Friday, May 20, 2016

Meatballs with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

I've never gone out for Thai food, mainly because I don't like curry or very spicy dishes.  But making this at home, I could substitute cumin for the curry and move the recipe slightly west.

I'm not going into a long discussion of the bridge of flavors between the Mediterranean and South Asia.  It's a gradual progression as some spices and herbs gradually fall out of use as they are replaced by others that grow well in the Asian climate.  What I ended up doing was making beef keftas and putting more or less the same sauce over them as in this recipe.

Cooking spices in the pan before adding liquids to the sauce brings out a deeper flavor as the spices are "activated" by heat.  It's a different effect than adding spices to an existing sauce.  This is more a habit in Pan-Asian cooking than Western, which is a big part of why South Asian and Indian dishes taste so heavily spiced.  Most recipes have little to no added salt; it's all in the herbs and spices.

For meatballs
1 lb 80/20 ground beef (too lean will be too dense)
*3 stalks green onion, finely chopped
1/2 C chopped cilantro
*1/4 C Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
*1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
dash pepper

1.  In a medium bowl, knead together all ingredients until evenly distributed.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.

2.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment for easy clean-up.  Foil works almost as well, but I didn't even have to wash the pan.  Preheat oven to 375º.

3.  Shape meat mixture into 1" meatballs.  Yes, they're small, but they will cook evenly without burning anything.  I got about 30.  Bake for 20 minutes, then turn to crisp the other side and cook another 5 to 10 minutes.

While they're in the oven….

For Sauce
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
1 tsp cumin
*1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tb oil
2 Tb peanut butter

1.  Heat a deep skillet over medium.  Put all the spices on the dry pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the oil and turn spices into a paste, another minute.

2.  Add coconut milk and peanut butter.  Cook until sauce simmers and peanut butter has melted into everything.  If too thick for your liking, thin with as much water as you need.

3.  Once meatballs are done, place in sauce and stir to coat.  Serve hot over rice or with toothpicks for an hors d'oeuvre.  Suggested garnishes are cilantro, peanuts, or coconut shavings.

Difficulty rating :)

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