Thursday, January 27, 2011

10) Meatballs and Orzo (Italian by way of Saigon)

I) Cooking should happen organically. I’m not ranting about pesticides and range-roving-vegetarian-fed-heirloom-chickens. I’m talking about the process of cooking. The process should be natural. It should make sense and ideas should follow logically from somewhere. All good food should be inspired, that is, it should have a starting point that set the ball rolling that made someone think of this dish, that these flavors and textures would go together and taste better than they would separately. This dish is a product of such a process. Meatballs with Orzo. Sounds pseudo-Italian. Maybe neo-Greek. Actually it’s Vietnamese. Kinda.

Meatballs seem to have become trendy within recent memory. The food columns in magazines ranging from GQ to Men’s Health to Food and Wine have all covered meatballs. And with good reason. They’re delicious. They’re versatile. And they’re relatively inexpensive. These meatballs look like normal tomato sauce American-Italian meatballs. But they’re actually inspired by Vietnamese beef stew, with flavors of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, and cardamom. The orzo balances the meatballs with lemon and jalapenos (very Vietnamese-American ingredients). Add in some mizuna or arugula for pepperyness and color. And there it is, meatballs, or my take on meatballs.

II) Meatballs with Orzo


· 1.5 pound ground beef

· Various spices

· 1 egg

· ½ cup breadcrumbs

· Tomato Sauce (here I used one cooked with the same spices used in the meatballs)

· 1 package orzo pasta

· ½ cup Greek Yogurt

· Lemon juice and zest

· A couple jalapenos

· Chopped parsley and cilantro

· Mizuno or arugula


1) Combine beef, spices, egg, and breadcrumbs. Do not over mix. Form into balls using as little force as possible. I like my meatballs to be light instead of overly dense.

2) Place uncooked meatballs in a baking dish and cover with tomato sauce. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

3) Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and mix with lemon juice, zest, yogurt, chopped jalapenos and the herbs. To serve, spoon orzo on a plate top with meatballs and mizuno.

III) Results and Discussion

This dish came out surprisingly nicely. It tasted like my mom’s beef stew, but in a completely different context.

IV) Sources:


V) Pictures!

(Unfortunately most pictures got lost in a fire. Or something like that.)

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