Looking for the ultimate comfort food? Today, Michael demonstrates how to make lamb meatballs.
Toasted fennel and peppercorns balance the lamb’s gaminess. Assertive raw garlic adds another layer of spice, while pecorino imparts rich, nuttiness and also a subtle tartness. Milk and egg bind the meatballs, while glazing them with rosemary-infused brown butter and stock coats them with rich flavor. A finish of fresh green parsley brightens the dish.
- Higher ground. Ideally, your meat will be ground to order. For the most flavorful, juicy lamb meatballs, ask for a mix that is 70 percent lean and 30 percent fat.
- Stay cool. Keep the meatball mix in a bowl over ice, even while forming the meatballs – if you can stand the cold. If the mix warms, the fat will melt and the meatballs won’t brown properly.
- Flavor test. To check your seasoning without eating raw meat, cook a small piece of the meatball mix before making meatballs, and then taste and adjust as needed.
- Go green. Save a few pinches of fresh parsley to sprinkle on the meatballs just before serving. This will ensure that it is still very fragrant and green when the plate hits the table.
This tool is one we find especially helpful when making this dish.
- Rubber gloves. Rolling meatballs can be sticky work for bare hands, but a pair of gloves makes mixing the meat and forming the balls clean and easy.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.
- Oven-safe heavy skillet
- Large bowl
- Spice grinder or coffee grinder
- Spatula or rubber spatula
- Baking sheet with parchment paper
- Large spoon
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 (1-inch thick) slices day old bread, crusts removed and torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups cubed, 2 ounces)
- ½ pound ground lamb (30% fat), medium grind if possible
- ⅓ cup dry bread crumbs, like panko
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic, plus 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
- ¾ cup chicken stock
Serves: 4 to 6, 16 meatballs
Total Time: 55 Minutes
Active Time: 45 minutes
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place ground lamb in a large bowl. Transfer spices to a spice grinder and pulverize. Note: If you do not have a coffee or spice grinder, you can use ground fennel powder, but the flavor will not have as much depth as the toasted, freshly ground spices. Add spices to ground lamb bowl. Add bread, in batches, to the spice grinder and pulse to create a fine crumb. Transfer crumbs to bowl.
- Add the ground lamb, dry bread crumbs, minced garlic, pecorino cheese, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten, then whisk in the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the meat mixture and mix until just combined. (Warm hands and touching the meat mix too much will melt the fat in the meat and make for a denser meatball. Wearing gloves is useful.) Chill mixture in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Place a little oil on your hands or gloves to prevent sticking as you form meatballs. Roll the meat mixture into about 16 (1-ounce) balls, each about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Chill until ready to cook.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Add the meatballs, making sure there is a little space between each. Sear until brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Push meatballs to the back half of the skillet. Add the butter, rosemary sprig and smashed garlic cloves to the front half, tilt the skillet slightly towards you and baste meatballs with the sauce for about 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken stock. Roll the meatballs in the stock, transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a meatball feels warm. Return the pan to the stovetop and let the stock simmer until it reduces to a glaze and coats the meatballs. Season the glaze with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley just before serving. Note: If you are not serving the meatballs right away, brown them and then hold them colored but not fully cooked. Just before serving, glaze them, finish cooking and garnish with the parsley. This will keep them from overcooking.
Pita pocket stuffed meatballs with cucumber dressing & yogurt mint salad
Stuff the meatballs into a pita pocket and serve with a cucumber and mint salad dressed with yogurt and lemon juice.