Hye Thyme Cafe: Meatballs (Sorry Mom, but I'll be making this recipe from now on)

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! :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Meatballs (Sorry Mom, but I'll be making this recipe from now on)

Meatballs : Hye Thyme Cafe

I never really gave much thought to meatballs. I enjoy them on occasion, but I'm more likely to make a meat sauce than a batch of meatballs, and if dining out and given the option, I'll usually take a hot Italian sausage over a meatball. The way my Mom always made them was to combine ground beef with dry bread crumbs, milk, an egg, a bit of minced onion, roll it into balls and drop them directly into the sauce she was making. I have probably baked a batch or two of meatballs over the years, but I had never pan-fried them until now.

One of the requests for Christmas Eve appetizers this year was "big meatballs with mini sub rolls, but they've gotta be really really cooked - extra browned." OK, so having recently depleted my stash of sauce, I made a huge pot, portioned some out for Christmas Eve and froze the rest, then started contemplating the meatballs.  

I remembered hearing several times over the years that Rocco Dispirito's mother makes awesome meatballs, so I decided to look them up to see what she does with them. Yup, pan fried. She uses a combination of beef, pork, and veal, but I stuck with ground beef. She also uses chicken stock in her meatballs, which I'm very curious about - why not beef stock?? "Plain" bread crumbs are another ingredient, but what does that mean?  Are they plain as in fresh, not dried, or plain as in dried but not seasoned? Hmmm? What most interested me was that she purees the other ingredients before adding them to the meat mixture.

I have to admit that it freaked me out a bit when I made the puree - it looked like a green breakfast smoothie. Then I figured since green and red (the beef) make brown, and we're talking meatballs here, that would be just fine!

I sort of combined our recipes and pan fried them, but not adhering to her instruction to flip once. I wanted them browned all the way around. That was tough for me, seeing all the crud building up in the pan as I went along, but it was all worth it in the end, as evidenced by the fact that my brother in law started off with one meatball in a sub roll with a side of four meatballs, then went back for two more servings! I swear, he ate no fewer than nine BIG meatballs! That's a pretty good indication of how good they were considering all the other goodies on display at the time!

Let's see, what did we put out on Christmas Eve ...
  • Meatball mini subs
  • Southwestern Chicken Egg Rolls
  • PF Chang's style Lettuce Wraps
  • Prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus
  • Buffalo Chicken Balls
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Long hots (sauteed peppers) on Italian bread
  • Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon/Sugar Tortilla Chips
  • Spinach-Artichoke Dip and chips
  • Tabouli (The red version, so really Eetch)
  • Sujouk, Basterma (the Armenian equivalent of beef jerky and pepperoni), Sliced Cheddar, and Cracker Bread 
That was just the appetizers. Then were were all the cookies, etc. It's no wonder I'm still full!

1 small onion
1/3 c fresh parsley
1/2 c milk
1 1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
1/3 c grated Parmesan
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 t salt
2 eggs
3 1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 c olive oil
Red sauce/gravy to simmer them in

  1. In your food processor or blender, process the onion, parsley, milk, and bread crumbs into a puree (Whether you trim the crusts from your kids' sandwiches, don't eat the end slices, have random bits of bread going stale, etc., toss them in the freezer so you can grind them when needed for meatballs, meatloaf, croquettes, etc. Doesn't matter if it's a hot dog bun, pumpernickel, etc. - just add it to the stash.)
  2. Dump the ground beef into a large bowl, then add the Parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt, and eggs
  3. Pour the smoothie -- I mean puree -- over the top and mix until just combined
  4. Roll into whatever size you like (remembering there will be some shrinkage)
  5. If you will be adding your meatballs to a sauce, set that to simmer while frying your meatballs
  6. Add the olive oil to a large pan and heat it over med-high
  7. Fry the meatballs in batches, flipping them after 5" or so, then rolling as necessary to brown all the way around - you may need to adjust the heat while adding/removing meatballs from the pan
  8. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned meatballs to the sauce to simmer
Sorry, but I was so busy on Christmas Eve that I neglected to take pictures of finished/plated food before it could be scarfed down. You'll have to settle for the "in progress" shots.  :)

Puree onion, garlic, parsley, and milk.
Yikes! Looks like Kermit's breakfast :)
To ground beef, add grated Parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt, and 2 eggs.
Roll into desired size, allowing for shrinkage.
Mix everything until just combined.

Pan fry in olive oil over med-high.

Fry until well browned on all sides.
Rollin' rollin' rollin', keep those meatballs rollin', raw beef! 

Adjust temp as needed.
Good enough for he who requested extra crusty??  Yup.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer to simmering sauce.

They were delicious and tender without either being gristly like some meatballs or spongy like others. Hmm, I think I just answered the question of why I usually opt for sausages lol.

I was planning to bust out a pot of Nutella Melts at the end of the night - a drink I read about while reviewing Winter Cocktails, but everyone was too full! It started all over again the next day with a family breakfast of Egg Muffin Cups, Choreg, and Apricot-Almond French Toast, then Christmas dinner was Chianti-braised Short Ribs over a scoop of mashed potatoes and a scoop of mashed sweet potatoes, topped with baby carrots and French green beans with a Caprese salad and fresh pesto rolls. We were all so full from that and the night before, I never even unearthed the Pumpkin Flan I made.  

Last night was movie night - went to see Saving Mr. Banks (very good). I think up until then, the most anyone had was coffee, and we got popcorn at the movie. Maybe by tonight we'll be ready to eat again.  ;)

So, what did your family indulge (or over-indulge) in this holiday???


  1. Meatball sandwiches are a favorite winter food around here :-)

    Sounds like a delicious feast.

    1. For some reason, we don't have them all that often. The guys usually want the little cocktail meatballs you make in a slow cooker with jelly, etc. whenever appetizers are involved, but I think our family as a whole leans more toward meat sauce for some reason. I'm thinking that might be changing now ... ;)


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