Hye Thyme Cafe: Baked Cocktail Meatballs Skewered with Deep Fried Cheese Tortelloni

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baked Cocktail Meatballs Skewered with Deep Fried Cheese Tortelloni

In our family, the guys always want meatballs on a holiday. My sister usually makes one of those slow cooker recipes with the jelly, etc., but this time, I volunteered to make the meatballs because I wanted to try making them from scratch and serving them differently. Because we love making antipasto skewers for an easy appetizer, I had it in mind to skewer a meatball with a tortelloni and a piece of basil, maybe a grape tomato, etc. Then I found out that one of my nephews was requesting that I make fried ravioli for him. He must have had them out somewhere and liked them.  I'll sometimes make him deep-fried farfalle with a marinara or spinach-artichoke dip, but I don't think I've made the ravioli before. Sooooo, slight change in plan, but no problem - I'd combine the two ideas by making the meatballs and deep frying the tortelloni.

I have only made meatballs a few times, and that was a pretty generic version simmered in spaghetti sauce when I was making a big batch. I was a little anxious to see the reaction to these because everyone has an opinion on meatballs - some like them fried so they're crusty on the outside, while others like them soft all the way through, etc. I was very relieved that these baked meatballs were such a hit!

MEATBALLS:                                             TORTELLONI:
1 egg, lightly beaten                                     Cheese Tortelloni
¼ c milk                                                       2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ t crushed red pepper                              Seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 t sweet basil flakes                                   Grated Parmesan
1 c fresh bread crumbs Canola oil for frying
1 small onion (about 1" deep in small pot)
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ lb 80% lean ground chuck Fresh basil for garnish
½ lb 80% lean ground pork
1 heaping T mayo
¼ c finely chopped parsley
½ c grated Parm
1/4 t black pepper 

Whisk together the egg, milk crushed red pepper, and basil, then stir in the bread crumbs and let sit for 5" or so to give the bread a chance to soak up the liquid and the liquid a chance to hydrate the basil and peppers. The softer everything is, the less likely your meatballs will crack or break apart.

While you're waiting for that to happen, you can mince the onion and garlic, very fine - almost to mush. For the same reason as above - ever notice if you make a meatloaf, when you go to cut it, pieces break off where you come to a large piece of onion? Same principle with meatballs, only the chances are greater here because of their size and shrinkage while cooking. You don't want them to break when you try to skewer them.

Place the beef and pork into a large mixing bowl, add the bread crumb mixture and remaining ingredients and quickly knead together to incorporate. You want to make sure everything is well blended, but don't want to over-work it so much that they turn into lead balls.

Roll the meatballs to slightly larger than you want them to allow for shrinkage, and place on a foil-lined pan sprayed with cooking spray or lightly brushed with olive oil. Once the tray is full, hit the tops with more spray/oil and bake at 350° for 20-30" until nicely browned and cooked through. You can split open the largest meatball to test for doneness.

Made +/- 60 

When the tray comes out of the oven, prop a potholder or dish towel under one corner so the fat/oil will run to the bottom.  If you won't be using the meatballs right away, allow them to cool and transfer to a storage container.  Then you can wrap up the fat/oil in the foil and throw it away.  Your pipes will appreciate that!

Because I knew I was going to be re-heating the meatballs the next night to be served on Christmas Eve with the tortelloni, I wasn't looking for them to be very browned on the outside. I didn't want them to end up tough by the time I served them, so I covered them in a little sauce to keep them moist in the meantime.

For the tortelloni, boil them in lightly salted water to al dente, then rinse them in cold water to cool them down, and pat dry. Toss the tortelloni in the beaten egg, then dredge in the crumbs/parmesan (mixed together) and fry until golden.

This didn't exactly turn out as I had envisioned, but I forgot to pick up the bread while I was at the grocery store and had one of my nephews pick up a loaf.  It was shorter/flatter than I had anticipated, so I couldn't sink the sauce into it unnoticed or fit as many skewers as I wanted, but that's OK.  It's the taste that really counts.  I tossed the remaining meatballs and tortelloni in bowls on the side.

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