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MEATBALLS FLANDERS STYLE Recipe
It seems, in Europe alone, many countries have their own special version of meatball dishes, from Swedish Meatballs to German Meatballs in brown or white sauce with capers, to Italian Meatballs in red sauce. I’ve long been fond of Belgian and Flemish cuisine and this is my take on a Flemish Carbonnade, but made with meatballs instead of cuts of beef, veal or pork. I call it MEATBALLS FLANDERS STYLE. Blue Moon is (honestly) one of my favorite beers, so it was a natural for me to “marry” it with this recipe. This dish is not only great for a “sit-down” dinner, but for a potluck or buffet as well, and can be doubled easily.
For the Meatballs
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 3 slices white bread, crusts removed
- ½ cup of coarsely grated mild Gouda or Gouda-style cheese
- 1½ cups loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
- ¾ cup finely minced onion
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- ½ cup flour, for coating and browning the meatballs
- ¼ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
- FOR THE SAUCE and GARNISH
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons malt or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon crushed dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup of good chicken or beef broth
- 1 1/2 cups Blue Moon beer (see end NOTE)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk just until steaming. Remove from heat and press bread into the milk; set aside.
- Place the grated cheese in a large bowl. Add parsley, minced onion, eggs, salt, white pepper, black pepper and allspice. Stir well to combine. Add ground beef, ground pork and milk-soaked bread. Knead by hand or mix with a large wooden spoon until well-blended.
- Spread the 1/2 cup flour on a plate. Roll meat mixture into 1½-inch balls, and roll in flour to coat. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add enough meatballs to loosely fill pan. Sear for about 1 minute, then shake pan to turn meatballs. Continue until well browned on all sides, adding more oil to the pan as needed. When all meatballs are browned, set aside and keep warm.
- In a skillet cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon, reserving the drippings in skillet. Crumble the bacon into a small bowl and set aside. Sauté the sliced onions in the bacon drippings until tender. Transfer the onions to a Dutch oven over medium heat, stir in flour, brown sugar, vinegar, thyme, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the broth and Blue Moon beer and whisk well. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles.
- Transfer the meatballs to the Dutch oven and allow them to gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. Carefully whisk in the cream and a pinch of nutmeg. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Heat gently until nicely warm. Do not boil or the cream may separate. Top with the crumbled bacon and chopped parsley.
- Serving Suggestion: Serve with either buttered little new potatoes tossed with chopped parsley or buttered noodles tossed with chopped parsley. A cool slaw or a braise of red cabbage, beets and apples would make a welcome side dish.
- NOTE: It is preferable to use Blue Moon beer for the recipe. Blue Moon beer is flavored with orange peel. If not using Blue Moon or other Belgian style “white” beer, you may wish to add a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest to the sauce ingredients to replicate the flavor of Blue Moon beer.
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