I don't make recipes that have more than 10 ingredients. I don't like meatballs other than classic Italian beef and pork meatballs. Yet, this past Sunday I made Thai meatballs from a recipe with over 20 ingredients. And, as I was eating them with my husband, I found myself saying, “We gotta make these again next weekend!”
Yes, these Thai balls made with ground pork, shrimp, lemongrass and a medley of fresh herbs including Thai basil and fresh mint, are outstanding. The recipe is from The Meatball Shop Cookbook (Random House, 2011), which is a homey collection of recipes from New York's venerable The Meatball Shop, owned and operated by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow.
While in NYC this past spring, my husband and I ate at The Meatball Shop on Stanton in the Lower East Side. We arrived an hour before they opened (they didn't take reservations), and were stunned to discover about a dozen people waiting ahead of us. In the cold and the wind. Grrrrr…. Fortunately, we waited in the cold and the wind and got in on the first round. We were seated at a snug communal table, where you actually rub elbows with your dining neighbors, which it turns out isn't a bad thing when you're freezing. Then we feasted on spicy pork meatballs, two ways: “smashed” on a toasted bri0che bun with spicy meat sauce and provolone cheese and smothered in pesto sauce and served on a plate. We had some good sides too, not nearly good enough to contend with the meatballs.
So if you get the opportunity to eat at The Meatball Shop, take it. And whether you eat there or not, get yourself a copy of the cookbook, which also includes several porkalicious recipes for BBQ Pork Meatballs, Spicy Pork Meatballs, Drunken Pork Meatballs, Viva La Mexico Meatballs, and Swedish Meatballs.
I say, “Viva, La Meatball!”
Thai Balls, recipe from The Meatball Shop Cookbook
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch balls
For the meatballs:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground pork
1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and roughly chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil, roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste or minced lemongrass
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons fish sauce
For the garnish:
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 large carrots, julienned or grated
10 fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems
10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seed
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil into a 9 X 13 -inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
2. Combine ground pork, shrimp, eggs, basil, cilantro, mint, bread crumbs, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Roll the mixture into round, golf size balls (about 1 1/2-inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, lining them up snugly and in even rows to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish.
3. Meanwhile, to make the garnish, place the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, carrots, basil, cilantro, mint, peanuts, and sesame seeds in a bowl and toss to combine. Spoon the garnish over the top of the meatballs and serve with peanut sauce, (pg 61), if using.
PS- The peanut sauce is addictive. But I'm not sharing it here cause I really, really want you to get the cookbook! For the record, I have no connections with this cookbook. I just believe a world with more meatballs in it is a better world for all.