Look at these guys. It almost makes me tear up just reminiscing about making them, let alone eating them. I have posted a few recipes for meatballs on this blog, two of which are based on recipes from a book called The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which is a compilation of recipes from the guys who own The Meatball Shop in Manhattan, assuredly a destination on my next trip to NYC. These BBQ Pork Balls are based on their recipe too.
I’ve only been to New York twice: once when I was in my twenties to visit my friend Rich who was getting his Masters in art, and last April with my father-in-law, Bill. Bill is originally from Moonachie, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson a few miles.
On my first trip there about 15 years ago, I was wide-eyed and punch drunk. New York City is way too much to comprehend in a few days. I must have walked 20 miles through Manhattan and dodged 3 taxis for each mile; those fucking guys mean business when you’re crossing the street, as I learned quite quickly. I did get a taste of NYC, but I knew I had to come back at some point.
When I first met Bill (before my wife and I were married, of course), I knew I wanted to go to New York with this guy. I had to. Being a California Italian, I often have pined to have the New York Italian accent, the Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?” edge. Bill owns this. For example, while helping us restore our old house, he once came back from Home Depot and said, “Hey Jonny, I did that thing you needed. No problem,” and I wondered if our room was tapped and if all of my enemies were still around. It was fucking beautiful. In any case, while I envy those brought up in New York and New Jersey for the accent, I will settle for having Bill around and, after a few glasses of wine, adopting his accent. I figure, at least it’s in the family and I am Italian, when all is said and done.
So after 11 years, we made it to New York with Bill. I mean, the guy had The Sopranos theme song on the radio as we crossed the bridge like Tony does in the opening of the show. Are you kidding me? It was all bitchin’ from then on out. We saw all of the sites, my 3 year old was speechless (which is a good thing, sometimes), we ate at diners and at Italian family restaurants, and I even got told to “get the fuck outta here” when declaring, with alacrity, that the Angels would beat the Yankees that season. Yankee fans have been busting my balls at the Big A my whole life, so I felt a need to recompense. In essence, it was the trip of a lifetime.
I mention this story because I can feel New York in this cookbook. The authors are a “couple of fuckin’ guys,” to use my family’s complimentary epithet, and their recipes exhibit this. Moreover, these aren’t classic Italian meatballs; they’re pork balls, perfect if you want BBQ and you don’t have the time or the resources to spark it up in the back (the BBQ, that is).
I served these on sandwich rolls with a liberal amount of BBQ sauce and homemade KFC coleslaw. Nothing more needs to be said.
BBQ Pork Balls
Makes about 12 cueball-size meatballs
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I’m a KC Masterpiece guy, myself)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°. Get a, 8″ x 8″ or similar size baking dish and coat the bottom of it with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil.
Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook them until they are soft and browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Transfer this to a bowl and put it in the fridge to cool (hot onions would make scrambled eggs when you add them to the mixture, so that’s why you chill them, kid).
When the onions are cooled, put them in a mixing bowl with the pork, BBQ sauce, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix this all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.
Have a cup of water next to you as you roll out the meatballs. A key to making good meatballs is keeping your hands moist as you roll them. It makes the balls smooth and it’s easier to make sure there are no cracks in them.
Roll the mixture into cueball-size meatballs and make sure the meat is packed firmly. Place the balls in rows and columns in the oiled baking dish. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Bake these guys for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. The meat thermometer should read 165° when poked into the center of a meatball. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes before you dig in.
Serve them with more BBQ sauce, buns, coleslaw, and whatever your little heart desires. You’ll maybe get this:
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013