Balls of Meat (Mark 1, Mod 0)


Curried Lamb Meatballs  ( 2 oz, 60 gm ) with Long-grain Rice and Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I’ve had meatballs hard enough to be banned as cricket balls. I’ve had them so mushy, they qualified as seriously deconstructed in current parlance de cuisine. I’ve had them so bready, they were meat-sandwich balls. And then there are those industrial cocktail types that taste like the meat we ate in the college mess-hall — but only if one was really, really, really hungry (you know, the kind with mysterious bits and a green sheen). None of the above were made by Janet.

So here are some observations (not rules) for the making of balls of meat.

Warning: This comment is about basic meatballs, not regional or traditional specialties that require mixtures for their essential characteristics.  Generally, don’t mix meats unless generic mess-hall meat flavor is what is wanted, though beef and veal do work. If the spicing is going to make the meat source ambiguous anyway, mix away. Finally, if the meat involved has a strong flavor you want to soften, mix meats with similar cooking behavior/needs (eg., red-red, fowl-fowl, light-light).

Spice the meat with a fraction of the spice mix for the sauce. The use of common spicing shortens cooking time since it takes forever for the meat to take up the spice oils from simmering in the sauce only. Since it will be hard to taste these before done, and adjusting spices will be difficult, be careful with any strong spice such as cayenne, sriracha, etc. — you can’t do much about it if it is too much.

When adding starch and/or egg and forming the balls, don’t manipulate the meat any more than necessary. Too much handling and the tender stuff you bought/hunted will be tough. Whisking the eggs ahead of adding them to the meat reduces the amount of manipulation required.

Considering the next steps, select a starch binder that will readily absorb meat juices without creating lumpiness. We haven’t found flour works all that well, and rice needs to be partially cooked first. Crumbs of some sort seem to be the winner, and less is more. No more than ~3 tbsp (45 gm) per pound (454 gm) seems to work ~ 10%. Blend the starch binder into the meat before adding any eggs.

Once binder, etc. is mixed in, pat the completed mixture out flat to about a third of an inch (10mm) on non-stick foil and then spread and pat the spices uniformly across the meat. Roll this layer into a long tube and chill for 30 min to 2 hours. Based on the total weight of meat, slice the tube like cookie dough to create 1 to 2 oz disks (30-60 gm). Roll these by hand — only until ball shaped.

Heat light oil to 325°F in a saute pan, and fry the balls until browned — ~3  min for 2oz (30 gm). Then flip and repeat. Drain. The frying locks in the meat juices and further blooms the spices.

Finish cooking them in a pot or slow-cooker in the desired sauce until done in center (use a meat thermometer). Completing the cooking in sauce keeps them tender.

The pic is the results. Try making any stew-like dish using this approach instead of using stew meat. It’s a pleasant surprise.

Written while waiting for the wind to drop so the water would come back into the boatyard basin deep enough we could get to the travel lift without plowing a groove. [We plowed anyway.]


OK, how about Fundido made with Chimichurri sauce.
Night before last, I grilled chicken marinaded in  Caribbean style Chimichurri (w/Parsley, Cilantro, Garlic & Mint). There were left-overs.
Last night, Janet chopped the cooked chicken into small pieces along with a sweet red pepper, some scallions and black olives.
She mixed this and the unused Chimichurri with Queso Blanco and heated it until melted and well mixed.
She served it with toasted flat-bread after we had two excellent artichokes for starters. And there is left-over Chimidido for enchiladas.

There are other varieties of Chimi for those who have specific ingredient issues.

Ah… Ha! Jicama!

PJicamaeel a Jicama. Slice into 1/4 in spears. Toss with 1 tsp +/- of blackening spice.

Marinate in margarita mixer (w/o tequila) for 24 hours.

Serve for appetizers and/or dessert.

Diced pieces are also good mixed into salads and starches.

