If you’ve taken a spin through my recipe section, you know that I pretty much love any and all types of food. But meatballs are one of my favorite bites. Last year I wrote this post, where I confessed that when we get together back in North Dakota, my mother often makes four different styles for our family holiday meal. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I certainly have the experience. These meatballs were a huge hit with my family. My kids (gasp!) even loved them, and they are proving to be borderline vegetarian lately. I served them with a simple quinoa side dish, but couscous, rice, or polenta would also be wonderful.
For this particular meatball, I wanted to use non-tradional flavors– at least non-traditional for a German-Hungarian from the Great Plains. I was in the mood for an ethnic twist. Here, I made lamb meatballs infused with beautifully fragrant spices. The toasted cumin– which smells amazing, by the way– and the coriander really stand out in this dish. And the vibrant fresh herbs are heavenly. I also made a red-wine sauce, and simmered the meatballs to add richness. Turns out, I like the sauce enough that I could drink it by the ladleful. Finally, I topped the dish with a bright chimichurri. It adds a nice zing that really makes every bite ‘pop!’
These meatballs are very easy to make. And they’re loaded with flavor– not just some bland lump covered in sauce. For this recipe, I used a technique that makes perfect meatballs every time– I bake them in the oven. The result is a firm, evenly browned meatball that is succulent. Not dry, but perfect. Buy the best ground lamb you can find. The quality of your meat will always be reflected in your dish. Also, buy whole spices if you can. Toast them, as it enhances the flavor. Once they’re toasted, crush them with a mortar and pestle, or anything else that ends up giving you mostly-ground spices. In a pinch, even placing them in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin will work. If you only have ground spices and don’t want to buy whole ones, don’t worry.
The Recipe: Lamb Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce with Mint Chimichurri
(Serves 4 comfortably)
For the Meatballs:
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons toasted white bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
Red Wine Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed, toasted and ground
2 cups crushed tomatoes
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 heaping tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1/4 cup packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
about 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon (a bit of lemon zest can also be substituted)
water to loosen chimichurri a bit, if necessary
(Note: To toast the cumin and coriander seed, place them in a small skillet on medium heat. Stir or toss frequently and toast until the seeds become very fragrant, a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the seeds. Remove from heat and let cool on a plate. Then use a mortar and pestle to grind them.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a 12-inch skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil until hot and add the chopped red onion and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes until tender. Add the tomato paste, red wine, ground cumin, chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn heat down. Simmer for about 50 minutes with the lid on.
In a large mixing bowl, add the ground lamb, ground cumin and coriander seed, mint, parsley, red onion, feta cheese, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Gently mix with your hands. Make sure to get everything incorporated, but being sure to not over mix. Doing so will lead to a tough meatball. Using a small scoop or form into balls with your hands, drop onto the prepared baking sheet spacing them an equal amount of distance apart. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the edges of the meatballs are a deep golden brown.
Remove meatballs from oven and place in the red wine sauce. Simmer together for about 20 more minutes so the flavors can incorporate. If the sauce is too watery, leave the lid off and increase the heat, so the sauce can reduce. If the sauce is a nice consistency already, simmer with the lid on. When it seems to be done and the sauce is perfect, stir in the chopped parsley and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, using a mini-food processor (a blender or knife can also be used), add the mint, parsley, lemon, garlic, vinegar and salt. Pulse a few times to incorporate. Slowly add the olive oil — use more if you see fit. Or add a bit of water to loosen the chimichurri. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add more salt, if necessary. Serve along with the meatballs and red wine sauce. Enjoy!
I’m always delighted that you stopped by Relishing It — thank you! Have a wonderful day.
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