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You Don't need a Recipe for Meatballs

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1 You Don't need a Recipe for Meatballs on Fri Mar 04, 2016 1:03 am

Crybaby

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I saw this today online and just had to copy it.  It's a really good primer on making meatballs.  Would be great to include with a gift of some type of pan (frying pan or Dutch oven) for a young bride who's not an experienced cook...

Meatballs – Any Kind with No Recipe
Recipe from Epicurious.com

You don't need a recipe to make meatballs. In fact, they're more fun without. All you need is to memorize this ratio:

1 pound of ground meat + 1 handful breadcrumbs + 1 handful chopped alliums + 1 egg
This is the easy part. Meatballs can be made with ground beef, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, or turkey. You can mix two or three together for your own personal blend, or stick with just one meat. A bit of finely chopped bacon or pancetta can also be added to any of these for richer, smokier meatballs. And any raw sausage (removed from its casing) counts as ground meat, too.

1 pound of ground meat
A pound of meat is enough to make meatballs for 4. But while my meatball ratio scales up to serve more people, I don't recommend scaling down. Instead, make the full 1-pound batch of meatballs and freeze whatever you don't want to eat. (Freeze the meatballs raw.)

1 handful breadcrumbs (1/4 cup)
For every pound of meat, you want to add about one handful (or about 1/4 cup) of breadcrumbs, which also help hold everything together. I like to use fresh breadcrumbs made by blitzing a piece of stale bread in the food processor—they're softer and mushier and more absorbent that way. (You can use any kind of bread for this, including gluten-free bread.) If you don't want to make your own breadcrumbs, go for panko rather than traditional dried breadcrumbs; panko has better texture.

1 handful chopped alliums (1/4 cup)
For both flavor and textural variety, you want to add the same amount of finely chopped alliums (onions, shallot, and/or garlic) as breadcrumbs: one handful (or 1/4 cup) per pound of meat you use. If you can't stand alliums (or maybe you're allergic?) you can totally skip them, or add less. But don't add more—too much will compromise the structure of your meatballs.

Put the meat, breadcrumbs, and alliums in a bowl, and season
No need to mix the ground meat, breadcrumbs, and alliums together yet. Just get all of it into the same bowl and start seasoning. Begin with a good sprinkle of salt. From there, it's up to you. I like a lot of fresh herbs (try lamb meatballs loaded with chopped mint, dill, parsley, cumin and red pepper flakes). For classic Italian flavoring, add a generous dose of grated parmesan, some oregano (dried or fresh) and some parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Add a dollop of tomato paste if that's your thing. Or consider curry, paprika, miso, ginger or chipotle. Play, but don't go crazy: it's better to add too little than too much. How do you know how it'll taste? We'll get to that in a second, but first...

Add an egg, and mix it all up
For every pound of meat you use, you need one egg to help hold it all together. Whisk the egg in a bowl, then pour it over your meat, breadcrumbs, alliums, and seasonings. (Using two pounds of meat? Use two eggs. A pound and a half of meat? Whisk one egg, discard half of it, then add a second egg.) Now use your hands—yes, your hands—to mash and squish and combine everything together until well combined.

Do a taste test
Once you cook a meatball, there's really no way to change its flavor. So you have to taste the meatballs before you cook them.

Of course, you don't want to put a mixture of raw meat and eggs into your mouth. Instead, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet, add a little spoonful of meatball mixture and cook, turning once, until it's cooked through. Now eat it, and adjust the seasoning of your mixture according to your taste. You can also adjust the texture. To make your meatballs softer, add a little liquid such as milk or applesauce or tomato sauce. To make your meatballs firmer, add more breadcrumbs. Run another taste test after each adjustment. Once the meatballs are how you want them, you're ready to start shaping.

Shape the meatballs
It's up to you what size your meatballs are; just try and make them all match so they all cook at the same rate. Line them up on a plate or baking sheet and stick them in the fridge until you're ready to cook them—you can make them up to two days before cooking. Or, if you only want to cook some of the balls, put the rest on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag or container and store in your freezer for up to four months.

