PictureDelicious cooked Polpettes.
It's not really Italian for Delicious, but it should be.  My Grandma Brumley (dad's mom) pronounced them "peh-PEH-tees."  Even though "polpette" is "meatball," I don't think of these as meatballs.  It's probably because they were only and ever called polpettes, and my Grandmother formed them into oval patties instead of balls.  My Grandmother was an amazing little Italian woman, but the extent of the exposure I had to my Italian roots is this recipe and the memory of my Grandmother speaking Italian to a friend.  Once.  And the unibrow, but we won't talk about that.  Grandma made these every time we visited, so memories of food at her house are filled with the smell and taste of polpettes.  I can remember the way the mix smells before it's cooked, the smell of them cooking permeating the house, and the delicious little patties.  I'd lightly salt mine and then gobble them up. 
When I was little, my mother asked Grandma for the recipe.  She planely told Mom there wasn't one.  Mom doesn't give up though, she followed Grandma around as she made them and wrote down everything that went into these delightful treats.  She did this twice, and the ingredients are the same, but the quantities are different.  ... because there's no recipe.  My Grandmother passed away in 2003 and I find myself making these when I miss her, or when I long for those childhood summers spent with Dad's family, or whenever I just crave them.  
I can't bring myself to make any changes to the "recipe" even though I tweak EVERY recipe I get my hands on.  Something about making changes doesn't sit well, it's like a horrific insult to my Grandmother and her memory even though I can look at the recipe and think of a hundred things that can be changed or tweaked.  Even though, I'm sure she's made changes over the years depending on what ingredients were and were not available.  I. Just. Can't. Do. It. So I don't.  I'll just honor her (and my childhood memories) in my own way by staying true to what I know to be how she used to make polpettes when I was a kid.  If I make something similar, they'll be "meatballs" ... so in my mind, something completely different and I realize it's totally silly and I'm OK with that.  :-)

Polpettes (aka.  Pepeties)

Version 1
1 lb. ground beef
1 16 oz. box of Saltines, crushed
8 to 10 eggs
1 sm. can Kraft Parmesan Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
Version 2
2 lb. ground beef
1 16 oz. box of Saltines, crushed
18 eggs
6 oz. Kraft Parmesan Cheese
10 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine ground beef, 3 of the 4 sleeves of crushed crackers, 3/4 of the eggs, parmesan, garlic, celery, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix by hand to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients.  If the mixture is too dry/hard, add eggs one at a time to moisten the mixture.  If it is too wet, add more Saltines a little at a time.  The mix should be about the consistency of a meatloaf or slightly softer/moister than plain hand-formed hamburgers.
Place a large skillet on the stove at medium-high heat.  Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/8" of oil.  Let oil heat until you see ripples before adding the polpettes for frying.
While oil is heating, form oval shaped patties using about 1/2 cup of the mixture (no larger than a lemon before forming patties).
PictureFrying polpettes with foaming oil.
Once oil is heated, add patties to the oil.  The oil should bubble when the polpette is added and will end up foaming up as the patties cook (see photo to the left).  Cook about 3-6 minutes on each side (depends on how thick the patties are) until beautifully browned on both sides and cooked through.  Remove from pan to a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil.  As you cook more polpettes, you will need to add a little more oil to the pan as the patties will absorb some oil as they fry.
We always ate these plain, but I have served them along side pasta and with a salad as well.  They're a great hearty snack or a lunch on the go.  They refrigerate and reheat well either in the microwave or oven, though the oven is better in my opinion.  Raw polpettes can also be frozen with wax paper between layers and can be stored for at least 6 months - I imagine they'd store longer, but that's just a theory in my house.  Any frozen polpettes are lucky to last 3 months in my house.

Grandma Brumley outside the family store.

Chris Brumley
10/22/2013 9:37am

Yummy indeed!! I can smell them now...

Michelle Brumley
10/22/2013 11:20am

I know! Writing this post has me craving them like crazy! I'll make them before Christmas, I promise. :-)


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