Friday, February 25, 2011

meatball subs with caramelized onions

He made me a sandwich! Well technically I made it myself - he did the onions.

It all started on one lazy Tuesday night when I came across a recipe for meatball subs with caramelized onions. That was when I realized that in all my nineteen years of life, I have never had a western style meatball - never mind a meatball sub. If you are wondering: spaghetti with meatballs? Nope, never had that either. I immediately linked my boyfriend, B, and suggested we make it that weekend. I can honestly say that ever since finding that recipe, meatballs were all I could think about. When Saturday finally rolled in, it was sunny. If you live in Vancouver, you should know that early February consisted of nothing but gray and gray, and more gray. So on that Saturday I was faced with a serious dilemma: enjoy the rare sunny Vancouver weather or stay indoors to cook? Well, obviously meatballs were more important to me than fresh air and sunshine.

This recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, produced exceptionally soft and moist meatballs. They were easy to break apart but still held their shape wonderfully. I made a few changes with the ingredients (meaning I used whatever was in the munching kitchen and what was available at the markets) but followed the same method of cooking. Main difference was that I changed up the seasoning and instead of getting a spicy kick from adding red pepper flakes to the meat, I used a jalapeno Havarti cheese. And I have got to mention that making a channel in your sandwich roll for your meatballs to sit in, is ingenious. Mind-blown.

My first experience with meatballs was definitely a satisfying one. Weird thing was, my meatballs weren't really ball shaped; more like meat-prisms.

Meatball subs with Caramelized Onions
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
I usually don't measure when I cook. Measurements here are approximate.
Yields ~14 meatballs depending on size.

Fresh bread crumbs, made from 4 sandwich rolls
2 pounds of ground meat (I used pork, but SmittenKitchen also suggests: beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped oregano
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 large egg
Olive oil
 2 cups prepared tomato sauce (plus extra if you like a lot of extra sauce)
1 cup of tomato paste
2 bay leafs

Caramelized onions

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
olive oil

Jalapeno Havarti, grated

Meatballs: Open up your rolls and cut out some of the bread on the bottom-half to create a channel for the meatballs - this keeps the meatballs from rolling around when you are eating it. Take the bread and grind or tear it into small pieces to form breadcrumbs. Set rolls aside but keep them closed, or else the cut surface will dry out.
In a large bowl combine the meat,oregano, Parmesan, garlic, breadcrumbs, paprika, salt and pepper. Crack the egg into your meat mixture, mix, and then slowly add in some warm water bit by bit. I used a little less than the suggested 3/4 cups. You want the meat mixture to be sticky enough to still be able to form into balls and hold it's shape. Shape mixture into meatballs with wet hands.
Heat some oil in a large pan big enough to fit all the meatballs, but only fry in batches. Brown meatballs on all sides. Add oil only when necessary - which shouldn't be often. I suggest using metal tongs to rotate the meatballs as they are easy to break apart.
Take a paper towel and with your tongs, wipe the sauce pan to get rid of any excess oil and burnt meat bits. Turn the heat down to medium and heat up the tomato sauce and tomato paste in the same pan. Mix in a bit of water to dilute it if necessary. Add the bay leaves. When it starts to simmer again, throw in your meatballs, cover the pan and let it simmer lowest heat possible for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. I like to come back and stir the meatballs around a bit to make sure every side gets covered in sauce.

Caramelized Onions: Heat a bit of olive oil and butter in another pan. Add the sliced onions and cook until translucent and slightly browned. We kept this pan on the warmer section of the stove afterward, but if your stove does not have that feature, keeping it in the microwave will keep it from getting cool slower.

Assemble: Lie the rolls on the hinged side and slip a few meatballs into the hollowed-out rolls. My subs fit about 3-4 meatballs comfortably each. Add a bit more sauce, if you like. Top it off with some of the caramelized onions and as much cheese as you like. For the grand finale, place subs under the broiler to make a gooey-mess of the cheese and crisp up the bread.

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