Wednesday, December 19, 2007

World's Easiest Meatballs

This is one of those recipes that's always a favorite, and when folks find out what's in it, they're amazed at how low-maintenance (and, frankly, low-brow) it is.

The meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork (run some boneless porkchops, trimmed of all fat, through the "pulse" setting on your food processor)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 eggs
1 cup freshly, super-finely grated Romano cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons minced Italian flat leaf parsley (food process it)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups (or so) Italian seasoned bread crumbs
a cup or so of warm water
Butter for frying

I usually do this part the night before:
Mix everything except the bread crumbs, water and butter. Mix this meat blend extremely well. You don't want to detect any difference between the pork and the beef. I put the dough hook on my big mixer and just let it work for several minutes.

Then gradually add enough bread crumbs to make a mixture that will be soft, but still firm enough to hold the shape of a ball. If it's too dry, add some water. You may not need all the bread crumbs, depending on how much fat is in your meat and how big the eggs are.

The result you're looking for is a ball no more than 1 inch across. It needs to be soft, but it must be firm enough and round enough to brown in the butter. The biggest mistake folks make is creating meatballs that are too big. Don't. They take too long to cook, which means they're burned on the outside before they're done in the center. They also give you less mileage for your ingredient costs at your party.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Brown the meatballs evenly, turning frequently. Don't crowd the pan. The browning helps them hold their shape when you slow-cook them in the sauce. Put them on a cooling rack. When they're cool enough to handle, pack 'em away and let them chill overnight in the freezer. They hold their shape better when they slow-cook the next day. They won't be frozen solid, but they'll be firm enough to stir. The next day, pop them in your big Crock-pot and pour over the secret, sophisticated sauce.

The sauce: equal parts chili sauce (next to the ketchup in the grocery) and grape jelly (not JAM). However much sauce you want is however much of this chili-grape concoction you make. Do not spend any more on these ingredients than you have to. I've bought the cheap. I've bought the name brand. There's no difference in the end result.

Let the meatballs cook on low for several hours. Stirring occasionally to distribute the sauce, but very gently. (No one wants to eat a mangled meatball.) Then watch them disappear.


Ben Cunningham said...

I've had these meatballs, and they are amazing.

Tosha Jupiter, The Star's presentation editor, stumbled upon a truism just now:

"Meatballs are one of the few things in life that will never let you down."

Meatballs. Reliable.

Laura has a pot of them cooking on her desk for the newsroom Christmas party this afternoon. Judging by the smell, this batch will be more than just reliable.