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Dec 22, 2010 05:38 PM

Need help for really good meatballs.

I shot off my mouth and criticized (politely) Deb's Eric Ripert-inspired meatballs.

Bottom line is that I need a killer recipe because I said I'd be the editor-in-charge of the next meatball experience.

I will go to great lengths, up to and including grinding disparate meats, to arrive at the perfect blend. I'll seek out all appropriate herbs and have no problem staying up all night to pull this off.

This is serious family competition. My wife is a very good cook. I have no intention of backing off.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Well, Steve, I'd start with a 25/25/50 blend of pork, veal, and lean beef. I would grind it myself, using the food processor, to ensure I got precisely the grind I want. Next trick is to match the fillers and flavorings.
    I'd probably blend the ground meat using a 1 part meat to other ingredients by weight ratio, with 1/4 part bread crumbs, 1/2 part fresh eggs, 1/2 part condensed milk, 1/2 part grated cheese (Parmesan and Romano) 1/4 part finely grated onion, one finely chopped clove of garlic, finely chopped fresh parsley and fresh basil to taste.
    I'd make the meat balls to a size about 1 1/2 inches and pack them loosely, just enough to hold their shape. Then I'd refrigerate them, covered, over night on a baking sheet and next morning I'd roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour to 45 minutes, turning once half way through the cooking time.
    You could also saute these in a film of olive oil but, if you do, keep the heat low and brown them very slowly. An over-browned or, worse yet, burned meatball is a loser.

    20 Replies
    1. re: todao

      This sounds good. Tell me more about your bread crumbs. The condensed milk component is reminiscent of a Paul Prudhomme meatloaf (a good thing).

      1. re: steve h.

        I like to make my own so that I can control their size. I admit that I do often use those that come from a box at the super market but, for a meatball contest, I'd make my own. For the contest you describe I would use a good quality sourdough (e.g San Francisco sourdough - the real stuff) and extra sour if it is available. But that's a risk because if the "taste tester" doesn't like the flavor profile - you lose.
        Paul Prudhomme - great scott, I haven't read any of his work for a few years. I used to watch his work on PBS; one of my culinary heroes. Must try to find something recent that he's written.
        In case you're interested in my reading list for the past year, here's some of them:

        1. re: steve h.

          Panko works well in meatballs too.

        2. re: todao

          Condensed milk in meatballs? That sounds disgusting. Do you perhaps mean evaporated milk?

          I think the trick to good meatballs is to soak a few slices of bread in milk (maybe three slices nof good white bread with the crust cut off for two pounds of meat) for a half an hour or so before you put the meatball ingredients together. (Todao's ingredients sound great, all except for the condensed milk.) Once the other ingredients are in a bowl, squeeze the milk out of the bread and add it to them. Then form and cook the meatballs as Tadao suggested.

          1. re: Euonymous

            Agree you don't want condensed milk- it's sugary. I prefer the milk soaked bread too. The real trick is to handle the meat as little as possible for tender meatballs.

            1. re: Euonymous

              Yeah ... thanks for picking that one up Euonymous. Even though evaporated milk is technically "condensed" that isn't the way we typically describe it and I apologize for the culinary faux pas.
              Nice to know that an error made in this forum is eventually caught and exposed by someone.
              I really appreciate your catching that one. If he'd used "condensed" milk I'd have gone into hiding.
              I sure hope Steve gets back to this and catches the misinformation.

              1. re: todao

                No worries. I'm just happy for the participation.
                Meatballs are serious business.

                1. re: steve h.

                  If you want to go all the way, heavy cream is the only way to go. With eggplant parmigiana too. I usually punk out and use half and half, because I always have on hand.

                  1. re: coll

                    I'm all in.
                    I shot off my mouth and now I have to deliver.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      OK from all my years of experience: mix some type of white bread with cream, just enough to make it into a panade. Then an egg. Then some seasoning like Italian seasonings. parmesan cheese, granulated garlic, worchestshire, your call. Don't forget a good amount of salt and pepper. Then your mix of veal, pork and beef ground. Squish with your hands, my grandmother always said the little bit of heat was what melded it. Fry on all sides in a bit of olive oil and throw them in the sauce when it gets going. I'm making a pot tomorrow so if I forgot anything I will let you know then.

