I thought this recipe was a bust, but it was sooo well received, apparently it's just me! They tasted good. They just weren't what I had in mind. I wanted the equivalent of a Meatball Sub in a self-contained bite. These are more of a handful - still dunkable, but not a one-bite item.
When I first left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and moved here to New York, I remember my sister introducing me to her best friend and telling me about all the crazy things they would do at the same time - one would go grocery shopping and find a great deal on chickens and grab one for the other, then the other would show up at that one's door after work with chickens in hand. Weird mostly food-related things like that. We fondly refer to them as Lucy and Ethel. Now that I'm here too, I have somehow managed to link in to their weird mind meld, so I have dubbed myself Merman so we can go by Lucy and Ethel Merman now. [I know, some of you young folks are thinking what's a Merman?!? Ethel Memrnan - Don't sweat it.] :)
Needless to say, as I was at the grocery store the other night picking up ground beef to make mini-meatballs for this dish, my sister was at home getting ready to make ... yup, Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner! Sooooo, I switched gears and set aside some of those meatballs to play with, and tomorrow we'll be using the ground beef I got to make a batch of Lahmejune instead. Lahmejune is sort of an Armenian meat pizza on a soft, thin crust. The version we usually make at home is an adaptation of George Duran's tortilla version. There are many versions by similar names in different cultures. I once made an appetizer size on layers of biscuit dough. Those were good too, but you had to eat them hot out of the oven while the crust was still crispy.
What I wanted was to take pieces of Italian bread dough and fill them with a meatball, sauce, and mozzarella. No matter what I tried, it just wouldn't cooperate. I would like to think that's because I resorted to using a tube of pre-made dough rather than doing it from scratch. I can hear my grandmother "Tsk" ing from out there in the universe somewhere. Don't tell my Mom either! I come from a very much "from scratch" family. I still have nightmares about my college suite-mates eating chocolate chip cookie dough straight out of the tube.
First the sauce bled through the dough, so I tried putting the cheese on the dough first, then dunking the meatballs in the sauce and wrapping them. That didn't work either. No matter what I did, they wouldn't seal - or if they sealed, as soon as I dunked, rolled, or brushed them with butter, they opened up again. I managed to get through that and still had meatballs left, so I was handed another tube ... pizza crust. In my head I was yelling "That's a calzone, not a sub!" OK, I'll try it. Same thing! With the extra pizza crust dough, I cut strips, brushed them with melted herb butter, sprinkled them with cheese and twisted them into breadsticks.
After all that frustration, when they baked, they puffed up and sealed themselves anyhow! Except for one mutant bite that completely opened up. They were pretty good in the pizza dough, but the bread dough had more flavor.
1 tube Italian bread dough
About a dozen meatballs (cooked)
Your favorite red sauce
Shredded parmesan and/or romano
Butter - melted
Your Italian herb blend of choice
For the sauce, I used a container of homemade meat sauce I had in the freezer. For the herbs, I used one of the options in a multi-pack of blends you get for making dipping oils. Those come in very handy for garlic bread, etc. too. I can usually find them pretty cheap at The Christmas Tree Shops and places like that. Ha, just remembered that's an Armenian-owned business. Or it used to be anyhow. Not sure if it still is. Must be a theme night. Me, George Duran (also Armenian), Lahmejune, and The Christmas Tree Shops.
As I already explained, my assembly attempts were a nightmare, so you're on your own!! Fill them however you can with a meatball, sauce, and some mozzarella; seal them however you can; roll, dunk, or brush them with melted butter infused with some of the herb blend; sprinkle with the parmesan and/or romano and bake until golden. Serve with a side of sauce for dipping.
I'm playing around with the idea of freezing quarter-teaspoon sized blobs of sauce, pressing them into a little mozzarella ball, then forming the meatball around them both next time. We'll see.