You might know them as fleischkiechele, keftédes, albóndigas, kofta or köttbullar. Just about every world cuisine has a special take on this classic comfort food. These days, meatballs are enjoying a culinary resurgence. Food industry research and consultancy firm, Technomic, has noted a trend for what they describe as “elevated peasant fare,” saying in a recent trend report: “Meatballs and sausages are proliferating—traditional, ethnic or nouveau, shaped from many types and combinations of meats.” Meatballs are appearing on menus as appetizers, soup ingredients, in sliders and as toppers for flatbreads and pizzas.
Alex Tishman is Regional Head Chef at Big City Chefs, a private chef company located in the Bay Area, where he manages dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. He also has some great ideas for making first-class meatballs, saying that the first step is to start with high-quality protein. “If you don’t have good meat to start with, grinding it up won’t make it better,” he says. Tishman likes to use a chuck cut, which has what he feels is the right combination of muscle, fat and connective tissue. He also suggests grinding the meat in house. “It’s a great way to use trim, scraps, and cuts not big enough for portions. And it’s more cost effective to grind your own meat.” Next, make sure you have the right ratio of meat to fat. “Aim for 20 to 30 percent fat, and you’ll get the right moisture levels and mouthfeel,” he says. Finally, take it easy with the shaping. “Don’t overwork the meat,” he says. “Packing meatballs too tightly will make them overly dense.”
Tishman has some suggestions for adding meatballs to a menu. “They’re great to feature as an appetizer, especially with a recipe that has a more specific regional bent. Keep them small, so they’re more approachable for nibbling and sharing.” Adding meatballs to flatbreads is an appealing appetizer option, and Flatout® Flatbread can be a terrific base for your culinary creativity.
Some of Chef Tishman’s favorite permutations are Lamb Meatballs with Pistachios, served on a bed of Kasha with a drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses, Pork Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Chicken Meatballs with Hot Wing Sauce. His final advice: “It’s a messy project, and not that much more work to make 100 once you’re already committed to making 10, so be sure to make a whole lot of them.”