Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My What Big Meatballs You Have.

As the late, great wordsmith Bon Scott of AC/DC once said "Some balls are held for charity. And some for fancy dress. But when they're held for pleasure. They're the balls that I like best." I'm not sure but I think he may have been talking about meatballs. I love a good meatball. Moist and succulent. Perfect when covered in sauce. Okay hmmm, how to escape the somewhat nasty images floating around in my dirty bird of a brain. Oh, I know. From now on, I'll write the rest of this piece with Julia Child's voice in mind. That'll help get our minds out of the gutter. Or perhaps it just adds another layer of weirdness. Oh well, it can't be helped. Moving on...

The lowly meatball. Ground meat with spices. Perhaps some onion, garlic, and cheese thrown in. Every culture has a version of the meatball. In the Middle East they have kofta. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin/South America they make albondigas. In Sweden they make köttbullar. In Greece they make keftethes. In Antartica they make meatballs out of baby seals (okay, I made that up). Here's a nice bit of information of all the kinds of meatballs out there.

They other day I was thinking about meatballs and how simple and economically friendly they are. I decided I would make albondigas. Spanish meatballs spiced with onion, garlic, pimentón, and cumin. Fried up in olive oil and garnished with grated Queso Manchego (my favorite Spanish sheep's milk cheese) and a sauce made of roasted piquillo peppers. Serve it up as an appetizer or serve it with some fresh bread and a salad for a delicious meal.

Albondigas with Roasted Piquillo Pepper Sauce and Queso Manchego

(for the meatballs)
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup grated onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 tsp pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso with garlic & herbs but use whatever you like)
1 cup chicken stock
Spanish olive oil

(for the piquillo pepper sauce)
12 oz of roasted piquillo peppers (usually found in a can or jar. You can also use roasted red bell peppers if that's all you can find)
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher slat and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

(to finish)
2 Tbsp grated Manchego cheese
1 Tbsp parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the pork, beef, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, pimentón, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and bread crumbs and gently mix. Once the mixture is combined start shaping little meatballs. I use a Tbsp measuring spoon and scoop out 2-3 Tbsp for each meatball. You should have about 16-20 meatballs. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil and add meatballs to the pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides (in batches if necessary). When all sides are browned (about 2 minutes per side) add in the chicken stock to the pan and place the pan in the oven. Cook the meatballs, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a separate deeper saute pan saute the red onion and garlic in a little olive oil for the piquillo pepper sauce. Once softened add them to a blender with the remaining piquillo sauce ingredients. Pulse until the mixture is smoother but still a little chunky. Pour the mixture back into the pan and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.

To plate pour some of the sauce on the bottom of the bowl/plate. Place the meatballs on the sauce and top with the grated Manchego cheese and parsley leaves. Enjoy your balls. xoxo

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