Often, meatballs tend to be dry, heavy and flavorless. I always figured why bother. But I also know that there are a lot of bad ways to cook good things, so perhaps there are great meatballs too. A couple years ago I had some wonderful ones my parents had made for the holidays. Proof enough. My goal this week was to create your everyday meatball with ground beef, nothing too fancy, just ones that would work well with almost any sauce.
Finding 'the' recipe can be interesting and exhausting with stacks of cookbooks and recipe cards scattered on the counter and the computer close to the spinning beach ball stage. In 'The Best Recipe' book by Cook's Illustrated I finally found an answer that worked and made sense.
I love cookbooks that explain 'why'. Cooks Illustrated says that most meatballs are too dense and heavy, hey that is what I said. Meat balls are not round hamburgers. They need to be cooked thoroughly and they require additional ingredients to keep them moist and to lighten their texture and binders to keep them from falling apart. Cooks Illustrated tested with eggs, dried bread crumbs, fresh bread crumbs, ground crackers, bread soaked in milk, eggs, egg yolks, thinned yogurt, buttermilk, beef, veal and pork. They tested with roasting, broiling and pan-frying.
The results were as such: ground chuck has more fat and tends to work better, and 3/4 ground chuck with 1/4 ground pork adds more flavor. Egg yolks have fat and emulsifiers for smoothness. Buttermilk was the choice for creaminess, flavor and ease. Pan frying was preferred because it created meatballs with a rich dark crust and moist texture. So here we go with what worked for me...
(cooks illustrated & amber)
2 slices white bread crumbs
1/2 c buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1/4 c fresh grated parmesan
1 t minced fresh garlic
2 T minced fresh parsley
3/4 t salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3/4 lb ground chuck
1/4 lb ground pork
1 1/4 c vegetable oil, for frying
Combine breadcrumbs with buttermilk.
Add egg yolks.
Add parmesan, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
Add ground meats and mix fairly well.
Using a light touch and a dinner spoon, shape full spoonfuls of meat mixture into 1 1/2" round balls. If you compact them they become dense.
Pour oil into 10" or 11" fry pan to a depth of 1/4".
Turn to medium high and test after several minutes for sizzle.
Fry turning several times, until browned on all sides, approximately 10 minutes.
Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.
Keep warm in sauce of choice or serve with a dipping sauce.
These are wonderful with a marinara sauce on spaghetti. This time I served them in a BBQ/bourbon sauce with a buttered wild and whole grain brown rice mix, but they would work with most sauces.