Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Great Meatball Caper
It wasn't so long ago that I became obsessed with meatballs. I know this may sound strange, but they're tiny, juicy morsels of meat always served with a carb. They're perfect. I'd made Italian spaghetti and meatballs many times, but was never quite satisfied with what came out of my kitchen. So, to learn more about how to go about making truly great meatballs, I immersed myself in meatball history.
Many cultures have laid claim to the invention of the meatball, but no real creator has ever been proclaimed. Having already tried the Italian style, I moved on to the next most popular type, Swedish meatballs. They were okay, but always seemed bland and only edible thanks to the sauce. These were not winners. After seeing a public access program on German cuisine I decided to give klopse a try. They were similar to the Swedish style but slightly more hamburgery. Not there yet.
Unsatisfied by northern and central Europe I decided to let my palette lead the way and I skipped over to Middle Eastern style meatballs. I knew that I liked the smoky and aromatic spices of the region, so hoping for better results I decided to try making koftas and keftes. This was much closer to what I was looking for. The meatball itself has all of the flavor and doesn't rely on heaps of gravy for substance, although I do love dipping them in a yogurt based sauce. These were the meatballs I'd make for months, until, like all of my culinary obsessions, I finally tired of them.
It was only recently while flipping through my grandmother's cookbook (which I may or may not have stolen from my mother while visiting her in Spain) that I came across a Spanish recipe for meatballs. Why it had not crossed my mind to try this out earlier was beyond me. After all, I've only ever had great meatballs in Spain, and they're served over home style fries. Talk about your perfect dishes. Not to mention, the spices and methods used to make them are startlingly similar to my favorite Middle Eastern meatballs. After some research I learned that (not surprisingly) meatballs are thought to have been brought to Spain some 1200 years ago by...Middle Eastern settlers during the Muslim occupation! Of course! So, I set forth to make Spanish style meatballs, known to us as albóndigas. I now (of course) have a favorite kind of meatball. Here's how to make them, with a few tweeks to the recipe, of course:
Ground beef (I used just under 1lb)
1 cup white wine
2 eggs, beaten
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup parsley
1 tsp cumin
2 slices bread (crusts removed) soaked in milk
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp minced onion
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 large (or 3 small) Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
1. Season meat with salt, 3 Tbsp of the minced garlic (reserve the rest for the light gravy), parsley (reserving 1 tsp of it for the gravy), cumin and a Tbsp of white wine, and allow to marinate 15 minutes.
2. While the meat marinates, cut the potatoes into 2 inch long by 1/2 inch wide fries and set aside. Start heating the oil in a medium sized pot.
3. When the 15 minutes have elapsed, add the two eggs and bread slices (squeeze out any excess milk) to the meat mixture. After everything is well incorporated, roll into 1 1/2 inch wide balls and lightly coat in flour. When you're about halfway done rolling the meatballs, carefully add the potatoes to the pot of hot oil. Stir and flip them periodically until cooked through (You can set them aside in a foil covered plate if done before the meatballs).
4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add meatballs to oil and cook on medium high heat until one side is golden brown. Flip over and cook other side until golden brown, and almost completely cooked through.
5. Remove meatballs from the pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium low and add onion and remainder of the garlic and parsley to the pan. After a minute, deglaze the pan with the remainder of the white wine. Add 1/2 tsp flour and cook for another 30 seconds. Add meatballs back to the pan and allow to cook through.
6. Serve meatballs with pan gravy over fries. Enjoy!