Monday, April 13, 2009

Albondigas aka Meatballs

Doesn't that just roll off your tongue? If not, let me help you.

all-bone-dee-gus (that's as close as I can get to phonetic in English)

I've had meatballs before but none compare to a well done dominican meatball. My dad's aunt, Tia Hircania (here we go again - Tea-ah Ear-cahn-ee-uh) is famous for her version. Lots of seasoning in the form of garlic, onion, typical sofrito stuff (a base of aromatic veggies and herbs that is sauteed well for most dishes) plus mashed boiled potatoes as a binder. I don't have that recipe yet, sorry. But I do have this one from Gourmet magazine via Food Network.

Now for the past 3 years or so I've been on the hunt for a tasty meatball. Most versions with high ratings have been Italian and while quite yummy, not what I remember eating growing up. So this little nugget came in a newsletter last week and I tried it that very day. They are supposed to be a tapas (small bite) dish but I make them a bit larger and serve them with oven roasted potatoes and onions. The family devours these and I particularly like them the next day when the flavors intensify and make a yummy meatball sandwich.

Thanks to the reviewer who mentioned broiling the meatballs instead of frying them. I'm not afraid to fry and will break out the deep fryer for anything but cleaning meat grease off the stove on a weeknight from shallow frying isn't my idea of fun. Plus you cut the browning time down to 10 minutes using the broiler instead of standing in front of the stove getting splattered while the kids have their run of the house during the witching hour.

The star of this dish is the nutmeg, freshly grated and you'll thank me. It doesn't come across as nutmeg but when you mix the meat with the other ingredients it smells like a divine sausage mixture. I don't keep ground pork around so I used all beef (85/15). I also didn't have flat leaf parsley and instead used a bit less of cilantro. The tomatoes I had in the pantry were diced so I used those instead of the whole, juice and all as stated in the recipe.

Albondigas (Meatballs in Garlic-Tomato Sauce)

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, via Food Network


1 large onion, minced
1 large green bell pepper, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground beef (not lean)
1/2 pound ground pok (not lean) - I used all beef and only used 2lbs
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs - all I had were italian style so I reduced the salt in the rest of the recipe a bit
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced - I subbed cilantro and used a scant 1/4 cup


4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can (28-33oz) whole tomatoes or diced tomaties, with juice
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Cook onion and bell pepper in tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until softened.

Allow sauteed veggies to cool. Then mix with the rest of the ingredients for the meatballs.

Form 1 1/2 - 2 inch meatballs (or your size preference) and place on a baking sheet that is broiler safe.

Broil for 10 minutes until they are very well browned but definitely not cooked yet. Don't let them burn but get enough color on them for more flavor. Of course, if you have an electric oven like me leave the door open when broiling otherwise your element will cycle on and off.

After you put the meatballs in the oven, start your sauce. Cook the garlic in the olive oil for only 10-20 seconds over low heat. Then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Also season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer. Now check on the meatballs and take them out when they are nicely browned but not cooked through. Here is the amount of color you want to see on the meatballs:

Place the meatballs in the simmering sauce and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes. The sauce will be nice and thick but chunky.

It's hard to photograph a simmered meatball and my memory card was full but here's the finished dish. Again, not to be pushy but my favorite way to have these is in a sandwich with plenty of sauce. So delicious.

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