These meatballs were inspired by the pastel palette and tropical rhythms of Cuba. Tender and lush with sweet raisins, briny black olives, and savory blanched...Read More
Tuesday 10: Meatballs Are The Franchise Players of Your Plate
Welcome to this special March Meatball Madness edition of Tuesday 10!
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “franchise player.” It describes athletes who are so good, they’re not just stars of the team, they’re the cornerstones around which the rest of the team is built. They’re a combination of star power, reliability, adaptability, and the x-factor.
Kinda like meatballs.
Meatballs can be spiced in endless ways and lend themselves to all kinds of serving possibilities. You can roll them in deliciousness (like coconut-crusted Bora Bora Fireballs), stuff something inside (like the hard-boiled eggs in Scotch Eggs), eat them all on their own (like Czech and Merguez meatballs) or simmer them in a tangy sauce (like Moroccan Meatballs). You can also plop them into broth with vegges for a cozy quick soup, slice them and pan-fry to make instant sausage coins, or dice them into an omelet. Talk about a go-to player!
2. Tasty anytime.
They’re great at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. For breakfast, dice and scramble into eggs. At lunch, slice onto a green salad and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. For dinner, pull out all the stops and serve on top of Mashed Cauliflower, Zucchini Noodles, or Cauliflower Rice. And you might sometimes catch me snacking on them, right out of the fridge, cold, eaten with my fingers.
3. Size really doesn’t matter.
I usually make mine with a 1-tablespoon scoop, so they’re about 1.5 inches in diameter, but you can also go big or go home. Turn one pound of ground meat into four giant meatballs and serve them in a shallow soup bowl, surrounded by broth, sauce, or veggies. Or split the difference and make ’em 2-3 inches across so they last for multiple bites. Change your size, change your luck… or something like that.
4. So fast.
If you have ground meat in your fridge, you are approximately 45 minutes from an awesome meal. Thanks, meatballs! It takes about 5-10 minute to throw the meatball dough together, then chill it for 10-20 minutes, and cook for 20-25 minutes. How’s my math? 10+20+25 = 55, give or take a few minutes depending on how fast you are in the kitchen. (Plus, you can always skimp on the chilling time to speed up the process.)
5. In great shape!
Once you’ve got the meat dough ready to go, you can make it any shape your heart desires. Burgers! Balls! Bangers! And, if you’re feeling exotic, you could make these mini-torpedo-shaped Balkan ćevapčići. The burger shape is great for piling stuff on top — and the balls are great for mounding stuff underneath. The bangers are just fun ’cause they’re BANGERS!
6. Oven, grill, and stovetop ready.
Meatballs (and burgers and bangers) can be cooked in the oven, on the stovetop, or on the grill, depending on your mood, your kitchen equipment, and your local weather patterns. (I personally like grilling in rain and snowstorms, but I know I’m kind of alone in that.) For the stovetop, heat a little fat in a nonstick skillet, and cook 5-8 minutes per side, until golden all over. To bake, cook in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, until brown and sizzling. To grill, preheat on high, then cook approximately 5 minutes per side, until browned all over and cooked through.
7. So chill.
Meatballs freeze and defrost really well, so you can make them in advance and have meatballs on demand. It’s like cable movies, only tastier. Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer to a plastic freezer baggie and pop back into the freezer until you’re ready to eat. To defrost, place the baggie in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. To reheat in the oven, cover in foil and place in a 400F oven for 10-15 minutes.
8. A cheap date. (In a good way.)
In the hierarchy of meats, ground meat (known as mince to our friends in outside the U.S.) is one of the cheapest cuts to be found in the meat case. It’s so much more affordable to stock up on ground meat than it is to sock away steaks, for example. And ground meat is ever so much more fun.
9. Ready to double down.
Meatball recipes can be easily doubled (tripled, quadrupled) and frozen — but they can also be cut in half if you’re cooking for one or want to try a new recipe without fully committing. Unlike something science-y like baking, meatball dough is more like playtime, so feel free to get creative.
10. Quantity and quality.
This might be one of my favorite things about meatballs: I get to eat a lot of them. When I make them in the 1-inch size, there’s usually a pile of 6 or 8 meatballs on my plate. I’m not too proud to admit that I would much rather see EIGHT balls on my plate instead of one little burger patty.
Turn it up to 11. Party food!
How do you instantly turn any ol’ dinner into a celebration? Stick tiny meatballs with frilly colored toothpicks. (Or colored pom pom toothpicks. Or little neon-colored swords. Or foil fireworks picks. Or tiny pink flamingos. Or gold stars, pink and red hearts, sporty checkered flags. Or (non-scary) clowns, silly mustaches, or green and gray army men fighting the good food fight.