The first ever Team Mansfield Meatball Classic took place at our house this past weekend. This meatball competition was the brainchild of my hubby Christian and of Chris Schmid, the man he recently married.
(To Hillary, I mean... Christian didn't marry Chris. He married Chris and Hillary. To each other.)
Team Mansfield is the educational powerhouse of Christian, Chris, and Audrey Osman. Chris, Audrey and I were pitted against each other to see who would take home the title of Team Mansfield Meatball Classic Master!
The attendees to this competition were Hillary (the woman Christian married. To Chris), Audrey's husband Dan, their daughter Emma, Haley, and her boyfriend Brian! Logan was absent at the start but joined us later.
We've had meatballs on the brain since discovering this article on Serious Eats, titled "Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta" about bringing friends together over meatballs.
Additional inspiration came from my recent dinner of meatball sliders, made to motivate Chris and Christian through their Masters class project .(Although it sort of did the opposite: meatballs, beer, and Redbull vodkas make for a worthy-of-the-gods feast, but as it turns out not for a terribly productive evening.) We also recently had a wonderful Meatball Saturday at the home of Armchair Squid and Wikes!, with delicious Wikes-made meatballs, pasta, and sauce.
When Christian came home with this Mansfield meatball showdown idea I assumed it was to be merely a friendly potluck, to bring friends together. I was gravely mistaken.
As the day of the Classic approached, the pressure grew and the questions mounted: Sauce? No sauce? What kind of meat? Two meats? Multiple kinds of meat?
"The more meat you can stuff in there the better!", came the answer.
Team Schmid threatened 12 pounds of meatballs and three different varieties, with a sauce for each! Oi.
The morning of the Classic the text-taunting began. Team Osman claimed to have been up since pre-dawn, crying over diced onions. Pictures flew of sputtering sauces and greasy baking sheets recently freed of their meatballs. As the starting hour approached the phones went quiet and we scrambled to roll our last meatballs.
3:30 pm: Let the Classic begin!
We flocked to the kitchen. Our daughter obligingly put on a blindfold and readied herself to be our taste-tester. Team Schmid, Team Osman, and Team Mock laid out the meatballs:
- Classic, home-style meatballs of beef and onion, cooked first in the oven and then added to a crock-pot holding a freshly-prepared marinara sauce where they simmered for hours, absorbing the zesty flavor.
- Savory, decadent meatballs for the true meat-lover: made of veal, beef, lamb, and pork along with Romano, Parmesan, and beer. They were served with a daring, chunky, tomato sauce that included red wine, prosciutto, Romano cheese, and surprise ingredient - Michelob Light!
- The above meatballs - stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, and also served with the rich tomato sauce.
- Piquant, sausage meatballs made with diced onion, panko, and parsley and served with a country-style, peppered cream gravy.
- Spicy meatballs of ground chicken and pork, wrapped in bacon with a caramelized coating of brown sugar and cayenne.
She sampled a bite of each while we hovered and waited, breathless for her decision. The results? A tie! She was stuck between Audrey's home-style meatballs with marinara, and my spicy, bacon-wrapped meatballs.
Our son arrived home a little later and declared the sausage with cream gravy meatballs to be his pick.
To the victors go the spoils! Which that night were pats on the back and bragging rights. Victory is sweet, but I believe we were all winners that night. Once the judging portion of the evening ended the chefs and attendees all got to dig in and sample meatball after gut-stuffing meatball. Everyone agreed that Audrey's embodied what we all picture when we think of classic 'spaghetti and meatballs': full of flavor and deliciously tender. Chris' meatballs were over-the-top succulent with the combination of four meats (five if you include the prosciutto in the sauce!) The addition of blue cheese to the centers gave them a tangy, creamy bite. His sauce was reminiscent of a sweet Bolognese.
The idea for my sausage meatballs came from a diner menu breakfast staple of sausage and gravy, and indeed they would be great over biscuits. The spicy, caramelized meatballs had quite a bite, and will be perfect for a kick-ass appetizer someday!
We ended the evening full, sleepy, and satisfied. And pondering over what to make for the next Classic! Meatballs again? Possibly. There was also talk of broadening the arena and the participants. Perhaps a Guacamole Classic. A Salsa Classic. A Waffle Classic! How many meats will Team Schmid stuff into a waffle?
Tune in next time and see.