My son Conor is an incredibly picky eater. If he could have his way his meals would consist entirely of jam, pita chips and yogurt. He basically has the diet of a sorority girl prepping for spring break, but I try not to be a maniac over it because I myself was a very picky eater and now look at me–I eat everything and write about it! The problem is, not only is Conor picky, he’s unpredictable. I swear he toys with me, devouring my chicken cutlets one day and then proclaiming loudly the next time I make them: “I don’t like those!”
“Yes you do!!”
“No, I don’t.”
“You ate five of them last week!”
“I want jam.”
But if there is one thing the boy loves, no matter how many times I make them, it’s meatballs. At this point I’ve made every conceivable variation of this trusty dinner item (turkey with golden raisins, chicken for wedding soup, pork with yogurt sauce, beef with tomato sauce, swedish with lingonberries), but my new favorite kind is the incredibly scrumptious veal meatball.
Now I know that some of you might be saying: “I don’t eat veal”. And I get that. But if you do eat veal, then you should know that it’s a perfect meat for meatballs. Incredibly flavorful and moist (because there’s nothing worse than a dry meatball). My Belgian grandmother only used veal for her meatballs. Veal is a bit pricier than, say, turkey meat, but you only need to buy a pound and you will have enough for dinner and leftovers. I like to make mine small, like the size of a rubber ball; and to make them even more enticing for the kids I sometimes serve them with toothpicks so they feel like they’re at a fancy cocktail party–without the cocktails.
On the side I serve rice or baked sweet potato fries or pasta with cheese and peas–these meatballs will go with everything. And they will be enjoyed by not only the pickiest little person but even the adults (if I am making the kids an early dinner before Tim, my husband, comes home, I will save some for him—he likes them too).
Here’s the recipe and keep in mind, these ingredients are flexible, so have fun with it! And I’d love to know: what’s your favorite meatball?
-fresh bread crumbs (you can use four slices of white sandwich bread, or a few slices from a stale leftover loaf like ciabatta, whatever you have as long as it is not a whole grain or rye or something with seeds. Just remove the crust and grind the bread in a food processor).
-1/3 cup milk
-1 medium sweet or regular yellow onion
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 lb ground veal
-1 large egg, beaten lightly
-1 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (or both)
-chopped parsley (optional, I leave this out if it’s for Conor because he doesn’t like green flecks in his food)
-Salt and pepper
-Soak breadcrumbs with milk in a small bowl and put aside for 5 to 10 minutes.
-Pour olive oil in pan–enough to lightly coat–and turn heat to medium high. Saute onions and garlic until fragrant and softened (if starting to turn brown turn down the heat). When onions are done put aside to cool.
-Put ground veal in a large bowl and add soaked breadcrumbs, egg, cheese, parsley. Combine with a fork. Add onion mixture and blend lightly to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
-Roll veal into smallish balls and place on a baking sheet or plate until ready to cook.
-The meatballs will be moist and a bit sticky.
-Pour half vegetable oil/half olive oil into a large frying pan, enough to generously coat the bottom.
-Turn the to medium high and once oil is shimmering add meatballs–do not crowd the pan, better to do a couple of batches. Add more oil accordingly. If meatballs are browning too quickly adjust the heat.
-When bottom of meatball is looking nice and crisp jostle the pan to cook them on another side, or flip lightly with a wooden spoon. When balls are cooked through and brown on all sides (about 7 minutes total) use a slotted spoon to place them on paper towel-lined plate. Finish remaining meatballs.
-Serve and enjoy.