Friday, April 27, 2012

Hot and Sweet Cocktail Meatballs

It's spring!  My local farm just sent me an email to say that they have strawberries and asparagus. Every blog and food person around is going on about ramps and fiddlehead ferns, and the magic that is the fleeting presence of weird early spring veg. 

This isn't that.  This is cocktail meatballs.  You could make them any time of year.  You could probably buy them in the frozen section of your local megamart.  My recipe probably isn't all that different from your mom's.  

I have always done this with pre-packaged veggie "meatballs" but they're made out of meat* this time.  So don't despair, vegetarians, you too can have this sweet and spicy deliciousness that should probably be reserved for parties, but can still be dinner, because hell, you work hard, and you deserve a cocktail meatball now and again.  

I minced up some onion and garlic, added salt and pepper.  I did this in my food chopper, but if you're better with a knife than I am (and chances are, you are) you can do it by hand.  

Mixed that in with panko, which somehow didn't get photographed, and ground beef, which intentionally didn't get photographed.  Made small meatballs, like the size of a quarter, but you know, balls.  

I like to cook my meatballs in the oven, Alton Brown style, which means in a muffin pan, so the grease drips away, but since these were tiny and even my mini-muffin pan was too big, I just baked them on a silpat.  350 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway.  When they came out, I toweled each one off real quickly, since they were a little bit greasy. 

So either make up some meatballs, or buy a bag of the veggie kind, both work very well with this.  While your meatballs are cooking or your veggie balls are defrosting, make the sauce. 

The sauce sounds like a joke, I know, the first time I made these, years ago, I was like, "What?" but it's been done this way since before you were born.  It's ok.  This is one of those old-timey party foods that holds up over time.  

Equal parts ketchup and jelly, in a pot.  I used local, natural, happy, ketchup and jelly, so I still totally consider this food made of food.  You can make your own ketchup, but I just don't use enough of it to justify it without canning it, and I don't can.  That's why I don't make my own jelly.  So this is mixed berry jam and ketchup. 

Heat them up on med-low, stirring until the jelly melts and a sauce develops. For some of the old recipes, we stop here, but why stop here?  Add sriracha.  If you don't have sriracha, maybe you have some chili sauce from the Asian section of the supermarket, the kind with the chili flakes floating in it?  This isn't a place for Tabasco, or even my favorite, Cholula.  Crushed red pepper flakes?  Something without confusing additional flavors. 

Two tablespoons was perfect for me, and a bit hot for Sous Chef Brian, so make your own decisions about heat. 

It wants to be tangy, too, so add some apple cider vinegar. 

Stir the sauce and when the meatballs are ready (defrosted or cooked) drop them in there gently, flip to coat, and simmer for at least 20 minutes. 

I served mine on a bed of steamed spinach, but I'm sure they'd go fine with your ramps or your ferns or your pea shoots or whatever April-veg you have going on. 

 *"They're made out of meat."  I don't know, I'm not a sci-fi person at all, like, really, but I heard about The Truth on This American Life, and started listening, and they have this episode called, "They're Made Out of Meat," which is a short story that really works as a radio play.  The story part of the podcast takes like 5 minutes to listen to, and that's five minutes well spent. 

Hot and Sweet Cocktail Meatballs
A classic! It sounds weirder than it is, and you can totally add some veg and call it a meal. Works great with veggie meatballs too.
  • 1/2 pound Ground beef
  • 1/2 cup Minced onion
  • 1 clove Minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Jelly or jam (grape or berry)
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Make meatballs with beef, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and panko. I aimed for the size of a quarter. Bake or pan fry as usual. I did 30 minutes at 350, flipping halfway. Sub veggie meatballs and it's still great.Meanwhile, melt jelly and ketchup in a pot, add sriracha and vinegar and stir.  If you don't want them too spicy, use less sriracha. Remove cooked meatballs from the oven or pan, blot dry and coat in sauce. Simmer meatballs in sauce for at least 20 minutes, but up to 2 hours. Serve hot, either party style, with toothpicks and crackers, or dinner style, with veg.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 servings

click the thing you want to read about