She Wore A Yellow Apron: Monument Valley Mac and Cheese Meatballs

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I have been wanting to try this week’s recipe for a while now, but it never seemed to be the right time until this week.  Tonight, I am having people over to watch a movie and this recipe seems like it should be perfect ‘party food’…if it turns out.  The recipe is named for a location where John Wayne made some of his most memorable films, including The Searchers.  So, let’s see if Monument Valley Mac and Cheese Meatballs can possibly measure up to the beauty of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border.  I’m fairly certain that no meatball is that pretty, but maybe the flavor is monumental!  I will do my best to find out.

The first step is to prepare a box of macaroni and cheese but not include the milk and butter.  I get the macaroni cooked, add the cheese, and set it aside for later.

Next, I combine some onion powder and grated carrot with ground hamburger.  I then mix in some bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  Once everything is mixed nicely together, I add the macaroni and cheese.  At this point, I’m not sure how well this is all going to stay together because it looks a little crumbly, but I am not too concerned yet. 

It’s now time to form the meatballs.  The recipe says each one should be about ¼ cup so I get out a measuring cup and scoop out ¼ cup at a time until I have 24 meatballs rolled and ready.  I am now supposed to place parchment paper in my baking dishes, add the meatballs, and then spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Since I don’t use parchment paper very often, I line one dish with paper and just spray the other one with cooking spray to see if it makes a difference.  I add the meatballs to the dishes…and as you can see from the picture…everything is looking good so far.

I put them in the oven at 425 degrees and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Well, it’s been 20 minutes now and the meatballs are browned…but they aren’t looking quite like the picture in my cookbook.  As you can see from the next photo, they aren’t exactly round anymore and are looking a bit dry.  And, as I try to pick them up, they are pretty much falling apart. 

Since I was planning on serving these to other people, this is a sad development.  Luckily, my friends who are coming over aren’t too picky and will eat just about anything I make, so we’ll see what they think.  But before they get here, I do want to make sure the ‘meatballs’ are at least edible.  I spoon some pieces into a bowl to give them a taste, and I have to say, they taste pretty good.  The mixture (since I really can’t call them meatballs anymore) has very good flavor and it just seems like I’m eating part of a casserole.  Hopefully my friends agree.

It’s now movie time and my guests have arrived.  Since I had told them earlier what I was making, I now have to break the news of my sad meatball failure.  But just like I figured, they aren’t really bothered at all and have no problem eating a plateful of my meatball mixture.  And they like it.  They even go back for seconds!  

So now I need to figure out where I went wrong.  Two things come to mind.  First of all, I I may have added slightly too much macaroni.  I was supposed to use a 5-oz. box, but I only had a 7-oz. box, so I weighed the shells on my food scale.  They weighed less than 5 ounces, so I assumed that would be okay.  I think I assumed wrong and would only use about 3 ounces next time.  I also used onion powder instead of grated onion, so I think I lost some of the moisture needed to bind everything together.  The next time I try this recipe, I will make these two changes and see if I get better results.  Also, the dish with the parchment paper did not have any better results than the one without it. 

Now…what should I make next?

Ingredients:

1 (5-oz.) box mac and cheese

1 ½ lb. lean ground beef or turkey

1 small onion, grated

1 small carrot, grated

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. pepper

Recipe from the John Wayne Family Cookbook.

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