Cook the balls
You have a few options for how to cook meatballs. You can sear them in a bit of oil (put the skillet over medium-high heat) and finish cooking them in a pot of simmering sauce. You can also finish them in the oven, or cook them entirely on the stove. You could bake them on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven. Or you could drop them into simmering soup and let them poach. To know when they're fully cooked, simply slice one open: if it's still pink or red inside, it's not done yet. However you cook them, meatballs are best if you have something to dip them in—a thick, minty yogurt sauce, say. You can make that without a recipe, too.

Example:  Making Italian meatballs with 3/4 pound ground beef, 1/4 pound ground pork, a handful of breadcrumbs, a handful of chopped onion and garlic, chopped fresh parsley and oregano, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.



Last edited by Crybaby on Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:09 pm; edited 2 times in total

2 Re: You Don't need a Recipe for Meatballs on Fri Mar 04, 2016 7:56 am

bethk

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I'm surprised they didn't include other options for changing the taste of meatballs. It's a nice reference, especially for people who only cook strictly adhering to a written recipe. That's never been my personal style, but I know it works for some.

The most important, IMO, bit of information is the 'Do a taste test'.....cook off a bit and taste it. Do you like it? Enough salt? Change/Add a spice or herb? You'll never know unless you taste it and it's so much better than waiting until it's all done and then thinking, gee, I wish I'd have added this or that.

3 Re: You Don't need a Recipe for Meatballs on Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:05 pm

Crybaby

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bethk wrote:I'm surprised they didn't include other options for changing the taste of meatballs.  It's a nice reference, especially for people who only cook strictly adhering to a written recipe.  That's never been my personal style, but I know it works for some.

I know what you mean, Beth, but then we grew up cooking.  I'd wager to say if I never saw my mom (or anyone for that matter) make meatballs, or I'd never made them before myself, I'd probably look at a couple of recipes prior to beginning.  And usually people who don't cook (or have never cooked or been exposed to someone cooking) don't read about cooking either, like we do.  I thought it was kind of neat that the list left it open to the reader to be inventive while making meatballs and pretty much just laid out the basics.

bethk wrote:The most important, IMO, bit of information is the 'Do a taste test'.....cook off a bit and taste it.  Do you like it?  Enough salt? Change/Add a spice or herb?  You'll never know unless you taste it and it's so much better than waiting until it's all done and then thinking, gee, I wish I'd have added this or that.

I also agree with you, as I know a lot of people who don't do this.

I remember looking up recipes the first time I made lasagna.  I think I've related that my mom was a super cook but never really made foods from another culture.  Don't get me wrong, as her food and her Louisiana roots served her well in the kitchen but I would hear what others were eating in school.  I was dying to try to make lasagna, and I would read about it and other "ethnic" dishes in cooking magazines that my dad would buy me when I went to the bookstore/news shop with him.  I had to laugh because when I asked several of my school friends how their moms made lasagna, most of them told me, "She just follows the directions on the box!"   I remember seeing some kind of boxed lasagna mix on the store shelves at the time.  

I think I also related how good my first attempt at lasagna came out, probably because my dad went to one Italian grocery with a meat market to get what was known as the best Italian sausage for me and their freshly made freshly ground ground meat, and to another (the infamous Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the Quarter) to get me imported Parmesan and Romano and really good mozzarella and ricotta (the latter was not readily available at the time in most groceries).   Looking back as an adult, he must've spent a fortune but it sure must've helped a young girl's first attempt at lasagna!  He encouraged me so I started making meals that mostly he and I preferred, like leg of lamb with mint sauce, homemade tacos (all we ever saw here in the way of Mexican food were tamales), etc.  I often wish he was still alive for a day or two so I could cook for him and Brian could  smoke something nice for him.   The things you wish for...

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