Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gemini's Meatballs

Like so many other homes, meatballs are a regular in our home, too.
This recipe combines all my favorite Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices I would like to have in my meatball.
In fact, whenever I open the lid of that cumin bottle and its smell hits my nose, it takes me right back to my childhood: I see my mom at the stove, pan-frying meatballs and potatoes, and the air smells like corn oil, cumin and black pepper. I can taste the cool yogurt over the hot meatballs and fries...

I used ground chicken for the meatballs in the picture, but you can use any type of ground meat you like: Turkey, lamb, beef, pork etc. (I find that the 50/50 combination of beef and lamb is very good, too.) You can even mix and puree leftover cooked vegetables, or mix and mince raw vegetables, and use them as your base to make veggie balls/burgers.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
  • 1 pound ground meat (chicken/turkey/beef/lamb/veal/pork or a combination)
  • 10 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder or 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon of each of the following spices: Dried oregano, ground cumin, ground black pepper, ground allspice.
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (a big pinch)
  • No-stick cooking spray (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Put all the ingredients in a large and shallow bowl, and mix with your hands until combined thoroughly.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet/grill pan over high heat. While the pan is getting hot, form the meatballs: You can form 4 big burger patties (one per person) and enjoy them between regular burger buns, or you can make up to 12-16 small meatballs. If you are making small meatballs, first roll them between the palms of your hands to form balls, press them gently to flatten them a little bit, so they can have more surface to brown for flavor.
  • Put the meatballs on hot pan (you need to hear a nice sizzle) and brown both sides for a few minutes (be careful not burn them, but do also not move or flip them until one side develops a nice brown crust, otherwise they may stick to the pan and fall apart) If you have a good non-stick pan, you won't need to oil the pan before sauteing the meatballs; but if you just want to be cautious, you can spray the skillet with no-stick cooking spray.
  • Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet/pan (or if your skillet is oven-proof, you can take your skillet directly from stove top into oven) and finish cooking them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Additional points:

  • The skillet part of this recipe is just to start the cooking and developing flavor by building those nice grill marks on the surface, and the oven part is to finish cooking the inside of the meat without over-drying it. Very often, people try to cook meatballs, steaks, burgers or chicken pieces completely in a skillet on the stove, but when the outside is already browned, the inside is still not cooked through; or by the time the inside is cooked, the meat has become very dry or burned. Therefore, I would highly recommend that you invest in a few different size oven-proof skillets; you will get tons of use out of these and see that they pay themselves off by providing you juicy, flavorful dishes using this technique.
  • It may be a bit off-putting to mix the meatballs with your hands, but unfortunately this is the only right way for this task. I wear thin latex gloves when mixing and just throw them away when I'm done, it keeps my hands (and everything else) clean and germ-free.

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