Thursday, January 8, 2009


Speaking of comfort foods, I made meatballs for the first time. I've been having cravings for at least a few weeks. I'd planned to whip up something like the meatballs I enjoyed at a SuperBowl party last year (turkey+pork I believe, with an incredible sweet/tart/savory sauce) but I opted to go tradish for my first try.

I based my meatballs off of this recipe with a few changes. I didn't like the way the sauce read in the recipe. Seemed a little insubstantial. Discarding the drippings and browned bits from the meat is a crime in my kitchen. It makes the best sauces and gravies and such. If you can help it, never throw out those drippings!

So I turned the order of the recipe around and made the meatballs first and used the same skillet to make the sauce so that those yummy bits didn't go to waste. I think it made for a richer hearty sauce.

Also, since I used ground lamb instead of ground veal, I feel like there is a strong lamb flavour in the sauce (strangely though, not as much in the meatballs) which I sometimes minded and sometimes didn't (we've been eating meatballs pretty much all week alternating with cannelloni and other left-over meals). I'm mulling over how I might wrestle that flavor down so that it's savory and not overpowerful. Maybe a sprig of fresh rosemary in the sauce while it simmers? Or mix up the lamb on its own with some cumin+chopped rosemary and let it set for a day in the fridge before combining up with the rest of the meats? Problem is, I don't want the spices/herbs to overpower the rest of the flavours in the meatballs. They should just taste like meatballs not like I'm trying to mask the lamby flavour. I guess I could also try omitting lamb and using ground veal as I'd originally intended. Moving on.

I served the meatballs over a creamy polenta with some vegetables on the side. The photo above was from today's lunch so only the meatball and polenta and the sauce. Damn that sauce was good. I could get religious over it.

Jean's Meatballs
1/2 lb each of ground beef, pork and lamb (I'd like to try ground veal too one day as the original recipe called for. But since my grocer didn't carry any ground veal at the time, I went for lamb. Also, I'd recommend buying the best quality meat you can afford. I bought organic grassfed meats with a very low fat percentage and I do believe that it makes a difference in the taste. And the better quality lower fat meat is better for you.)
1/4 cup of a finely chopped onion (Next time, I'll try grating it as the original recipe recommends.)
1 16 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
5 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

In a small bowl stir together bread crumbs and milk and let stand 5 minutes. A thick paste will form. In a large mixing bowl combine meat, onion, 3 tablespoons parsley, the breadcrumb paste and a teaspoon salt and blend with your hands until just combined well (do not overmix). Form 2-tablespoon amounts into meatballs (about 20) and lay them on a baking sheet while working the rest of the meat mixture.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté meatballs in 2 batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer as browned with a slotted spoon to bowl.

Add a little more oil to the skillet and add the chopped garlic stirring until it softens. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir with a wooden spoon loosening up the bits of browned meat stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the oregano, basil and the last two tablespoons of fresh parsely. Cook until the dried herbs have hydrated in the sauce and the flavors have married. Pour the sauce into a blender and pulse until smooth (I used a big bowl and a stick (immersion) blender). Pour the sauce back into the pan adding the meatballs. Let simmer over a low heat until the meatballs have cooked through about 5 minutes. Serve over pasta or creamy polenta like we did.

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