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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tender meatballs

"Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.” -- Lemony Snicket

It took a long time to find the right ratios of meat to bread to egg to get a meatball recipe that would hold together yet still be perfectly tender. What I really love about this ratio is that they're even better the next day or the day after and they freeze really well. Usually, I double the recipe, freeze half of them, then use the leftovers to make a meatball sub with melted provolone cheese.

Ingredients (about 30 meatballs):
  • 2 lbs ground beef chuck (85% lean)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp table salt (or 4 tsp kosher salt)*
  • 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs (regular or Panko are fine)**
  • 2 cups of favorite sauce (optional)
* It's best with this lean to fat ratio, but if you want to reduce the fat I'd also replace up to 50% of it with ground veal, turkey or pork to make sure they still come out really tender.

** I usually use the breadcrumbs in a jar because I always have them on hand. If you're going to use bread, toast it until it's dry but not brown, tear it into small pieces, soak it in the liquid ingredients for 10 minutes then mix well before adding the beef. 3/4 cups breadcrumbs is equivalent to 3 slices of white sandwich bread.

  1. Beat the eggs slightly in a large bowl with a fork.
  2. Add the ketchup, water, seasonings and stir until well mixed.
  3. Stir in the bread crumbs.
  4. Break up the beef with your fingers and gently mix in. (It's not imperative that it's perfectly mixed, but don't overwork it because the beef will take on an artificial spongy texture.)
  5. Form the meatballs about 2 tablespoons in size (or to your preference). I use my cookie scoop which looks like a smaller ice cream scoop.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the meatballs will stay together.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  8. Heat a large heavy oven-safe pan with just enough olive oil that it completely covers the bottom. (A solid stainless steel or cast iron pan is perfect for this.)
  9. Place the cold meatballs in the pan, one by one, starting around the outer edge first. Some of them will have flattened slightly while sitting in the fridge, gently shape them into a perfect circle as you put them in the pan.
  10. Brown them for about 2 minutes before gently rolling them over to the opposite side and browning for 2 more minutes.
  11. Pour the sauce over the meatballs (optional).
  12. Remove the pan from the stove and place into oven.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes.

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