#44: Pres. Barack Obama ‘Yes, We Can’ Meatballs

In food on 01/18/2009 at 6:53 pm

In honor of the inauguration and in keeping with the current trend of naming everything after Obama in order to make a buck, I offer to you the Obama Yes, We Can Meatballs. Instead of rejecting pork when he gets into office, you can be sure that Obama will do everything in his power to grab ahold of the pork in Congress and incorporate it into his master plan, recycle it, and present it in a new manner which will work in his favor, maybe even benefit our country, just like these meatballs. You take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and keep all your constituents happy.

I like to think of meatballs as tiny hamburgers. They are made using the same method, just on a different scale. Meatballs are great to top any dish. The two pillars of the world of meatball are the Swedish and Italian types. The main seasonings used in Swedish meatballs are allspice and nutmeg, whereas Italians prefer parsley and Parmesan. Swedes use a mix of beef and pork, Italians, beef only. Beef is too lean, pork is too unstructured. To this meatball summit, I’d submit that lamb and pork would be the ultimate combination. You have the fatty pork providing the foundation, a lard infrastructure, in which spices can play. Then the lamb (i.e. merguez) would be the the prima donna superstar, demanding attention with its gamey high notes. Here, lamb by itself would be too much to handle, but with pork calming it down, things are gonna be groovy.

Spice-wise, I would not use parsley, an extremely  divisive element. Obama wouldn’t like that either. Neither would the cilantro camp. I propose that a neutral herb be used as a mediator, a friendly herb like rosemary, tarragon or thyme that would underscore the lamb and play nice with the pork as well. Then, to round out this United Nations meatball, add dashes of garlic powder, cumin, paprika or chipotle, but not onion, chopped or powdered. Onion hits a sharp note that is a little off-key in dishes where the amiable garlic would do much better.

To bind everyone happily in a warm blanket, bread crumbs are a must. Think of it as Obama giving the nation a big bear hug. Parmesan, I agree, is a good idea. Swedish meatballs tend to be a little bland because they don’t have enough ingredients. The Italians have the right idea here. Something umami like a sharp dry cheese makes your tongue happy. And the mellow Hawaiian dude that Obama is, would flash you his big smile, a hang ten, and say, “Hey bro, nice meatballs.”


1/2 pork 1/2 lamb; 1 lb total

1 egg

Handful of breadcrumbs (freshly pulsed in the food processor is best)

Spices (The ultimate Obama combo: garlic powder, rosemary, paprika, cumin, freshly grated nutmeg)

Handful of Parmesan (NOT the green Kraft bottle of soap flakes, so tasteless!; go splurge on a hunk with the rind attached and wrap it in a paper towel, then aluminum foil, and take it out to grate what you need. Parmesan is like Joe Biden: better the older and harder it gets, and when you need it, the flavor is there as soon as you get under the skin)

Salt and Pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Heat up a skillet with olive oil, get a melon baller and scoop roundish clumps and drop into the oil. This should make about 15 balls of meat. Get them nice and brown on all sides. Switch the heat to medium to cook through. Then, break out the Asian steaming method in the final 2 minutes. Pour water into skillet, about 1/8″, cover with lid and let the meatballs have a Russian steam bath so they’re nicely samonella free all the way to the core.

Put on pasta, rice (topped with Greek yogurt), tabouleh, quinoa, barley, whatever United Nations-sanctioned grain you’d like.

If you need gravy, you can add 1 Tbsp or so of flour to the skillet and cook all the clumps together. Add a little water, about 1/2 cup, and stir till smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add some Tabasco if you want to get a little crazy. Opa!


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