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Crisp Lamb Meatballs (Keftedakia Arni)

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Serves eight to ten.

Yields 30 to 35 meatballs.

  • Make the menu:
    A Greek Meze Party
  • by Susanna Hoffman from Fine Cooking
    Issue 93

  • 1-1/2 oz. (about 1-1/2 slices) good artisan-style bread or dense white sandwich bread (like Pepperidge Farm's Hearty White)
  • 1/2 lb. ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint; more for garnish
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated Greek kefalotyri cheese or good-quality pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 cups olive oil for frying

Remove the bread crusts and save for testing the frying oil temperature. Put the bread slices in a small bowl and add enough water to soak the bread through (about 1/4 cup). With your hands, squeeze the water out of the bread and tear it into small pieces into a medium bowl. Add the lamb, onion, egg, mint, cheese, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper to the bread and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

With the palms of your hands, roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls (about 1-1/2 tsp. per ball). Spread the flour on a baking sheet and gently roll the balls in the flour until well covered. Transfer to a plate, shaking off excess flour.

Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to ripple and bubbles immediately when a piece of bread crust is dipped into it. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool slightly.

Arrange the meatballs on a platter, sprinkle with the remaining mint, and serve warm.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the meatball mixture up to a day ahead. You can shape the meatballs up to an hour ahead; fry them close to serving. Keep warm in a 200°F oven until ready to serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 120; Fat (g): 8; Fat Calories (kcal): 70; Saturated Fat (g): 2.5; Protein (g): 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4; Carbohydrates (g): 5; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): 170; Cholesterol (mg): 45; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I'm not the hugest fan of lamb, but made these for a Mediterranean dinner party. They were delicious! Probably one of the best ways I've eaten lamb. I followed the recipe closely and it made about 20 meatballs. Yum! Will definitely save this one.

I did it w 2 lbs of lamb, quadrupled everything, and made about 50 meatballs that were larger than 1", but were the size you really wanna eat! :-) In the interest of saving time (as I was serving 20 people the next day and had chicken and salad and other stuff to set up w only 3 hours to do it), I decided to roll out the meatballs the night before, and it was fine. I put them in a container w wax paper between each layer, and then gave them a final rounding as I put them in the pan. In the interest of saving calories (I don't like fried food) I baked the meatballs in an oven at 350 till the temp was appropriate for lamb. Since I was baking them, I skipped the flour. I had 8 people out of 20 at a party ask me for the recipe and tell me that it was the best thing there! Nice!! As a P.S., I had one pan of meatballs in a glass pan, and one in a metal pan. They stuck BADLY to the metal pan, and came out easily from the glass pan. Next time I will do them in glass pans lined with parchment. Little grease in the pan, I had a nice and lean cut of lamb. Pretty healthy.

I did it w 2 lbs of lamb, quadrupled everything, and made about 50 meatballs that were larger than 1", but were the size you really wanna eat! :-) In the interest of saving time (as I was serving 20 people the next day and had chicken and salad and other stuff to set up w only 3 hours to do it), I decided to roll out the meatballs the night before, and it was fine. I put them in a container w wax paper between each layer, and then gave them a final rounding as I put them in the pan. In the interest of saving calories (I don't like fried food) I baked the meatballs in an oven at 350 till the temp was appropriate for lamb. Since I was baking them, I skipped the flour. I had 8 people out of 20 at a party ask me for the recipe and tell me that it was the best thing there! Nice!! As a P.S., I had one pan of meatballs in a glass pan, and one in a metal pan. They stuck BADLY to the metal pan, and came out easily from the glass pan. Next time I will do them in glass pans lined with parchment. Little grease in the pan, I had a nice and lean cut of lamb. Pretty healthy.

Delicious. We doubled the recipe and it still only made 30-35 small meatballs...

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I did not fry these; I baked them at high heat in the oven. With the tzatziki on the side, the meatballs were the surprise hit of the meze party.

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