Meatballs in Almond Sauce (Albondigas en Salsa con Picada de Almendras)

In Spain, meatballs and ground meat stuffings are made with a mix of different meats, most commonly a half-and-half mixture of veal and pork. I asked why. The answer was that veal was once the prestigious expensive partner and pork the plebeian one that made the mix cheaper and provided some fat, but you can use one or the other meat alone. The bread soaked in milk or water and the egg make the mix go further and give the meatballs a soft, moist texture. Meatballs are poached in various sauces. Here the sauce has white wine and is thickened and given a characteristic Catalan flavor with a picada-a paste of fried almonds, bread, and garlic. The meatballs are traditionally rolled in flour before frying, but some cooks now omit this step.Meatballs are supposed to be poor man's food, but these are anything but-the flavors are an extraordinary combination.

Recipe courtesy of The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, copyright (c) 2011
TOTAL TIME: 45 min
Prep: 15 min
Inactive Prep: --
Cook: 30 min
 
YIELD: Serves 4 to 6
LEVEL: Easy

ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground pork or veal,
  • or 1/2 pound of each
  • 4 slices firm white sandwich bread (scant 4 ounces), crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • Olive or sunflower oil for frying
    FOR THE ALMOND SAUCE:
    • 1 cup chicken stock (or 1 cup water
    • plus 1/2 bouillon cube)
    • 1 cup fruity dry white wine
    • A good pinch of saffron threads
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1 thin slice firm white sandwich bread, crust removed
    • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
    • 3 to 4 garlic cloves
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
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    Directions

    For the meatballs, lightly beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the meat, then add the bread, mashing it with your fingers, the onion, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Work with your hands into a soft, well-mixed paste. Shape into balls the size of large walnuts and roll in plenty of flour.

    Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a wide skillet until it sizzles when you throw in a small piece of bread. Add the meatballs, in batches, and fry briefly, turning to brown them all over, then lift them out with a perforated skimmer and drain them on paper towels. They do not need to be cooked through, as they will cook further in the sauce.

    For the sauce, pour the stock (or water and bouillon cube) and wine into a wide skillet and bring to a boil. Add the saffron, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste, and the sugar.

    Make a picada: Fry the bread, almonds, and garlic cloves in the oil in a small skillet until golden brown. Lift them out and let cool a little, then grind to a paste in a mortar or food processor. Stir the picada into the sauce.

    Add the meatballs and simmer, covered, over very low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes, until cooked through, adding a little water if necessary.

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