                      1. re: coll

                        I've only used water with the bread, use parm, finely chopped garlic, s & p, chopped fresh basil, lots of eggs. I use ground chuck (beef) from a great butcher and brown all sides well in frying pan.

                        Where does the cream come in the eggplant parm? Do you fry or broil the slices?

                        1. re: walker

                          I have a thing, I never use water if I can use something with a little flavor! I like just a hint of garlic in there, therefore granulated. I tolerate garlic much better now (in my old age) but still don't like it in my face, so to speak. Used to upset my stomach something awful and I hated when I encountered it in unexpected places. My SIL once made meatballs with raw garlic and we still shudder when we remember our first taste!

                          I find more than one or two eggs the meatballs fall apart, do you have that problem?

                          My eggplant: I dust the slices with flour, then dip in a bowl of heavy cream mixed with about 5 eggs and lots of parmesan. Then, breadcrumb and flour mix to coat and into the deep fryer. The egg and cream that is leftover gets poured in the middle of the casserole, to fluff it up a bit. This is one dish that I cannot compromise on the frying we LOVE to eat the plain fried slices right out of the fryer, well salted.

                          1. re: coll

                            My mother was US born, 100% Southern Italian and her meatballs, to my mind, were really GREAT. She said her secret was lots of eggs. For 3 lbs of ground chuck, I use 10-12 eggs. I use 10-12 slices of firm white bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, then squeeze out water. After mixing everything, she would leave it in the bowl with a towel on top, in the fridge, for a couple of hours or so. I never have trouble with them falling apart.

                            I love a lot of finely chopped garlic...garlic must be very fresh with that middle "germ" removed...I'm told this is what gives people heartburn and in really fresh garlic, it's hard to find (easy to find in older garlic).

                            I also put in chopped, fresh basil and nearly a cup of grated parm. I brown them well, salt in mix and also when I remove from the browning. We love them as is and also after they've simmered in the sauce about an hour.

                            That eggplant dish sounds great to me!

                            1. re: walker

                              Just made my meatballs for tomorrow, 2 lb meat with two eggs, and was a little nervous they were so squishy. But that may have been because I've been experimenting with different breads for the initial panade, and used Sabrett hot dog rolls just for fun. When I'm comfortable with the results, I'll try more eggs, even though I was recently told my cholesterol is very can that be?

                              Also very interested in your garlic instructions, they don't bother me that much anymore and maybe (?) my meatballs are a bit bland. Plus fresh basil, yeah!!

                              1. re: coll

                                I don't know how many meatballs I get with 3 lbs but it's a lot so per serving I don't think you'd be eating more than 1 or 2 eggs.

                              2. re: walker

                                10-12 eggs in your recipe? Are they poached or coddled? : > )

                                1. re: grampart

                                  It just makes them moist, not hard. Everyone seems to love them.

                                  1. re: walker

                                    Yes, that's my experience, too. Maroni said "I'm making a quiche inside these meatballs" (4 eggs to 1 lb ground chuck).

                  2. re: todao

                    If he'd used "condensed" milk I'd have gone into hiding.
                    Deb would probably have laughed him right out of the kitchen.

                  3. re: Euonymous

                    I agree with the soaking of 1 or 2 crustless pieces of bread in milk. I am a total convert to the trinity of veal, beef and pork. Veal isn't often available here, so when I find at the grocery I buy several packages. I also try to handle the mixture as little as possible.

                2. I use a mix that is one third, pork shoulder, veal shoulder and sirloin for Italian meatballs. I use my own bread crumbs and one medium egg per 1 1/2 pounds of meat. I also add about one cup of the then-cooking tomato sauce to the meat mix (cool it a bit), because it is all about getting flavor into them. I also mix in garlic powder, greated parmesan, parsley, and a touch of oregano and salt.

