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Meatballs with Apples

July 2012

Albondigas con Manzanas
Meatballs with Apples

In Spain, these meatballs can be found made of beef or pork. They are also served in both savory and sweet sauces. In Catalonia, for example, many recipes combine meats with fresh and dried fruits.
Peaches and apricots also work well in this tapa. 

Serves 4

For the meatballs:
1 slice day-old rustic bread, crusts removed (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound ground beef (coarsely ground)
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
2 teaspoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
11/2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Prepare the meatballs: In a small bowl, pour the milk over the bread. Use just enough milk to
soften the bread, and let sit for 1 minute.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, the milk-soaked bread, garlic, parsley, and egg. Using a spoon, mix all the ingredients together. Add the salt and continue mixing. 

Place the flour on a plate. Form 1-inch balls of the meat mixture (you should end up with 16 meatballs), and roll them in the flour. Shake off any excess flour, and set the meatballs aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil reaches 350 degrees (measured with a candy thermometer), add the meatballs in small batches. Fry the meatballs until brown all over, about 4 minutes. Set aside the meatballs aside on paper towels to drain.

To make the sauce: In a small sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over a medium-low heat, stirring regularly to ensure they don’t burn, until they turn light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the pine nuts from the pan and set aside. 

Place a large sauté pan over low heat, add the sugar and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir the butter into the sugar, and allow it to melt. Add the apple slices and sauté until they are brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the apples and set them aside. Add the vinegar and cook until reduce by half, about 1 minute. Add the stock, pine nuts and cinnamon stick. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the sauce in the pan pan. Bring to the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, moving the pan constantly to ensure that the meatballs cook evenly. The sauce should end up being thick and syrupy. Return the apples to the pan to heat through. Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

Photograph by Pablo de Loy