Today’s recipe is brought to you by school taxes and my freezer stash. School taxes were due this month. It’s a tax worth paying for the high quality education that my school district offers, which my children will most likely benefit from in the near future. But it’s like a punch in the gut every time that bill arrives.
With Christmas practically knocking at our door, I’ve been trying to reduce the impact of that big extra tax bill by cutting a few other things in this month’s budget…like groceries. This means that we’re mostly feeding off the freezer this month.
My husband’s intense love for lamb burgers means that our freezer is well stocked with ground lamb. Our grocery store irregularly stocks ground lamb, so when they have it, I buy it. And when I opened my freezer in search of cheap dinner, ground lamb it was! But I just wasn’t feeling like lamb burgers or even gyro salad, though my husband would have been eager for either. I was in the mood to experiment.
So, playing off of Moroccan inspired flavors, I came up with these delectable meatballs, which my husband talked about for three days afterward. Ground lamb gets combined with dried apricots, a touch of sweet honey, cinnamon, and cumin. Sliced almonds add an interesting texture to the otherwise tender meatball. Then, they’re tossed in a buttery apricot glaze with a touch of fresh mint. I served mine over couscous. They were good. Really good. We’ll be eating them again soon.
Focus on Technique – Tips for Tender Meatballs
Everyone loves a tender, flavorful meatball. Here are a few tips for crave-worthy meatballs:
- Use ground meat with a bit of fat. If using beef, look for 80/20 ground chuck. The fat will add flavor and moisture. If using a leaner meat, like ground chicken, add some additional vegetables, such as chopped onion, celery, or peppers to add moisture.
- Increase your egg to meat ratio. I tend to use two eggs per each pound of meat. Add enough bread crumbs as necessary to bind the mixture. About 1/4 cup of bread crumbs per egg usually does the trick.
- Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Mix only enough to evenly disperse the ingredients. To reduce the need for over-mixing, combine all of your other ingredients before adding the meat.
- Season, season, season – salt, pepper, garlic, cheese…give those meatballs some flavor!
- Try adding a slice of soaked, then crumbled day-old bread to your meatballs. Though I have not personally tried this strategy, it’s a sworn by trick to others…so there’s got to be something to it!
What are your favorite meatball tips?
Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatballs in a Minted Apricot Glaze
- 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
- 10 dried apricots, finely diced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 pound ground lamb
For the glaze
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- 3-4 fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wipe a baking sheet with a little oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the chopped onion, apricots, almonds, honey, salt, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, eggs and bread crumbs (everything except the meat) in a large bowl, until evenly blended. Add the meat. Use your hands to combine the mixture, just enough to evenly disperse the ingredients.
Form the mixture into balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
For the glaze, combine butter, apricot preserves and mint leaves in a pan over medium heat. Stir until well combined and warmed, about 3 minutes. Toss the meatballs in the glaze before serving.
Makes about 24 small meatballs