Recipe Source: Recipe Source: Anonymous. The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table. Thirteenth century AD, probably Egyptian. Published by Lilia Zaouali in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, M. B. DeBevoise trans., University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007 pp. 87 - 8.
Well, once again it looks like my best-laid plans went astray. I've been trying to keep us on a more-or-less vegetarian diet during the week, eating fish if we deviate, with meat (poultry included) mostly being a weekend treat. I've been doing this mostly for health and economy reasons. The problem is that I had planned to teach some classes at an event out in Springfield recently. One of those classes was a medieval food class, and that class was kind of heavy on the meat dishes. This was all well and good, but there was a problem. There was this snowstorm, you see. It resulted in the cancellation of the event, mostly because of an executive order from the governor's office closing down all roadways in the Commonwealth. All roadways. No vehicles were to be on the roads at all. This would make it a little challenging to get from Braintree to Springfield, a journey of about an hour and a half with no traffic at normal speed.
So I have all this meat on hand. It's mostly chicken. Some of it can be frozen. Some of it cannot be. This was supposed to be the Sunday dinner that weekend. Instead it was the dinner that we had the night the storm rolled in as we watched 17" pile up against the windows of our kitchen. That was just that evening, we did get more. It could have been much worse. I'm writing this the day after the storm. Unlike some of our friends in neighboring towns we still have electricity (and heat, and we can use our stove...) Because of the travel ban we're unable to offer shelter to our friends who cannot say the same, but at least our family is safe and the Braintree Circle of Dull wins again. (We lost power for all of one and a half seconds last night. It was such a memorable event that the police department felt compelled to announce it on their website as a "town-wide outage.")
Anyway, I'd planned this because I could make it ahead of time and reheat it. That's not what I did at the end of the day but that's why I selected it. I also chose it in an attempt to cure Fearless Toddler of her distaste for meatballs. She's got a pronounced preference for sour flavors and I figured that cooking the meatballs in vinegar would get that for her. To be honest the idea seemed a little weird to me at first. Would it be like a pickle? Would it somehow give off the eye-watering fumes that making a brine does? It did not. It made a very pleasant meatball indeed. I think making these with lamb would be even better, but using the organic beef was still cheaper than lamb (and I'm still planning a big lunch board for the fall, so cost is a concern.) The flavors mixed very well indeed. I used the sesame oil to keep the balls from burning in the oven but unfortunately the roasting pan I used leaked and got sesame oil all over the bottom of the oven, smoking everywhere in a not-very-pleasant way. I caught it in time and no harm was done.
The end result was that my daughter had thirds of the meatballs, which had exactly the kind of flavor that she wanted. It was a little different but she loved it.
Meatballs in Vinegar (serves 4; approx. $1.75/serving)
1 1/3 pound (or a little less) ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped and divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
1 - 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 - 2 cups red wine vinegar
- Large, deep saute pan
- Miniature food processor
- Slotted spoon
- Roasting pan
- Mixing bowl
- Preheat your oven to 450︒.
- Put the onion in the roasting pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast 20 - 30 minutes.
- Remove the onion from the oven but leave the oven on. Let the onion cool for a few minutes, then cut into quarters and transfer to the food processor. I used oven gloves while I did this. Do whatever keeps you from getting burned. I also reserved the oil roasting the onion for another dish. You are not obligated to do so.
- Grind the onion down into little bits. Transfer the pieces to the mixing bowl.
- Add the beef and egg to the mixing bowl with the onion. Add MOST of the cilantro and MOST of the coriander - reserve a little for the last step.
- Knead the mixture together and form into meatballs of whatever size makes you happy. I like them to be no larger than walnuts for dishes like this - much larger and they don't cook evenly.
- Transfer the meatballs to the saute pan and add enough vinegar to half-cover them. Bring to a boil.
- Boil unti the meatballs are half done.
- Lubricate the roasting pan with the sesame oil. (This step is more or less optional.)
- Use the slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to the roasting pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the meatballs are completely cooked.
- Sprinkle the remaining coriander and cilantro on the bottom of your serving vessel. Put the meatballs on top and serve.