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Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs

March 3, 2015

Two summers ago I bought myself a subscription to Saveur magazine. I enjoyed browsing through it, but most of the recipes either didn’t appeal to me upon reading through the ingredients/directions, or turned out to be duds. There also seemed to be a large percentage of articles about travel, whereas what I usually look for in a cooking magazine is good-sounding, well-tested recipes. And some pretty food photography. That’s it. I like the recipes themselves more than I like reading someone else’s story about their visit to the place of origin. :) So I let my subscription lapse. I can always browse recipes on their web site for free, and I don’t have to wade through ads or allow paper magazines to pile up “just in case.”

However, this is one recipe of theirs that we really enjoyed. Classic Italian meatballs in savory tomato sauce are amazing, but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit! The sauce is still tomato-based, but the lack of Italian herbs and the addition of brown sugar and sour salt/lemon juice take these in an entirely different direction. I found rice to be an interesting inclusion in the meat mixture – not something I ever would have thought of to use inside meatballs, but the texture works well! I’m also not positive where the “potted” part of the name comes from… usually “potted” refers to a way of preserving meat/food. I’m guessing it’s that the meatballs are braised in the sauce rather than being fried/baked: “potted” like “pot roast,” maybe? A google search for “potted meatballs” indicates that this is primarily a Jewish technique for meatballs.

Either way, these were delicious, and really easy to make without using tons of dishes. Not quite quick enough to call it a weeknight meal, but I’d say not more than 45 minutes if you multitask the sauce and the meat. Enjoy!

Sweet and sour potted meatballs

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Sweet and sour sauce

  • 2  tablespoons canola oil
  • 1  medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1  (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2  teaspoon sour salt, or the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4  cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Meatballs

  • 2  pounds ground beef chuck
  • 2  eggs, beaten
  • 1/3  cup long-grain white rice, parboiled for 3 minutes
  • 1  cup bread crumbs
  • 1  medium yellow onion, grated on the coarse side of a box grater
  • 2¼  teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Prepare the sauce: In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil, then sauté the minced onion over medium heat until tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, and rinse out the can with ½ cup water to loosen any sauce that remains, adding that liquid to the pan. Stir in the sour salt or lemon juice and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Make the meatballs: Put the ground meat in a large bowl and push it to one side. Add the eggs, rice, bread crumbs, onion, salt, and pepper to the other side of the bowl and combine with a large fork. Work in the meat, handful by handful, until everything is thoroughly blended. Return the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Using a ½-cup measuring cup, shape meatballs measuring about 2½ inches and drop them gently into the sauce. You should have 10 to 12. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, gently rotating and pushing the meatballs around halfway through the cooking so that they are thoroughly coated in sauce. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve very hot.

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