A POUND OF BUTTER: On Making A Meatball Plate Better Than The One You Get At IKEA

by Owen Lightly | For reasons that I will explain, I recently set out to create a dish inspired by the meatball plate from the Ikea cafeteria. As a child visiting from the Island, I always looked forward to trips to the blue and yellow warehouse in Richmond. It usually meant the purchase of some budget piece of furniture, frozen yogurt, hot dogs, and if I was lucky, a plate of meatballs.

For whatever reason, the meatballs held mystique. Maybe it was because up until that point I had only ever had them with tomato sauce. What the hell were those crazy Swedes doing serving them with gravy? Looking back, and having tried them again recently, they just aren’t that good. The lustre has definitely worn off and all that remains is some sad pork meatballs swimming in cloying gravy and served with a pile of shitty mashed potatoes saddled with lingonberry sauce.

Here’s my updated version of the dish, which attempts to play with the flavours and textures of the original, while harnessing the feeling of a nine year old trying something for the first time.

Duck Meatballs with Potato Croquettes, Braised Radishes and Cranberry-Quince Compote

yields 4 servings

Meatballs

Ingredients:

- 900 grams duck leg meat, de-boned, skin removed and diced into ½ inch cubes (save the fat in the freezer to render later)

- 170 grams pork back fat, diced into ½ inch cubes

- 2 teaspoons / 10 grams fennel seeds

- 1 teaspoon / 5 grams black pepper

- 1 tablespoon / 10 grams kosher salt

- 170 grams day old bread, cubed

- 1 cup / 15 grams Italian parsley, roughly chopped

- 1 clove / 10 grams garlic, minced

- 2 tablespoons / 30 millilitres dry white wine

- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

- extra virgin olive oil

- 4 cups / 1 litre duck or chicken stock (if deboning your own duck legs, fortify your chicken stock with the roasted duck bones and meat trim.)

- sherry vinegar, to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the duck leg meat, pork back fat and meat grinder attachment in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

2. Toast the fennel seeds and black pepper in a small sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant. Grind the spices using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and mix with the salt.

3. Remove the meat and grinder attachment from the freezer. Mix the meat with the fat, bread, spice mixture, parsley and garlic and grind through the large plate of the grinder into a chilled mixing bowl

4. Add the wine and eggs to the bowl and mix with your hands until fully combined and slightly tacky.

5. Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil. Portion the meat into 20 gram pieces, roll into balls and place on the baking sheet. Roast the meatballs in the preheated oven until golden brown and cooked through, rotating the tray every 5 minutes, approximately 10-15 minutes.

6. While the meatballs are roasting, bring the stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the meatballs are browned, add them to the stock and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer the meatballs for 20-30 minutes, or until the stock has reduced to a light glaze. Season to taste with sherry vinegar (it should have a slightly sweet and sour taste).

Potato Croquettes

Adapted from Chef Michel Richard’s “spuddie’s” found in Saveur Magazine #135.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds / 900 grams russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon / 10 grams powdered gelatin
  • 2 ½ tablespoons / 25 grams all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • corn flour, for dredging
  • canola oil for deep frying

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the potatoes and 3 cups of water in a food processor and pulse until the potatoes are roughly cut into 1/8th of an inch size pieces. Drain the potatoes and then wring out any excess moisture in a clean kitchen towel.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the potatoes in an even layer. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the potatoes and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, rotating once, to melt the gelatin. Transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the flour and stir until combined.

3. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on a damp counter (this helps the plastic stay in place) and place half of the potato mixture down the centre of the plastic, forming into a log 12-inch x 1-inch log. Roll the side of the plastic wrap closest to you over the potato mixture and pull back towards yourself to compress the log. Roll the potato “snake” tightly and tie each end. Repeat with the remaining mix and place in the freezer until set, approximately 20-30 minutes.

4. Pre-heat your deep fryer or a heavy-bottomed pot half-filled with canola oil to 275°F (you can get deep fryer or candy thermometers at any good kitchen store).

5. Remove the potato logs from the freezer and cut them into 1-inch x ¾-inch “tater tot” shapes. Discard plastic wrap and place the cut potatoes into a container with enough corn flour to coat. Shake off excess corn flour and drop into the hot oil in 2 batched. Blanch for approximately 5 minutes, or until a light golden brown and just cooked through. Drain on paper towel and allow to cool to room temperature, approximately 10 minutes. Raise the heat of the oil to 350°F and fry in 2 batches until very crispy and a deep golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel and season with kosher salt. Serve immediately.

Braised Radishes

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches / appx. 30 radishes, trimmed, washed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 millilitres extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoons / 14 grams unsalted butter
  • sherry vinegar, to taste
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Heat a sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the radishes cut side down and sear until lightly caramelized. Flip them over and season lightly with kosher salt.

2. Add the orange juice to the pan and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Reduce the orange juice by ¾ (it will be beginning to get syrupy). Add the butter and swirl the pan to glaze the radishes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.

Cranberry-Quince Compote

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag / 336 grams fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup / 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 4 tablespoons / 85 grams quince paste

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot with a ¼ cup of water and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until thick, approximately 20-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature and store in a covered container in the fridge until ready to use.

To serve:

Scatter 5-6 meatballs on each warmed plate and drizzle on and around with some of the sauce. Place 3-4 potato croquettes randomly amongst the meatballs and continue with 5-6 pieces of the radish. Put a nice quenelle of the quince-cranberry sauce beside everything and tuck in.

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Owen Lightly is the founder of Butter On The Endive, a full service catering company dedicated to providing inspired food experiences to its clients. A veteran member of many local kitchen teams (among them Aurora Bistro, West, Au Petit Chavignol, Araxi, and Market), he pens Scout’s new Pound Of Butter food column. Read our interview with him here.

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5 Responses to “A POUND OF BUTTER: On Making A Meatball Plate Better Than The One You Get At IKEA”

  1. Dylen on January 23rd, 2012 1:53 am

    I am so stoned and that looks so good, I want to eat my monitor

  2. Scout Magazine on January 23rd, 2012 1:56 am

    ^ Word.

  3. Kevin on January 23rd, 2012 2:33 am

    What in the hell Andrew, please don’t post things like this late at night. It makes me want to cook. Unnecessarily.

  4. Stacey on January 23rd, 2012 7:41 pm

    I made the tater tots…. pretty good, although a hot endeavor over the stove. A thermometer is key.

  5. D on January 24th, 2012 8:21 pm

    Owen, you’re a bona fied deliciousness genius. I’d tater your tots any day (whatever that means?…)