Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 24, 2022
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Meatballs with two sauces (Albóndigas)

The Spanish word albóndiga, or “meatball,” comes from the Arabic al bundaq, or “round.”

The bread in the meat mixture yields a lighter meatball, but not all Spanish cooks add it. You can fry the meatballs and serve them plain, with alioli on the side, or in an almond-thickened wine sauce, or you can brown them only and finish them in a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce.

olive oil

¼ c. (60 ml) onion, minced or grated (optional)

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

½ lb. (250 g) each ground beef and ground pork or 1 lb. (500 g) ground beef

3 tbsp. (45 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 slices country bread, crusts removed, soaked in water and squeezed dry

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) freshly grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml) cumin seeds, toasted in a dry pan until fragrant and finely ground (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ c. (125 ml) all-purpose flour

white wine sauce or tomato sauce (recipes follow), optional

In a bowl, combine the onion, garlic, meat, parsley, egg, soaked bread, nutmeg and cumin, and season with salt and pepper. (If onion is too assertive for your palate, heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil in a small frying pan over low heat, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool and then combine.) Mix well. Fry a nugget of the mixture in a little oil, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Dampen your hands and shape the meat mixture into 1-inch (2.5-cm) balls. (At this point, the meatballs can be covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours before frying.) Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll the meatballs in the flour, coating evenly and shaking off the excess.

In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons (45 ml) oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and sear, turning and adding oil as needed, until golden on all sides and cooked through, 10 minutes for each batch. Transfer to a plate and serve with toothpicks.

Alternatively, brown the meatballs (5 minutes) but do not cook them through, and then simmer them until fully cooked in the wine sauce or tomato sauce. Transfer to a deep platter or cazuela and serve with toothpicks. Serves 8.

Wine sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. (30 ml) blanched almonds, chopped

2 tbsp. (30 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

½ tsp. (2.5 ml) sweet paprika

a few saffron threads, warmed and crushed

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil

½ c. (125 ml) onion, minced

½ c. (125 ml) dry white wine or dry fino or amontillado sherry

2/3 c. (150 ml) chicken broth

To make a picada (a mixture used to thicken and flavour Spanish sauces), combine the garlic, almonds, parsley, paprika, saffron, a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a food processor. Process until finely ground. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 8 minutes. Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the picada and cook for a few minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

Spanish wine: dry amontillado sherry (Jerez), Godello (Vadeorras)

Non-Spanish wine: Marsanne/blend (Rhône Valley, France; California), aged Chardonnay (California, Australia)

Tomato sauce

1 small onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (2½ to 3 c. / 625 to 750 ml)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) ground cinnamon

1 tbsp. (15 ml) honey

2 tbsp. (30 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

After you’ve browned the meatballs, add the onion and garlic to the oil remaining in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Add the cinnamon and honey and simmer over medium heat until the tomatoes give off their juices and the sauce thickens, 15 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

Spanish wine: Tempranillo/blend (Rioja, Valdepeñas, Navarre), rosé (Alicante, Utiel-Requena)

Non-Spanish wine: Sangiovese/blend (Italy), dry rosé (California, Australia)

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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