One of my favorites during this (thankfully) brief period of questionable edible judgment, was meatballs. I'm not talking about the big, tender Italian-mama meatballs the size of a fist that simmer all (Sun)day in a giant vat of marinara sauce. No, these were Puerto Rican-mama meatballs--small (about an inch in diameter) and almost crispy on the outside, salty and sweet with mushy raisins and strong hints of peppers and onions. My mom would make them and serve them with rice or vegetables and then leave a plate of them on the counter top for my dad to munch on when he got in late from the 11pm broadcast. If I didn't eat them all before he got home, that is.
Those were my favorite. Cold from sitting out on the slightly grease-soaked paper towel covered plate. Covered with another plate and stolen one-by-one while leaning against the counter in the darkened kitchen. What more could you want?
I still whip up a batch of these for myself those nights at the end of the week when I'm exhausted and craving meat, but have had no time to do groceries. I always have a pound or two of ground beef in the freezer and this is precisely why. I'll usually eat half for dinner and then place the rest in a Ziploc to take to work for lunch the next day.
The savory sweet combo is key, but never really having been a fan of raisins, I decided to use coconut flour (ground unsweetened dessicated coconut) instead. I put it in the mix and then coated them before frying in olive oil in a hot skillet. When you're all done, use some rum and coconut milk to deglaze the pan making for a delicious little dipping (or "pouring all over") sauce.
I served these with roasted Brussels sprouts the other night, not because of any particularly good paring between the two, but just because I love Brussels sprouts. Serve yours with whatever you want--whether it's pasta or cornflakes. It's not about creating a killer menu. It's about what tastes good to you. And that's the whole point of these single girl dinners.
Coconut Meatballs with Coconut Rum Dipping Sauce
I used pork and beef to make these because it's what I had, but you can use any combination that you'd like--experiment! Lamb and veal are both two fabulous options to try.
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large green bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef (not lean)
1 pound ground pork (not lean)
2/3 plus 1/3 cup coconut flour (unsweetened)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
1 large whole egg
1/4 cup dark rum
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar or equivalent
2 tablespoons butter
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet (preferably well-seasoned) and add the chopped onion and bell peppers. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.
2. In a large glass bowl, combine the ground meat with the onion and peppers, 2/3 cup of the coconut, oregano, salt, nutmeg, and parsley.
3. Use your hands to form the mixture into 1 to 1.5 inch meatballs (you'll get about 65 or so).
4. Roll each meatball in the remaining coconut flour and set aside on a separate plate.
5. In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown the meatballs in batches (about 10 - 12 at a time), adding the oil as necessary.
6. Transfer meatballs with a slotted spoon as browned to a baking dish and once all are in, place in the oven for 20 minutes until completely cooked through.
For the sauce
1. While the meatballs are in the oven, bring the skillet up to medium heat again and add the rum. Use a wooden spoon to stir and scrape all the bits of coconut and other good stuff in the sauce. Once the rum has reduced by about half, add the coconut milk, sugar, and red pepper, and continue stirring. Let this reduce again to half and add the butter to thicken the mix a bit. Let this cook down about a third, stirring continuously. You'll end up with an amazing, creamy golden colored sauce. Add salt to taste and remove from heat.
Serve the meatballs over a bed of lettuce as an appetizer with the sauce on the side, or serve as a main course with the sauce drizzled over and your favorite vegetable on the side. Or just eat them one by one straight from the pan while leaning against the counter and watching Grey's Anatomy reruns. That works too...