This is a leftover dish. It combines leftover ground pork (which I used to make some cilantro-spiked Vietnamese-style meatballs), fresh bread crumbs (aka: all those properly manicured tea sandwich crusts), spicy Thai chiles and fresh thyme (just had some sitting around). Those were some mean ‘balls. They’re neither Sicilian or Italian-American, nor Asian or Asian/Italian fusion — I don’t know what style they would be most influenced by, but “random leftover.”
What an unpretentious name for such a primitive dish: Meatball. Ball ‘o meat ‘n things. I can’t think of one type of protein or cuisine that’s evaded these congealed, bouncy orbs of meat and starch, bound together with perhaps some egg. There’s tofu balls and falafel for the vegetarian set. Fish balls are common as well. I’m not sure why astronauts didn’t bring this terrifically compact meals-in-one-ball on their ships instead of those crazy freeze-dried ice cream cubes.
freshly stale and toasted
Instead of serving this dish with the usual mound of pasta, I crisped up some leftover bread and decided to call it a bruschetta — of sorts. It made for a slightly lower-carb, more summery meal than had it been pasta, and the appealing crunch and charred taste of the bread complemented the crisp surface of the meatballs.
These all-pork meatballs with bits of Thai chiles and a crust of fresh thyme and black pepper were truly delightful — a new favorite of mine. But certainly, you could use any meatball recipe that you’re partial to with a similar application. The olive and caper-studded puttanesca sauce added an extra punch of pungency to the dish — highly recommended, if you like it like that.
Pork Meatball Bruschetta alla Puttanesca
(makes 2 servings)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, coarsely crumbled (doesn’t need to be uniform, tiny specks)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 small red or green chiles, very finely chopped
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp corn starch
1 Tb olive oil
2 cups prepared Puttanesca sauce (I used a jarred one this time but there’s a reliable recipe here)
8-10 1/2″ slices of a baguette
Fresh basil for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the pork, bread crumbs, milk, onion, garlic, 1 tsp of the thyme, chiles, oregano, salt, pepper, and corn starch. Fold with hands until thoroughly combined. Cover mixture and let refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven at 400 degrees or turn on the broiler. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 3-5 minutes, until slightly browned.
Form the meatballs into 4-5 round balls with your hands. Sprinkle the surfaces with a little extra salt, pepper and the rest of the thyme and pat them on. In a frying pan large enough to fit them all with some room in between them, heat up the oil on medium-high. Add the meatballs and let brown a few minutes on one side. Keep turning them and letting them sit on one side of its surface until fairly uniformly browned (noting the impossibility of a spheric “ball” having “sides”, mine came to about 5-6 sides to each ball). Heat up the puttanesca sauce while cooking meatballs.
Arrange the toasted bread slices flat on two serving plates, half to each serving. Top with meatballs, then top with the heated puttanesca sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.
(for 2 servings)
1 lb ground pork (from Chinatown): $1.89
about 1/3 long baguette (at $2.25): $0.75
About 1/2 jar of Puttanesca sauce (at $2.99): $1.50
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 1/12 of a 2-lb loaf for $3.69): $0.31
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (at $2/bunch): $0.40
1/4 cup milk: $0.15
1/4 cup chopped onion: $0.15
3 garlic cloves: $0.05
2 small chiles: $0.10
salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, corn starch, 1 Tb olive oil: $0.20
Seven brownie points: What’s with all this cold weather we’ve been having this week in New York? It’s made me want to eat like I’m storing up my layer of fat for the winter. This dish is far from your typical light, summer fare, with plenty of fat (though it depends on how lean the ground pork is) and sodium. Trying the same recipe with lean ground turkey might be wise if you’re looking to lose cholesterol.