Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New York Meatballs

Not once in the seven years I lived in Italy was I served meatballs. The Italian-Americans may have made these popular but no place more so than New York. There are several meatball shops every few miles specializing in meatballs. The best of these grind their own meat. As any fine cuisine, the finest ingredients make the best product. Virtually all the Italian recipes I have seen use bread as a tenderizer but its Italian bread that has some chew and texture. Substitute Sourdough bread if you cannot find Italian bread.  Italians use their bread stale then soak it in water. Freshly ground bread crumbs will do the job just as well. Chef Lidia Bastianich’s dredges the outside of the prepared meatballs in the flour until lightly coated so that they get a crispy texture when fried. Most meat balls finish cooking by simmering in sauce, which defeats a crisp outer layer. Cheese is a common ingredient to add flavor. Mario Batali’s meatballs use pecorino Romano while other chefs use Parmigiano Reggiano. Universal to most other recipe is one egg per  1 ½ pound of meat, Italian parsley, diced onion, minced garlic, crushed red pepper, herbs and spices. Most recipes include pork and ground beef, or just pork. The upscale meatball might also include veal. I have made this recipe to include lamb, beef and pork to maximize its flavor. A mixture with too little fat will be necessarily dry and less flavorful. Ribeye steak and Boston butt have the requisite amount of fat. Most of the fat renders when baking. Mario Batali make simmer his meatballs in a suace without a oven or frying, hence excess fat renders into that sauce.

½ Pound of ground ribeye steak
½ Pound ground Boston Butt Pork roast
½ Pound ground lamb shoulder
1 Egg, beaten
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1/3 Cup grated pecorino cheese
Chopped Italian parsley
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon water
1 Teaspoon Worchester sauce
1 Cup fresh breadcrumbs from sour dough (more for more tender)

Toast these spices (below) until fragrant and then grind in a spice or coffee bean grinder
1 Teaspoon paprika
1 Teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons Herb de Provence
1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 Teaspoon black pepper
2 Teaspoon sugar

Have ready a simmering quart of great tomato sauce or ragu to simmer the meatballs once baked.
Prepare meat ingredients. Toast spices then grind. Mix spices into meat. Make a sample meat ball and fry in olive oil. When cooked, taste meatball and correct the seasoning as necessary.

Line a tray with tin foil for easy cleanup. Make golf-ball sized round meatballs and space just ½ inch apart on a foil lined tray. Place meatballs in refrigerator for 40 minutes to firm up. 
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake meatballs on tray in oven for 30 minutes. Using tongs, place meatballs in a baking dish and gently simmer in a prepared tomato sauce or ragu for 15 minutes more.

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