Friday, May 22, 2009

Where Have I Been?

That is a very good question and the answer is: "Out" I have been very socially engaged all week. Look, Ma! I've got friends! Since I have been out and about around town, I haven't been home to make food. Poor boyfriend has been living off of lomper and smoked salmon while I have been living it up, mostly at Champangeria in Frogner. Lucky me! Review forthcoming - and I promise, this one will be good.

Despite the full dance card, I did manage to make dinner once this week. Last night, I made a pretty healthy dinner. We had pork meatballs, or albondigas as they are called in Spanish, with a tomato sauce over rice. I had actually made the meatballs several weeks ago and froze them in anticipation of the day I would not have any fresh ingredients in my refrigerator and didn't feel like going outside to buy any. That day came yesterday. I did have a red onion, garlic and some scallions in the fridge. Those make up the only fresh ingredients I used. Everything else was frozen or a pantry staple like canned tomatoes and rice.

The meatballs, while maybe not 100% authentic, were really tasty. I used the same flavor profile of the Mexican food I grew up with: onions, cilantro (coriander), garlic, and jalapeño. In addition to these flavors, I ground a couple of strips of bacon and added that to the mix. The result was a very tender and moist meatball that had a hint of smokiness from the bacon, freshness from the cilantro, and a hit of heat from the jalapeño. I baked the meatballs until they were browned and I spooned the tomato sauce on top. It was lovely with the rice and very satisfying. The meatballs will be good in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks and if you're using them frozen, it will take a little longer to cook in the oven. For the busy girl who can't always be at home to cook everything from scratch, the freezer is her best friend.

Pork Albondigas

Makes about 20 meatballs
¾ lb ground pork (can also sub out chicken or turkey)
2 strips of bacon, minced – I minced mine in the food processor
Half yellow onion, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ cup minced cilantro/coriander
2 tbs tomato paste
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
¾ cup fresh bread crumbs (if you don't have fresh, you can use dried)
1 egg

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl using your hands. It's the best way to get them really mixed well. Using a tablespoon, or a small ice cream scoop, scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls and roll it into a ball.

If freezing: Place a sheet of wax paper on a plate. Place each meatball on the plate ensuring they do not touch. Let the meatballs freeze for several hours, best overnight. When completely frozen, place the meatballs into a freezer-proof plastic baggie (I like Ziplock). Keep for up to 6 weeks.

If using immediately, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, 200 degrees C. Place a sheet of foil over a baking sheet. Place each meatball on the baking sheet spacing them about an inch apart. Bake for about 16-18 minutes until the meatball is golden brown. You can also turn them over halfway through baking to ensure an even browning. I also cut into one to make sure they are done in the middle (especially when they start out frozen).

If you are baking frozen meatballs, bake for about 20 - 25 minutes.
If you choose to make the tomato sauce to accompany the meatballs, I suggest you start the sauce first so that the sauce has time to simmer and let the flavors concentrate.

Tomato Sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 tbs tomato paste
1/2 red onion (or any onion), diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 scallions, diced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper + more to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken stock (water also works just fine).
In a medium saucepan, heat about 1.5 tbs olive oil and saute the onion and red pepper flakes at medium heat. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the garlic and saute until the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant. Season the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper. To the sauteed onions and garlic, add the tablespoon of tomato paste and saute for another minute. I do this to caramelize the tomato paste and further concentrate the flavor and sweetness. To the pan, add the can of tomatoes, chicken stock, cumin, scallions, salt, pepper and sugar and stir well. Turn the heat up to high and let the sauce come to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes. It can simmer gently for longer - perhaps the time it takes to make the meatballs?

The sauce will reduce quite a bit and be thick and chunky. Test the sauce for seasoning and adjust the salt, pepper, and sugar. Spoon the sauce over the cooked meatballs and rice.

Sorry for the mangled picture - I was really hungry. Also, the meatballs are hiding under the sauce.

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