Becky Low, from the Dairy Farmers of Utah, shares some of her tricks for mastering the perfect meatball.
In January 2010 Bon Appetit revealed their foodie trends for 2010 – are they (BonAppetit) the trend setter or the prophet for what’s hot on America’s plates? Bon Appetit said “With a return to homey, comforting cooking this year, meatballs made it big, appearing on restaurant menus and kitchen tables everywhere. They’re affordable, easy to make, absolutely delicious – and have inspired cooks from all over the world.” Bon Appetite, January 2010, pg 59.
Ten months later the phenomenon continues – from Taste of Home to Food and Wine, meatball recipes abound – but not all meatballs are made equal.
“How can a simple combination of ground meat, herbs, and cheese result in such a satisfying dish? It’s all in the way you mix them” say Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appetit, October, 2010, pg 82
“Cook’s Illustrated,” the gold standard of “how-to” cooking magazines, took meatballs to task and shared their “Better Spaghetti and Meatballs” in their November/December 2010 issue. Here’s a few tips for perfect meatballs from Cooks Illustrated
1. 2:1 Meat Mix
a. 85% lean meat – a little extra fat helps create moisture and flavor
b. Because meatballs are moist and more flavorful you are satisfied eating less
c. Use a blend of meats – beef, pork, lamb, prosciutto, or other meats (ie shrimp)
2. Coarse bread crumbs
a. Avoid commercial bread crumbs – they compact too much and do not adsorb milk. (will have small cups of each to illustrate different crumbs ‘soak’ quotient)
b. Try home dried bread cubes coarsely crushed
c. Try Panko bread crumbs – super crunchy Japanese style bread crumb
d. Coarse bread crumbs absorb milk which coats protein molecules, preventing protein linking together forming a tough mixture – result, tender, juicier meatball
3. Unflavored Gelatin
a. Soften in water prior to mixing
b. Helps the meatballs ‘plump’ during cooking; adds suppleness and desirable mouth feel
a. for flavor, may substitute regular milk; or mix 1 cup plain yogurt thinned with 1/2 cup milk
5. Parmesan Cheese
a. Builds the ‘savor’ of meatballs
3 fantastic recipes using the tips above for delicious Gourmet Meatballs – samples on display (Prepare Shrimp and Pork Meatballs)
1. Buffalo Meatballs (w/pork) – Bison is very lean – which will make for dry meatballs. Moisten it up with ground pork and prosciutto for a flavorful meatball.
2. Shrimp Meatballs (w/pork) – cooked with napa cabbage, a little soy sauce and create Asian flavor
3. Moroccan Meatballs (w/lamb) – cooked in a spicy tomato based sauce
1. Pan frying
a. creates a seared flavor
b. often increases fat content – sears juices in meat; often must add a little more fat to aid in frying process
c. biggest drawback – limited on number of meatballs you can cook at a time (time intensive if cooking for a crowd) and it increases the mess and clean up time in the kitchen
2. Cook in broth, gravy, sauce.
a. Italian ‘gravy’ is a tomato based sauce
b. Meatballs absorb flavor of sauce when simmered
c. Water is also acceptable cooking method; when meatballs are cooked, add to a sauce for flavor
3. Roasting / baking
a. for easy cleanup line baking sheet with foil
b. bake meatballs on a cooking rack, sprayed with non-stick spray (allows excess fat to drip. Saves time and clean up mess; nice when cooking for a crowd – bake 2 pans at time (half way through rotate trays top/bottom, front to back)
You can always find more recipe ideas at www.utahdairycouncil.com .