From the seemingly bottomless well that is Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table comes this exotic-tasting, delicious, and uncomplicated meatball recipe. Now that pomegranate juice is a regular item at the supermarket, it is no longer esoterica, and we can afford to play around with it without either: 1) spending a lot or 2) being accused of culinary preciousness by the proudly "down to earth" among our nearest and dearest. Well, yes, it is expensive for fruit juice (though really good), if you're thinking of drinking it; but 1 1/2 cups in a sauce for meatballs for 4...very affordable.
The meat balls are yummy-you can make them ahead, and heat them up, which gives you the opportunity to fiddle around at the last minute, making a delicious crusty rice to serve with them. This method for making rice is something I've been wanting to try for a while. It resembles some Iranian and other middle-eastern recipes I've seen, and occasionally tasted in restaurants.This is not surprising, as the area was once part of the Persian empire, and shares many of its culinary and other traditions.
One Persian version is unmolded from the rice pot in a gorgeous one-piece extravaganza with veggie layers. I thought I'd try this simpler version first, since you spoon the rice out of the pot, and crumble the crusty bottom bit over all- a much more forgiving procedure.As to the pomegranate seeds, they are not strictly necessary, but they are so nice, and one pomegranate is more than enough for everything. I used tumeric, rather than saffron to color the rice, because I had no saffron. There is no doubt in my mind that saffron would be better.
Ms. von Bremzen has a whole background page about the rice. There are other possibilities for the bottom crusty layer, an egg version, and a bread version. The crusty bits are called the "kazmag", and are are destined to be fought over.If I had a few shelled pistachios, I'd toss them on top, for looks and taste both. This is what you need to make the meatballs, which can be done ahead completely, or in part, as you like:
1 pound of lean ground beef, lamb or a mixture of both
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp hot hungarian paprika
1 tsp dried mint or basil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup broth or water
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pom seeds
Thoroughly mix together all ingredients through and including the salt and pepper. Form into large meatballs, about the size of apricots. Melt plenty of butter in a large dutch oven. roll the meatballs in the flour, and brown them on all sides, turning carefully until evenly brown. Remove meat balls with a slotted spoon, and deglaze the pan with the broth and juice. Reduce to about 1 cup, and carefully add the meatballs and the seeds. Cook until the meatballs are cooked through. The flour coating the meatballs will thicken the sauce. If you have time, chill the meatballs and the sauce separately, and peel the fat from the top of the sauce before reuniting with the meatballs, and reheating. Otherwise, degrease the sauce as best you can. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with pilaf.
This is how you make the wonderful, delicious, ridiculously rich rice pilaf. There is an inexcusable amount of butter, which is why it must be, sadly, reduced to party fare, rather than consumed daily. I, for one, would never tire of it, though it is a bit of a pain, particularly when compared to just about any rice making practise-even risotto.
two cups of white rice-basmati is really pretty well essential here
2 sticks (1/2 lb.!!!) of butter
2-3 potatoes, sliced thinly
Boil 3 qts. of water in a large pan with a close-fitting lid. My heavy 5 qt. analon dutch oven was ideal. Make sure it is really boiling hard. Add the rice in a thin stream. Boil 8 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice in cold water. Drain again, and put rice in a bowl, covered by 1" with cold water. Let it rest one hour.
Melt all the butter in your rice pan. Pour out 2/3 of it into a pyrex cup. Add a couple of table spoons of water, and heat until it is almost bubbling. Lay the potato slices evenly in the butter mix covering the bottom of the pot. Don't overlap them. Drain the rice. Set aside 1 cup of rice. Put 1/2 of the rice in the pot, over the potatoes, being careful not to disarrange them. Pile the center higher than the sides. Drizzle with 1/2 of the remaining butter. Add the rest of the rice, still mounding it, and the rest of the butter. Poke 6 or 7 holes through the rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Take some saffron or tumeric, and mix it with 3/4 cup of hot water, blending until deep yellow. Mix in reserved rice, blending to dye it yellow. Set aside.
Wrap the bottom of the pot lid in a cotton or linen, non-terry dish towel, tying it on the top. Put the top on the pot tightly, and cook over a low heat for about 40 minutes, until the rice is lovely, and the potatoes have formed a crispy layer on the bottom of the pot. Spoon the rice into a big serving dish. If the bottom is not crispy and brown, turn up the heat, and finish it off. Scatter the yellow rice and crumbled potato layer over the rice in the dish. Garnish with pom seeds, and or pistachios. Serve with the meatballs, or anything you like.
I know that tastes vary etc, yadda, etc., and no food is adored by all, blah, lipservice, blah, but I guess I don't really believe that, because I am ready to bet you will like this, a whole lot.