The Kosher Table: Meatballs In Saffron Sauce

— by Viviana González De Marco-Schapiro

Today I would like to share a dish with you which brings us the flavors of the Argentinian kitchen. Argentinian cuisine is a fusion of European and Latin American flavors. My mother was a culinary instructor. Here is the recipe for her saffron meatballs, which originate in Spain. The saffron is left over from the Moorish rule over Spain, which began during the 8th century and lasted for 400 years.    

Full recipe after the jump.
Meatballs In Saffron Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb. minced beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Lb. potatoes
  • 4 oz. peas
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley and a little more for dusting
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Flour
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. First of all let’s blanche the onion and garlic. Blanching is slightly cooking food in boiling water. In this way we will make the onion soften and our meatballs will have a homogeneous texture. Additionally, we’ll reduce slightly the flavor of garlic and onion, to give more subtleness to our meatball mix. So put the kettle on and when it boils add half the onion and one clove of garlic. Let it cook for 2 minutes, then drain and cool under cold running water. Drain again and set aside.
  2. Now we will be preparing the base of our sauce for meatballs. To do this we’ll heat the oil  in a pan and add the remaining onion, cut into thin strips, and  three cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped. Add a teaspoon of salt and bay leaf. Simmer on a medium flame. Do not raise the temperature, so we’ll have time to prepare the meatballs. If you notice color darkening, add water occasionally, by the tablespoon.
  3. Prepare the mixture for the meatballs. Chop the blanched onion and garlic into very small pieces. Taking time to chop these ingredients well it is important, so that there are no large pieces to spoil the texture.
  4. Now form the meatballs. In a large bowl put the meat and add chopped parsley, onion, garlic, egg, 1 tablespoon bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and a few turns of pepper grinder. Use a fork to mix well for a long time so the mixture is rather homogeneous.
  5. Shape the meatballs: Sprinkle some flour on a plate and grab another clean plate. Moisten your hands (they do not have to be dripping, just moist). Spoon the meat mixture onto your hand. Shape your meatball. Place the meatball on the clean plate and repeat the process with all the meat until done. Heat the chicken stock, and if you’re not using a bouillon then concentrate it.
  6. Heat some frying oil (I used sunflower oil) in a small saucepan. Dip the meatballs in the flour. When the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in two batches until they get golden-brown. Place on a plate.
  7. Add a teaspoon of  flour  to the onion and garlic in the pan and toast for a minute while stirring well. Then add the white wine and turn up the heat. Add the meatballs to the pan. When the wine has reduced, add a little more chicken broth and allow to it heat for five more minutes.
  8. After five minutes, toast the saffron in a hot pan (with no oil) for a few seconds. Crush it in a mortar with a pestle to make a brightly colored dust. Take a spoonful of well-mixed hot sauce and pour into the pan (do this to remove all the ground saffron from the mortar before adding our salsa).
  9. Add the fresh peas, and let them cook for 10 minutes or a little longer, until the sauce has reduced and peas are tender. Taste, and correct the seasoning if necessary.
  10. In the meantime, you can fry potatoes to serve, sprinkled with some fresh parsley.

Viviana González De Marco-Schapiro is the creator of La Cocina de Viviana, where she teaches Argentinian cooking.