I love the smell of wet leaves.
In my determination to embrace Dutch culture (or at least attempt to blend in), I was stuck by a temporary bout of psychosis and decided to try making something uber-Dutch: those groovy little flavor bombs known as bitterballen.
On the way home from IKEA (which I still can't quite get used to pronouncing as "ee-KAY-ah") where we ran into the FranKats preparing for their housewarming party tonight, we ran into Marnix outside the supermarket.
I'm starting to feel very much at home here. If not a little Stepfordized.
He laughed when we told him I wanted to make the bitterballen. Apparently it's far more "Dutch" to just buy them frozen. Classic.
Oh well. I'm far past the point of being dissuaded now.
The awesome thing about bitterballen is their versatility. They can be as simple or complex as you endeavor to make them and you can even give them their own personalities depending on the fillings and the condiments you serve them with. They are far from healthy, but perfect for those rare occasions when you just must get your Freaky-Deaky-Dutch on.
I'm happy to say that these yummy little suckers turned out great with relatively little effort. Much heartier than your average pub fare or (I'm guessing) the frozen ones, seriously delicious. So good, in fact, that I served them up with a couple of Dutch beers for aperitivi one night.
It felt a bit blasphemous, but damn they were tasty.
Classic Dutch Bitterballen
Makes 30-36 groovy little flavor bombs
This recipe is adapted from a few that I've found from various sources. The gooey deliciousness inside is a roux that I'd say is akin to sausage gravy (except I opt for veal over pork), but they can easily be "vegetized" with potatoes, portabella mushrooms or cheese.
The traditional accompaniment is a basic yellow mustard, but feel free to mix it up with your own personal flavor by serving them with other dips, chutneys, or even barbeque sauces. I opted to try a pureed version of this persimmon relish and it was quite good.
Ok, here we go...
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb ground beef or veal (I used 1/4 pound of each)
1/4 cup carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or pressed
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat parsley, finely chopped
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth or milk
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Oil for deep frying
Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook the meat, carrots, garlic and onion until the meat is browned and the carrots are tender. Drain the meat and place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over moderate heat. Then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the broth or milk. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils and thickens. Combine the sauce with the meat mixture, stirring to combine them thoroughly, and chill this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator.
When the mixture has solidified, roll it into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, then in the egg and water mixture, then in the bread crumbs again.
If you happen to own a deep-fryer, you're way ahead of me. If not, fill a pot with about 2 inches of frying oil and heat it to 375 degrees. Test the oil for "doneness" by dropping in a small piece of bread - when the oil is ready, the bread will crisp up immediately. You want to make sure the oil is hot enough or the little buggers will just soak up the oil like little sponges, which is neither good for your palate nor your thighs.
Fry a few at a time until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and prepare yourself for some awesomeness.
In the Netherlands these are eaten as snack or appetizer, or as the main course with apple sauce and french fries - might as well get as much use out of that fryer as possible, right? Whichever you choose, be sure to serve them immediately, accompanied by the dipping goo of your choice and a hearty Dutch brew.
Be mindful: the insides are crazy hot (think "liquid magma") so pierce them and let them cool off a bit before popping them in your mouth or the molten explosion will totally fry your taste buds!