Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anniversary Dinner - Deep-Fried, Feta-Filled Meatballs with Two Sauces

For our first anniversary, we went out to eat, to the same restaurant we went for our rehearsal dinner.  Good times were had.

But around our second anniversary, we were suffering a budget crisis that forbade such things as eating out.  We decided instead to cook something fancy, something that would normally be outside our grocery budget, but still far cheaper than restaurant dinner for two.  (It was paella, and it was delicious.)  We had such fun that we decided it would be the new tradition, budget crisis or no.

This year's dish needs a little explaining.  First, a few years back we were big fans of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  (Not so much anymore, it's gone downhill a bit.)  But we got the cookbook, and we're big fans of the 'Greek' meatballs from the Monte Carlo Steakhouse.  We made them often, both for spaghetti and meatball subs.

Also because of Triple-D, we stopped in at Joe's Gizzard City on one of our cross-MI trips.  Everything they fry is fantastic--best onion rings I've ever had!--but we were really impressed the time I got deep-fried meatballs.  I had them with sweet and sour sauce, but my husband tried one and immediately said, "Why don't we do this with the Greek meatballs and have them with tzatziki?"

So we did.  And then a while later, we told his dad about it, who immediately said, "Those would be great with some feta in the middle!"

So here they are: deep-fried, feta-filled meatballs.

Served with a Hasselback potato, tzatziki sauce, and red bell pepper coulis.

Deep-Fried 'Greek' Meatballs
(adapted from the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives cookbook)

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs (plain or Italian-seasoned are both fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/4" dice
  • olive oil for sauteing
Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the onion, garlic, oregano, mint, and salt until the onion is soft.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the ground beef, bread crumbs, and egg.  Mix gently until well blended.

Break off 1 1/4" balls of meat mixture and form into flat, round patties between your hands.  Take a piece of feta and place it in the middle, then fold the edges of the patty around it and reshape the mixture into a ball.  Place on a baking sheet while you form the rest.  (If you have any feta left over after you're done, I'd recommend discarding it, unless you're really sure you never touched it with your contaminated hands.  I only had two pieces left, so I didn't mind tossing it.)

Heat more olive oil in the skillet over medium heat and add the meatballs in batches, handling them gently with tongs to turn them to brown all over.  As the meat cooks, it shrinks, so some of them may crack and expose the feta...but they're still delicious.  If any fall apart entirely, eat them now and don't bother to deep-fry them!

You can make them ahead of time and fridge them until you're ready to fry; or you can fry them soon after the initial cooking, just wait until they've cooled enough to handle before dipping them in the batter.  Your cooking time will be a little faster if you fry them while they're still warm.

For the fry batter:
(found somewhere out there on the internet...I wrote the recipe down on a scrap of paper, but not the source)

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
In a bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients, then add the milk and water and blend well.

Heat the oil for frying in a large, heavy pot (I use my enameled dutch oven) to 350 F.  Dip each meatball in the batter, allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds, then place gently in the oil.  Fry in batches--how many you can manage at once depends upon your pot size.  Fry until deep golden, about 4-5 minutes (cold start) or 3-4 minutes (warm start).  I'd recommend cutting open a meatball from your first batch to check your time before starting the rest.

Remove them with a wire spider or a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels while cooking the rest.  Serve with some manner of delicious sauce, and tell your arteries to stop complaining!

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