WRITTEN ON January 4th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Beef, Dinner, Italian, Pasta, Tomatoes

The first decade of the 21st century ended quietly for the Shanleys.

To be honest, 2009 was a trying year.  Of course there were some treasured memories. This blog was certainly a fulfilling highlight.  We found a beach rental that we fell in love with.  Got upgraded to first class on a long awaited trip to the UK.  Went falconing in the Cotswolds. And just generally shared a lot of laughs with each other and our friends and family.  Which is really the best part of life, anyway…

Neither my hubby nor I are what you’d call emotional.  We are both of the stiff upper lip variety, and if we want to “talk,” it’s generally to each other.  Turns out there was a lot for us to talk to each other about in 2009.  The diagnosis of stage IV cancer in an immediate family member, for instance, and the subsequent care and worry that came along with it.  The general state of the New York City financial world and where we, and our investment of an apartment that was suddenly worth a lot less than we paid for it, fit into that equation.  The hit that the catering world, and thus my livelihood, took as a direct result of said world financial “situation.” The excitement and ultimate frustration of trying to start a family of our own (it doesn’t always happen as easily as they make it sound in high school).  So, like I said, while neither of us are mopers, we were also not really in the mood to send 2009 out with a bang (couldn’t it just go gentle into that good night?).

Enter a last minute condo rental in Stratton, Vermont.  And by last minute I mean 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 30th.  We packed in a hurry and got into the car just as the sun was beginning to lighten the city skyline on Thursday morning.  Making our way up the FDR Drive felt, in all honesty, like we were breaking out of jail. Just us crazy kids, on the road again, headed for some fun on the slopes and a few beers at Grizzly’s, the best apres-ski bar in the East.

We arrived in a snowstorm and high spirits. After a couple of Long Trail Ales with our dear friends (and Stratton junkies) the Martins, we trudged home through the quiet, snowy darkness to our little rented condo, lit a fire, and proceeded to flip back and forth between Carson Daly and Ryan Seacrest (sadly, the lesser of two evils) while making a New Years Eve feast of spaghetti and meatballs and sipping a ten dollar bottle of red wine (what can I say.  We blew all our money on the condo rental).

We were curled in bed, asleep, by 11:00, after listening to the Bare Naked Ladies version of Auld Lang Syne on the hubster’s iPhone.  At 12:15 we were startled awake like two hibernating bears, by what sounded like a herd of elephants pounding up the outside stairs (clearly the young revelers getting home from the bars). We looked groggily at each other, mumbled “Happy New Year” and were asleep again before our heads fell heavily to the pillows.  2009 was over.  We had made our peace and said our farewell long before midnight.

By 7:30 a.m. on New Years Day, stuffed like pork chops into snow pants and ski boots, we were on our way to the mountain, ready for a bright, sunny, and refreshingly chilly start to what is sure to be a better year.  To our gleeful surprise, we had the slopes to ourselves.  The late night partiers had decided to sleep in.  Our luck was already changing.

A New Years Feast

A New Years Feast

Stratton Mountain Meatballs (serves 4)
1 lb ground sirloin
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 an onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful chopped parsley, oregano and basil, combined
3 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
For sauce:
1/2 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 handful fresh parsley, oregano and basil, combined
Crushed red pepper
Olive oil
To make the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add onion, saute about 3 minutes until soft.  Add garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, saute about 30 seconds.  Add wine, bring to a boil, reduce by about half.  Add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Add herbs, simmer sauce about 30 minutes. Season  to taste with salt.
For the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine milk and breadcrumbs, swirl to coat bread with milk.  Add rest of ingredients, mix gently with clean hands until all is incorporated.  In a hot, non-stick skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil.  Brown meatballs on all sides, about 1 minute per side.  Place them in the pot of simmering sauce.  Cook about 1 hour.   Do not boil. In the meantime, cook one package spaghetti noodles according to package instructions.  At last minute, add 2 tbsp of the pasta water to the simmering sauce.  Drain cooked pasta, toss in a large bowl with some of the sauce, then top with meatballs and remaining sauce.

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