Save the marinade for hydrating starches: rice, cous cous, quinoa or for adding to water for boiling shrimp.

Lentil Fritters

We ate the Lentil Soup down to less than a bowl each.

Lentil FrittersSo, I whipped up two eggs and tossed them in. To this I added a couple of cups of commercial croutons I had beaten to crumbs. The consistency was still just a bit fluid so I added AP flour until the mixture, when picked up with an ice cream scoop (with a flick handle) would hold its shape when deposited on a plate.

Then I fired up the saute pan and heated light vegetable oil to 325 deg F (used my laser thermometer to keep track of the oil temp). Into the oil I deposited ice cream scoops full of the mixture and fried them ala salmon cakes. These I allowed to drain on a rack over a cookie sheet in a 250 deg F oven.

Janet made up an Aoli from mayo, ketchup, blackening spice, sriracha and Worcestershire sauce. Ingredients to taste and color.


Chorizo Lentil Soup

We’ve had a couple of lentil soups lately and decided we could do better. Here’s the recipe.

Lentil Spices4 oz Chorizo, casing removed

1# bag of dried Lentils

Mirepoix = one cup of chopped onion + 1/4 cup of thin sliced Ready to Eatcelery + 1/4 cup of thin sliced carrot.

1/4 cup bacon chunks (lardons are fine, but really trim away the fat, really)

1 tbsp of roasted garlic, minced

White Pepper + Curry Powder + Ginger Powder + Coriander + Cumin in equal parts, total amount to taste (I used a tsp each to start).

1/2 -1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 four inch sweet pepper (yellow or red diced small)

Beef stock 1 to 3 cups + Water 3 to 1 cup + 1 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce per cup of water used

1. Brown chorizo in smaller than teaspoon size chunks. Do not cook completely. Remove sausage from pan and half soften the mirepoix with garlic and sweet pepper using the fat from the chorizo.

2. Wash the lentils and hand inspect for foreign material.

3. Place mirepoix+ in 4 qt slow cooker and wipe saute pan clean.

4. Return saute pan to the burner (no hotter than 400 deg F) and put dry seasonings in pan and toast until they begin to adhere to one another (from releasing oils). Immediately scrape these into the mirepoix+

5. Add the crushed red pepper, bacon bits and the lentils to the slow cooker.

6. Add the mixture of water and beef stock and soy that adds roughly to four cups. If this does not fully cover the other ingredients, add more water.

7. Cook on high for 2 hours. Then cook on low until lentils are at desired tenderness. Add water to cover as necessary.

8. An hour before serving check spices and adjust according to taste.
Serve with Naan or Pita or Injera firm enough to wipe the bowl.

Coming next a Lamb Curry based on a Jamaican shrimp pepper pot recipe (sans shrimp).

To! Fu!

For the Fried Tofu – also called Agedashi Tofu
1 block (~12.3oz)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup panko flakes
Vegetable oil
For the Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce –
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic – minced
Crushed red chili flakes to taste
Paprika to taste
Fish Sauce to taste
1 spring onion – chopped
sesame seeds

1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
2. Mix cornstarch and white pepper in one small bowl. Then whisk egg in another small bowl. And finally, add in panko flakes into a third small bowl.
3. Carefully remove the tofu block from its package, since it can break easily. Slice into pieces the thickness of a “fish stick” and then cut crosswise if desired. Blot dry!
4. Coat each tofu cube first in the cornstarch bowl, then egg, then panko flakes.
5. Add vegetable oil into skillet until it pools to only about 1/4 inch deep. Heat on medium-high fire to 350-375°F [Safety note: Never heat oil unattended]
6. Place all the tofu cubes into the skillet. When one side browns, flip it over to another side. Repeat until nicely browned. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towel. Serve hot with sesame-soy dipping sauce.


Consider buying some of their spices. Plus this dipping sauce has a myriad of uses. It makes an excellent salad dressing, and a wonderful noodle soup.