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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cooked: pastrami style meatballs

On occasion, I have a set of minor kitchen problems that can be solved with one creative cooking session.  Today, these problems included:

– a craving for comfort food, namely meatballs (under normal circumstances this is resolved with Swedish meatballs, but everyone looks at me funny when I say I make them – do they not know how delicious they can be? – and I had no ground pork.)

– there’s some rye bread in the fridge that needs to be used, and I don’t want to waste it

– a container of alder smoked salt is sitting in the cupboard neglected, because it’s so darn smoky

– I had a pound of ground beef that had to be put to good use.

Smoked beef on rye bread.. pastrami, right?  I placed my wager of a pound of ground beef, the rye bread, the alder smoked salt, and a few other ingredients that pastrami style meatballs would work.  The salt has been too smoky to use appropriately in other applications, and using it here with the other spices gives the meatballs the smoky essence of pastrami without the need to brine and smoke.  It’s much faster, as well.

Equipment needed: medium or large skillet, mortar and pestle (or spice grinder)

Ingredients:

Meatballs –

1 lb ground beef

1 slice rye bread (a slice as big as if you were making a sandwich)

1/2 c milk

1 egg

Spice mixture –

3/4 tsp alder smoked salt

1 1/4 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

1/4 tsp caraway seeds (if the rye bread doesn’t have caraway)

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp white pepper (if you don’t have any, substitute black pepper)

1/2 tbs dark brown sugar

Gravy –

1 onion

1 1/2 c beef stock (I use home made beef broth, so no salt was added here – this is important later..)

2 tsp stone ground mustard (if I had horseradish mustard, this is what I would have used)

2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tsp water

2 tbs cream

Toast the coriander and mustard seed in a pan over medium heat until fragrant.  In the mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) grind all the spices and brown sugar.

Clockwise, starting from the top - black pepper, white pepper, allspice, alder smoked salt. If the smoked salt you have isn't this dark and smoky, consider adding some liquid smoke.

Squeeze excess milk out of the bread.  In a large bowl, combine beef, egg, and bread.  Set aside 1/4 tsp of the spice mixture, and add the rest to the beef mixture.  Lightly roll into 12-14 meatballs and refrigerate.

Heat skillet over medium heat.  Add 3 tablespoons of the fat of your choice – I’d recommend beef tallow or lard, but olive oil would work too.  Brown the meatballs on all sides and remove from the pan – don’t worry about cooking them through at this point.  While meatballs are browning,  slice the onion pole to pole.  Drain most of the fat from the pan.  Add onions to the pan and increase heat to medium high.  Brown the onions, but do not caramelize or soften.  They should look like this when you remove them:

Add stock to pan with the 2 tsp of mustard.  Don’t skip the mustard – it adds a touch of acidity that brings the sauce together.  Add the reserved spice mixture and bring sauce to a simmer.  Add meatballs back to pan and simmer until sauce reduces by 1/3 to 1/2, turning meatballs so they cook through evenly.  Add the cornstarch slurry and gently simmer until sauce thickens.  Stir in onions and serve – this would be good over egg noodles or even between two slices of rye.

If I could make it again:  I’d skip the onions and instead make a flour based roux before adding the stock, omit the cornstarch and throw in a few handfuls of Swiss cheese into the sauce.  That would be more proper pastrami, but hey.. I didn’t have to go to the store.  I’d also try adding some garlic into the spice mixture.

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