, they are quite laborious to make, so I hadn’t tried them. Having the book on hand gave me the opportunity to finally pay them homage, so I made them last Sunday. They were easier to make than I thought (though still laborious, mostly because you need to grind your own meat & breadcrumbs) and they have an amazing texture. There is a perfect balance between the meat, the bread and the other ingredients, so that the meatballs are light, but still substantial. Apparently the secret is having a greater bread-to-meat ratio – American meatballs tend to be heavier in the latter – but I’m sure the extra elements, like the ricotta, helped lighten them up as well. As much as I liked the texture, I wasn’t crazy about the taste. In sum: they were too salty. I used 1 Tbsp. of salt like the recipe required, and while I could taste some hints of herbs and other flavors in the meatballs, most of what I did taste was salt. So be forewarned, if you make them – start by adding just 1 tsp. of salt, and add more salt only after cooking a sample and tasting it.

I followed the recipe for the meatballs pretty closely, but I did make some necessary changes. I decreased the chili flakes to 1/2 tsp, from the 1 tsp the recipe asked for – and the meatballs were still too salty for my daughters (which dined on steamed broccoli instead!). I also ended up using regular parsley instead of Italian parsley – because I stupidly didn’t specify in my shopping list, so my husband bought what he thought I wanted – and I didn’t use San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce. My days of shopping all over town for special ingredients are pretty much over, if my local Safeway doesn’t carry a product, chances are I’ll have to substitute – so I used regular whole tomatoes with basil. For that reason, and the fact that basil is over $2 a bunch, I also skipped the basil leaves from the sauce. To tell you the truth, I thought the sauce was pretty good as it was – though I’m sure it’d be better the A16 way. Finally, I didn’t have grana cheese at home, so I used Peccorino-Romano cheese instead.
Below you can find the recipe as I made it, with recommendations on how to improve it in parenthesis.

On a final note, as you’ll the recipe calls for 10 oz of ground pork shoulder and beef chuck each. A butcher may sell you 10oz of those meats, but Safeway does not – so plan to buy a larger quantity of each (I got about 4lbs) and then use them in other meals. I made a braised beef with the beef, and A16’s braised pork shoulder with the pork.

 

Short Ribs alla Genovese

  • 1 packaged anchovy-fillet
  • 5 lbs short ribs
  • 2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 3 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

Take one anchovy, rise it under running water and then let it stand in water for a couple of minutes. Then chop it finely. Set aside.

Trim excessive fat from the short ribs. Season with kosher salt, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 275F.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat, in a wide, heavy, oven-safe pot. Add the ribs, making sure they are not crowded, and brown on all sides – you may need to do this in two batches. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the wine into a small pot and reduce in high heat until it’s about 1/2 cup. Set aside.

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the wide pan and heat over medium-low heat. Add the chopped carrot and celery and cook until the vegetables start to often, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped anchovy, garlic cloves and peppercorns and cook until the garlic softens, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions soften, stirring frequently, about 5-10 more minutes. Stir in the vinegar and wine and remove from the heat.

Return the ribs to the pan and sprinkle with rosemary. Cover (use aluminum foil if your pan doesn’t have a cover), put in the oven, and braise for 2 1/2 hours, or until the short ribs are soft. To serve, transfer the short ribs to a serving plate, cover with sauce and drizzle with some olive oil.

Monday Meatballs

a16meat.jpg

  • 6 oz day-old country bread
  • 12 oz boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 oz pork fat
  • 2 oz prosciutto
  • 10 oz beef chuck
  • 1 cup parsley (Italian parsley), coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp kosher salt (1 Tbsp kosher salt)
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. dried chile flakes (1 tsp.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup ricotta, drained if necessary (fresh ricotta)
  • 1/4 cup milk (whole milk)
  • olive oil
  • 1 28oz can peeled whole tomatoes w/ basil (San Marzano tomatoes + basil leaves)
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese (grana)

Preheat oven to 400F

Cut bread into small chunks and put into a food processor, process until finely ground. Put into a large bowl.

Trim excess fat from the pork shoulder. Put prosciutto and 2 oz of pork fat in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut 10 oz of trimmed pork shoulder into 1″ cubes and put them in the food processor*. Process until finely chopped. Add to the bowl with the bread crumbs. Cut the beef chuck into 1″ cubes, and similarly process in the food processor. Put in bowl. Cut pork fat into chunks, process in the food processor and put in bowl. Do the same with the prosciutto.

Add the parsley, 1 tsp. of salt, oregano, fennel seeds and chile flakes to the bow. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are combined. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the ricotta and milk, and whisk lightly until the ingredients are combined. Add the ricotta mix to the meat mix and combine with your hands.

Heat a small skillet (oil if necessary) and take a pinch of meat mixture, flatten and cooked in both sides until cook through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
Form 1 1/2″ meatballs and place them in the baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300F.

Pour the canned tomatoes into a large bowl and sprinkle 2 tsp of salt. With your hands**, break the tomatoes into small pieces.

Transfer the meatballs into a medium-size baking pan, packing them in. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender. Remove from the oven and, if using basil, distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.

Before serving, grate cheese over the meatballs and drizzle with olive oil.

*You can also use a meat grinder, in which case you can grind the meats and bread crumbs together.

**You can also pass the tomatoes through a food mill


The last entree that I cooked from the A16 cookbook was Braised Pork Shoulder with Olives – an adapted version from A16’s “Braised Pork shoulder with chestnuts, olives and herbs”. Alas, I didn’t use chestnuts in my recipe, and instead of fresh springs of sage (4) and marjoram (2), I used herbs de provence – I was too cheap to buy the fresh herbs (I had the required rosemary leftover from another recipe), and didn’t have any dried marjoram, even though I thought I did. While this pork wasn’t as good as the one we ate at A16 many years ago (I rave and rave about it in the review), it was very tasty. Mike, in particular, really liked it – and he doesn’t usually like olives. The pork was super tender and very flavorful. The only problem was that it was too salty (this may be a general issue with A16’s recipes, it’s the second time I encounter this issue), when you make it use the amount of salt I recommend in the recipe below.

I had to return to the book to the library before I finished typing up this recipe, at this point, two and a half years later, I don’t think I’ll be getting it back.

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1 Comment

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One Response to A16 Food + Wine – Cookbook Review

  1. I love the A16 cookbook (and restaurant)! It is one of my goals to cook every recipe in it. This is the last one I made and it was delicious:
    http://mslistologist.com/?m=200911

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