It's always fun when you almost burn your house down. Today was a bit of a non-starter. I was supposed to have cooking club with my dear friend Andrew. I woke up with a bad hangover and then futzed around my apartment, sorting food out for the week. I finally got out of the house and was told that the train wasn't running to Crystal Palace, but there was a bus. 120 minutes of desperate purgatory later, I got to my destination. grumble grumble.
After having a nice chat for 30 minutes, I went white as a sheet and scared the crap out of Andrew when I realized that I had left the oven on with an acorn squash inside of it. Andrew graciously drove me back home and made him tea as I cleaned up the blackened shell of said squash. Needless to say, cooking club will commence next week and I made myself a consolation dinner of one of my favorite things (meatballs) to cheer myself up.
These meatballs came together really well. I had just gotten lots of lovely fresh produce from Farm Direct and had a huge bag of curly parsley to use and two shallots that were crying to be chopped. I actually consider parsley, flat or curly, one of my go-to herbs. It has a clean taste that allows other flavors to bounce off of it, and also adds a hit of freshness to whatever it is in. I added probably about 2/3 of a cup of finely chopped parsley to this, so it really features as a flavor here. If you don't like that much parsley, just dial this down to 1/3 cup.
I learned from a friend that cooking your onions before they into the meatball mix is crucial. You have two options, you can slowly melt the shallots and garlic here for a more mellow flavor, or you can caramelize them for added richness. I chose the latter and probably always will.
Finally, the sear on the meatballs is the last piece. PLEASE for the love of Joseph, get a cast iron pan and NEVER use soap on it. They cost a pittance and last forever and if you season them correctly (blog coming) they get better with age. I added some lard that I had saved from when I made pork belly to my le creuset frying pan and gave the meatballs a good sear. Then quickly popped them into a hot over for 10 minutes to finish them off. Moist, spicy and satisfying, my dinner saved an otherwise abbreviated day.
Parsley and Shallot Meatballs w/ Chickpea salad
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large bunch curly parsley, very very finely chopped
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 3 cloved garlic, smashed and then chopped
- big pinch of dried thyme
- big pinch of cumin seeds
- chili flakes
- 1 egg
For the Chickpea Salad
- 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and lightly mashed with a fork
- 1 red onion chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 1 small bunch of Lacinato kale, chopped small
- olive oil and apple cider vinegar
- juice of 1 lemon
Be wary of shallots, they really sting your eyes. With the garlic, take the flat side of a big knife and smash down on the garlic until you almost make a paste, then give it a rough chop. Heat a bit of oil in your cast iron pan, and add the shallots and garlic, thyme, cumin seed and chili flakes. Use medium heat if you're looking for them to brown and caramelize.
Add the onion/herb mixture to a bowl, with the breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt and pepper and beef. Mix well and form meatballs that are smaller than ping-pong balls. You want them to be the same size as each other because then they'll cook in the same amount of time. Heat some type of oil (I used pork fat here, and it was AMAZING. Goose fat, duck fat or fine, boring olive oil works too.) Heat it gently and then add your meatballs. Leave them alone for at least 4 minutes. Then give the pan a shake. You can have a ton of patience and really get a good crust on the whole meatball, but I find this could make them dry. I usually do two sides and then into the oven for 10 minutes. Then let rest for at least 7minutes.
The chickpea salad is based on a flavor combo I've been doing a lot. Parsley, red onion, lemon, some type of bean and always kale. Why? Because Kale. Just toss all the ingredients in a bowl and toss with a fork. Pile a big spoonful of this in a bowl, throw on some meatballs, and then add a dollop of yogurt, preferably greek. I didn't have any yogurt today, but when I make this again, I won't make that mistake again.