A few years ago I read Alex Witchel's All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments. It was a poignant love letter to her mother who suffered from this heart-breaking disease. Included along with the story of her mother's descent into this lonely world were a number of recipes, one of which was for sweet and sour potted meatballs. It was noted that the recipe was adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited. I remember making the meatballs and loving them, but for some reason they never made it onto my blog or onto our dinner rotation. It was only during a recent "purge" of the stacks and folders of clippings that I collect, meaning to try out new recipes, that I rediscovered this recipe and set about correcting that omission. I've made some small changes to the original recipe.
Serves 4-6 (or 2 with lots of leftovers for another night or two)
For the sweet and sour sauce:
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, minced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbs)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the meatballs:
2 lbs ground beef chuck (85% lean)
2 eggs, beaten
1//3 cup long-grain white rice, parboiled for 3 minutes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 medium Vidalia onion, grated on the coarse side of a box grater
2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1. Prepare the sauce: In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil, then saute the minced onion over medium heat until tender and golden, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce then rinse out the can with another 1/2 cup of water and add to pot. Stir in the lemon juice and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Make the meatballs: Put the ground meat in a large bowl and push it to one side. Add the eggs, rice, bread crumbs, onion, salt, and pepper to the other side of the bowl and combine with a large fork. Work in the meat, handful by handful, until everything is thoroughly blended. Return the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to shape the meatballs. You should have 12 - 14. Drop them gently into the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, gently rotating and pushing the meatballs around halfway through the cooking so that they are thoroughly coated in sauce after about 15 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve very hot.
I was very happy to find this recipe because these meatballs are something special. They remind me a bit of the filling for stuffed cabbage. In fact, I like this sauce better than the one I usually use for my stuffed cabbage and will substitute it next time I make that dish. I served the meatballs with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and roasted brussels sprouts. Two of the meatballs makes a very generous serving. I'm looking forward to leftovers tomorrow night and will probably freeze any that we don't eat then. I can also envision using these for an appetizer (smaller versions, of course) in the future. Aside from the copious weeping when I grated the onion (I forgot to leave my contact lenses in for the job), these go together quickly and require just 30 minutes to cook, making them a good week-night meal.