9-30: South American Meatballs

There are LOTS of different ways to prepare meatballs–at least 20 according to this Serious Eats piece. So far, the only meatball recipe I’ve covered on here is 9-4: Swedish Meatballs, although 9-44: Wok-Fried Beef Patties are pretty close. A quick Google search brings up albondigas for “South American meatballs”. Prior to 9-30: South American Meatballs, my only experience with either of these concepts is something similar to this recipe that you get at Mexican restaurants. And none of it involves coconut. 🌴

Coconut is the main thing here–it’s meatballs with coconut all up in there. It’s not a bad taste, just an an acquired one. Paprika is usually associated with Hungarian (European) cuisine, but its origins are in the Americas, brought over during all of that New World/Old World business in the 16th century.


This recipe calls for pan-frying–I’ll give you a hint: it doesn’t go well. Fear not however, I improvised a bit by doing most of them in the oven and it worked out okay. Not great, but pan-frying in an apartment just leads to smoke and bad times.


Ingredients. I subbed panko for regular bread crumbs because I always do, and tomato paste for tomato purée because it really didn’t occur to me that they were (probably) two different things. However, tomato paste works just fine. I chose to use water for my panade rather than milk for dietary preferences.


Panade on the left, diced pepper and onion on the right.


Meat, with some salt & pepper. I went with all beef, because (as it usually goes) it was what I had.


Adding in the coconut & chili powder to the meat. Tomato paste in the background.


Everything together, with some parsley on top. Much redder than before, thanks to that tomato paste.


Rolled out my balls & coated them in coconut.


Up close–they’re very coconutty.


Dropped the first 3 into some canola oil in a hot pan–they immediately started falling apart. Instead of wrecking all 12, I decided to attempt to oven-fry them.


The dark 3 are the ones that I attempted to pan-fry. I covered the others with a good coating of spray coconut oil, placed them on a silpat, and stuck them in a 350°F oven for about 12-15 minutes.


After baking. It’s not pretty, but they’re definitely cooked, and even a little crispy.


Final plate. They were definitely edible (even tasty, I’d venture), and we ate the rest over the course of a few days (they were pretty big). I don’t know if I’d eat them all the time, but I think I’d attempt them again, maybe with a deep fat fryer for more uniform cooking and less smoke.

Grade: B-


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