                  I think the biggest thing is how you are going to cook them. I gave up browning them long ago, as this seemed to make harder meatballs and oiler tomato sauce to cook them in. Instead, the hot cooking temp of the tomato sauce is hot enough to sear meatballs if you layer them in slowly. I once saw my grandmother do this, and I concluded that no one could make juicer and tastier meatballs. Just don't stir until they firm up a bit -- maybe about ten minutes of cooking. On the other hand, browning can impart more flavor if that is the flavor you prefer, so this is really your choice. I just made 15 pounds of this stuff for a Christmas Party a few weeks ago, and got raves without browning. Still, for a review or contest, or if you are not going to make them Italian style, then brown them up well, Please let us know how you did. Good luck.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: RGC1982

                    I also put them directly into the sauce without browning them. I also like to add about a 1/4 of a cup of ricotta to the mix. It adds flavor and makes them even more tender.

                  2. Just wanted to throw in another vote for the soaked bread in place of breadcrumbs. In my experience it makes a huge difference in the meatball texture, helping them to stay tender.
                    Learned this from my Italian grandmother, whose meatballs have spoiled me for life.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: poptart

                      I have been making meatballs for 30 plus years and I got my recipie from a 75 Y/O aunt from northern Italy and they are a real hit and very simple no milk or dairy of any kind. here it is: equal parts pork/ veal/ beef fresh parsly,grated pecorino ,black pepper,good bread crumbs, egg,finley grated garlic (not too much) mix all together with a wooden spoon minimize handling pack the balls loosley. spread them out on a cookie sheet and refrigirate for a few hours. sear them lightly in olive oil and throw them in the sauce to complete cooking. very easy and you will love them if you take the time to go to a buthcer to custom grind the meat you will not regret it. BTW thats the way it was done in the old days. Good luck

                    2. Oh man steve, what did you do this time.

                      couple of items i do that i like. everyone speaks of soaking the bread with milk. I actually add water to the meat mixture. it is amazing how much water it will hold. then i bake the meatballs on a rack in the oven. this almost steams tehm from the inside and makes then incredibly moist.

                      as far as ingredients, i like the "meatloaf' mix that others have offered up 50-25-25. a little red pepper and some good parm in the meat mixture is always a good touch.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jfood

                        Howdy, Doggie.
                        Thanks for the input. Meatballs are serious business. I suspect I've just taken the first halting steps of a very long journey.

                      2. My family's Calabrese-American classic. For each pound of beef (all freshly ground chuck, a little pork can't hurt): 1 cup plain dried bread crumbs, ideally homemade; 1 cup water (up to, as needed to soften); 1 egg; 1 clove garlic mined; chopped parsley to taste; grated pecorino romano or grana padano (say, 1/4 c); s/p. No milk, no cream, no basil, no onions. Handle lightly with wet palms, shape into 1" to 1-1/4" size pieces. Fry in olive oil. Add to sauce. Serves 4 (with pasta), and scales up fairly well.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: bob96

                          I make Mama Leone's meatballs with raisins but cut the raisins in half with scissors. I like the smaller pieces and they stay together better. They are a tad sweet bt very good.

                          1. re: Johnny West

                            You should try dried currants then, it's a nice change. If you can find them, that is!

                            1. re: coll

                              I have! Funny you mentioned that. We have currents and get them at the commissary - our bushes haven't done well in recent years.

                              1. re: Johnny West

                                I read that dried currants and pignolia nuts are the secret to someplace in NYC's famous meatballs. Rao's or someone like that.

                                1. re: coll

                                  It's very Sicilian. My family always made meatballs with raisins and pignoli for my father. Not being a fan of sweet with protein since childhood, I never liked them.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    I tried adding currents and pignolia once, but it didn't make that much of a difference for such expensive ingredients.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      did you just add them to a standard recipe, or follow one that actually called for pine nuts & currants? the Bon App├ętit recipe for Sicilian meatballs is terrific...several of us here on CH are big fans.