“Shawn Won’t Eat These” Meatballs

My friend Shawn has some issues with food. If something has flavour or texture or any sort of culinary interest at all, he won’t touch it. No way, no how. Slabs of rubber and piles of sawdust would be his ideal menu. So these meatballs are like kryptonite to him – packed with flavour and perfect tender texture, they would have him cowering in the corner with his cape over his head.

If he had a cape.

For everyone else – even people without capes – these meatballs were created to be the filling of a nice meatball sandwich or sub. You can obviously use them however you like, but you are cheating yourself if you don’t try these in a sandwich at least once. Fresh bread, fontina cheese, and maybe a few grilled peppers on top. Trust me.

And finally, yes, I know that this one was a long time coming. I promised the final recipe months ago, but I kept dicking with it, assuming that there must be some way to improve on the original. After a number of variants, however, I have always gone back to the “beta test” version so I present it to you here in all of its original glory and with profuse apologies for keeping you waiting. Enjoy.

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Ingredients for the meatballs:

1 kg ground beef
500 g ground pork
3 eggs
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup water
1 cup crumbs
1 cup finely grated romano cheese
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

I hope I don’t have to remind you that this is regular ground chuck and regular ground pork – none of this “lean” tomfoolery, please.

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 big spanish onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots grated
1/4 cup garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 head flat leaf parsley chopped
2 cans san marzano crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
2 tsp allspice
1 cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
1 tsp ancho chili powder

Start with the meatballs – mix all of the ingredients (with your hands, preferably) in a big bowl. Give it a really good mix, you want to get the fennel working. Shape into golf-ball sized meatballs. You want the size nice and even, and you should get between 44 and 48 meatballs. Put them on a sheet tray or in a VERY shallow roasting pan and roast them with a wood or charcoal fire at around 190 – 205 degrees C (that is 375 – 400 F and indirect heat, of course) for 45 minutes. Turn them once, after the first 25 minutes. Put them aside, and leave your fire cooking along just as it is.

In a big roasting pan or baking dish, heat up about 2 big spoonfuls of the drippings you got from roasting the meatballs and saute the onion and carrots for about 5 minutes – you want the carrot totally soft and the onions starting to get some colour. Add in the garlic and the parsley and let that work for about 2 minutes more. You should start to smell both the parsley and the garlic. Then add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce and mix well.

Put the sauce back into your charcoal or wood cooker and let it simmer down for about 45 minutes. Taste, and adjust with salt and pepper if needed. Load the meatballs into the dish, make sure they are covered with sauce, cover the dish tightly with foil and let it sit in the cooker for 30 minutes more.

And, done. Serve on soft buns with a bit more romano cheese and a bit more fresh parsley to finish. I like to use the little elongated dinner rolls – they hold exactly 2 meatballs for a little four-bite sandwich that is easy to eat and hold if you have a beer in your other hand.

Faux Q Alert: You can do this in your regular oven, use the exact same times and temperatures given here. They aren’t going to be quite the same, and they won’t have the incredible deep red caramel colour, but they will still taste pretty damn great.


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