Oh the Glory that is a ball of meat! There’s just something alluring about a big ball of meat on your plate. Like a sophisticated hamburger patty. Maybe. Either way, they’re great, you get to infuse the meat with some delicious flavors, and if cooked correctly, they can be almost as fulfilling and as refined as a nice steak. I had some issues trying to get this mega-ball retain its roundness, but alas, it ended up being some odd platonic solid on the plate. I tried to do some research online to see how others may have overcome this problem, and basically found out that there isn’t much you can do to make the meatballs retain both shape and flavor when dealing with such large sizes. Some people recommend a quick boil or fry before searing them off, honestly,I think this might just dry them up quicker during cooking. So, for shape retention, my only bit of advice would be to be as delicate with your hands as possible, and gently and frequently turn the meatballs during the searing process so that they don’t rest on any one surface for too long.
But back to the dish. Said meatball was accompanied by some of the best mushroom sauce in the world and a lovely (and will send you to the doctor because it’s so rich) Parmesan polenta. There was no flavor here that was out there or daring, just some tried and tested flavor combinations coming together to make a great but very (very) hearty main course. The recipe is after the jump.
For the meatballs (makes 6 large meatballs)
I used this Tyler Florence recipe as a base, but added a different herb profile to complement the rest of the dish.
1.2-1.5kg of grade A minced beef (not lean meat, you’ll want lots of fat in there to keep the meatballs moist and full of flavour)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large egg
4 slices of white bread with the crust removed
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp of chopped fresh parsley
A pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius
In a large pan, heat some olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, the parsley and the garlic, and cook off until they all soften, but as always, making sure they don’t colour. Once cooked, set aside to cool.
Place the bread slices in a deep plate or a bowl and cover with the milk, allowing them to soften and soak the milk up (no less than 5 mins). In a large bowl, combine the meat, rosemary, Parmesan, egg and the cooled down garlic and onion mix. Squeeze the excess milk with your hands out of the bread slices and add them to the big bowl as well. Season generously with salt and pepper and combine all the ingredients together with your hands (this is really fun). Don’t overwork the meat, because it may get tough, and you’re gonna want to have light airy and almost crumbly meatballs. Once combined, shape them into as many portions as desired, the cooking times I refer to here are relevant to the large bombas I’ve cooked, so adjust for smaller (or even larger for the daring) balls.
In the same pan you softened the onions and garlic earlier, heat up some more olive oil, but this time on a medium high heat. Place the meatballs gently into the pan once hot, and turn gently but frequently until all sides are nicely browned and seared (I suppose this took about 10mins) remember the shorter the amount of time each ball spends on one side, the more likely it is to retain its shape. Once the balls are browned, stick them into the oven, covered, for about 18mins to cook through (this will give you nice medium rare to medium meatballs).
For the sauce:
About 15 large button mushrooms, half sliced and half whole.
1 cup of good quality chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon of freshly chopped rosemary
1 shallot chopped
1/4 cup of brandy
1 dash of cream (optional)
In a pan, heat some olive oil, and once hot, add the mushrooms, the shallots and the rosemary. Cook off until the mushrooms release their moisture and start to brown. Fish out of the pan the whole mushrooms and add to a blender. With a little stock just to loosen them, blend the mushrooms into a fine puree, it shouldn’t be too loose because you will use it to thicken the rest of the sauce. At the same time (so that the rest of the mushrooms don’t burn) add the brandy and cook off for few seconds, then add half of the rest of the stock, and the mushroom puree from the blender. Whisk all the ingredients together into a uniform sauce, and adjust the consistency using the remaining stock (use more than one cup of stock if necessary). Lower the heat to barely a simmer, and let the sauce reduce for about 10 minutes, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Just before plating, feel free to add just a dash of cooking cream to bring it all together (conversely (is cream the opposite of butter?), a few cubes of butter whisked in the last minute will do the trick as well).
For the polenta (and I’m really going to hell for this)
1 cup of polenta (aka cornmeal)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1L of good quality chicken stock (just about 4 cups)
3/4 cup of cream
1/2 butter cubed
Boil the stock and add the polenta to it, whisking like crazy to make sure no lumps form. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stirring constantly, cook together for about 10mins, until the polenta is thick. Add the cheese, the butter and cream, stirring to bring everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste. The nice thing about polenta is that, like a risotto, it can be flavored with any ingredients you want. Once everything has been incorporated together and tastes good (how could it not?) you can start to plate. I opted for a dollop of the polenta, topped with the meatball and then with the sauce spooned over. This was insanely good! Hope you enjoy!