Monday, September 12, 2011

The Quest for the Perfect Meatball

Meatballs with a Pomegranate Glaze
Recently I have decided to start mastering more of the basics of cooking. I am completely self taught, I started really cooking about four years ago now. I had just started college and with both my mom and stepdad working, my schedule was the most compatible for cooking dinner. So I jumped in. In some ways I feel that this has been a benefit to my cooking style. I am unafraid to jump in and try new things, be it flavors or techniques. I've been able to learn at my own pace and really discover what it is that I like and don't like. On the flipside this has also left me woefully short in the department of a lot of the basics. I skip around so often that I haven't truly mastered some of the techniques that I would like to have down to a science. Recognizing that, I have decided to create a list of the things I want to have a go-to version of. I want to create a page here for that list soon, but in the meantime allow me to introduce you to the meatball.

Now in my house meatballs are in direct relation to comfort food. My mom's hands down favorite is a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. For me, not so much. I have a complex relationship with meatballs. During my embarrassingly long fear of meat stage I hated to make them because touching the raw meat grossed me out to no end. I also tend to find them dry and not particularly flavorful either, needing to be smothered in a sauce to be good. So here's the treasure that's hopefully awaiting me at the end of this quest: a juicy meatball packed full of savory delicious flavor that is complimented by any number of sauce additions.

Above we have my first attempt. Meatballs in a pomegranate glaze on a bed of parsnip mash. Ignoring the fact that these parsnips were woody and tasted more like horseradish (despite not adding any) than parsnip, this was a pretty good dinner. It's getting close.

Pros: The meatball was juicy, but not too flaky. The garlic and onion components were pretty much spot on. The size was perfect.
Cons: They were too salty. The onion needed to be diced more finely. The flavor was... lacking.

What I learned is this. My cookie scoop also makes the perfect sized meatball. Softening the garlic and onion before adding it to the meatball mix makes a world of difference in the flavor. It brings out a subtle sweetness that is a nice counterbalance to the salt (and is much nicer than the acrid taste of raw onion). Three eggs are better than two for structure. For round two I'm thinking some different spices are in order. Also a finer chop on the ingredients.

What makes a perfect meatball for you? What recipes would you like to perfect in your kitchen?

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