Outrageously Delicious Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce
I don’t do meatballs. Don’t like to eat them. Don’t ever, ever, ever make them (plunking my hands into a bowl full of cold raw meat is, well, do I really need to elaborate?)
Color me not-meatball girl.
Which is why it was so surprising that I found (and actually tried!) a recipe for what turned out to be outrageously delicious meatballs.
Sam Sifton’s recent New York Times article, Comfort Food Grows Up, was so interesting that I decided to actually make homemade his turkey meatballs. I’m not sure if what grabbed me was the description: “vaguely North African tomato sauce zipped up with orange juice and warm spices, then toped with feta and mint.” Or that Mr. Sifton said his kids beg him to make these meatballs. Or the promise of a short cook time: “you can cook it in an hour’s time, not all of it spent working.” (Which, by the way, was a BIG FAT LIE – unless, I guess, you’re a professional/near-professional chef.)
Probably all three (aren’t you intrigued now too?) Check out the article: the recipe is from a chef called Suzanne Goin — it’s a dish she’s served at her LA restaurant A.O.C. and modified for the menu of a West Hollywood charter school’s “Edible Schoolyard” program.
In any case, I made a tray of 20 of these turkey meatballs. Though not pretty — this is not a fancy-dinner-party dish — this tray of meatballs was, without a doubt, the absolute best dish I have ever made. Ever.
I wasn’t going to make the sauce – but you must. As you can see in this photo, the meatballs, after you sear them in a broiler (or stovetop) bake in the sauce — and it’s the sauce, I think, that really makes this dish. Don’t use jar sauce (and this from someone who always uses jar sauce). Make this sauce – it’s easy to make — and the cumin, cinnamon, orange juice and zest make it both unusual and insanely delicious.
As the article (but not the recipe!) suggests, I served them over pasta ‘slicked with olive oil’ the night I made them. For leftovers, I then ate these meatballs over the pasta every meal thereafter. For four days in a row. Michael chose to vary things up for each leftover meal: twice he had these on a bulkie roll and twice he enjoyed them warmed up next to a side salad. FYI: the recipe says you can serve it with pita or bulgur or couscous.
Basically, these were so good you could serve them with just about anything.
And here are a few pointers, from my experience:
- First and foremost, I can’t imagine how anyone other than a chef could prepare these in 1 hour. Allot at least 1 1/2 hours — or 2 to be really safe.
- To that end, I used already-diced onions to cut down prep (and cry) time. Though truth-be-told, I didn’t read the recipe closely enough – you need diced onion for both the meatballs and the sauce so make sure you buy enough!
- For lowest cholesterol, I used turkey – and they were fabulous. Am sure that lamb or turkey and pork combo as per the article would be equally fantastic.
- Do follow Sam Sifton’s suggestion to run these under the broiler rather than searing on a stovetop – it’s far less mess/cleanup. I had also never once used a broiler (!) and it was easy. That said, his directions weren’t clear about how long to cook in that broiler – it says 5-7 minutes, turning once or twice. I turned them ONCE only, and did 6-7 minutes PER SIDE.
- I had trouble judging how big to make the meatballs, and ended up making them probably a bit bigger than his “a little larger than golf balls” (inane, IMHO) direction. Basically, I made them bigger so they’d fit in my Pyrex 9×12 baking dish!
- A 3 inch strip of orange peel was not easy – be sure you either have a tool for this (I could not find mine – nor can I remember it’s name!) or leave yourself time.
- The feta cheese is vital – the mint not so much, IMHO. OK, fine. I’ll fess up: I forgot to buy mint. Didn’t matter – though if you love mint, am sure it’d be great.
- I usually like a lot of sauce and was concerned this didn’t make a big vat of sauce. No matter – atop pasta ‘slicked with olive oil’ and just a few tablespoons of sauce, it was plenty flavorful.
I plan to input this recipe into My Fitness Pal to find out it’s nutritional value, but even without that, give this one a whirl. You (and your family) will be glad you did.