Thu Jul 20, 2017
In the days leading up to a Meatwave, I try to keep my schedule light in order to have enough time to prep for what is usually a fairly labor intensive task. Time was something I didn't have though before Meatball Mania! a couple months ago because my wife and I were hosting a couple of out of town guests and showing them a good time around Durham was top priority. So I was on a hunt for meatball creations that required very minimal effort, and in searching for a recipe for one of my favorite meatballs from my days in New York—the spicy pork meatballs from The Meatball Shop—I found out it was not much more than hot cherry peppers and ground pork. So that quick and easy recipe seemed to fit the bill perfectly and it made the cut for that quick-to-prepare Meatwave.
The central part of the spicy pork meatballs are pickled hot cherry peppers plus their pickling juice. I worried this might be a bit hard to locate in a normal grocery in North Carolina, but luckily my local Harris Teeter had jars of these super hot peppers.
When I want to ensure I have softer, spongier meatballs, I always opt for fresh breadcrumbs. Fresh breadcrumbs result in lighter and less dense meatballs than dried breadcrumbs and are my choice in most scenarios, except when working with chicken where dried panko breadcrumbs really help bind the extra moist meat together well.
While the seasoning for these meatballs was super minimal, I was unsure of how much of the peppers and their pickling juice was needed to output a sufficiently spicy, but not unpleasantly hot, end product. The peppers alone were pretty scorching, so I started off with just a little of each.
I then broke off a small piece of the meat mixture and cooked it up to taste test. It took three rounds of adding more peppers and pickling juice to get it just right, and this is a process you may want to repeat at home to adjust the heat for your own peppers and personal preference.
Once I had the flavor just right, I ventured forth with forming the balls. My wife and guests were surprised at the size of these, which I made about 2-inches in diameter in order for them to fill up a slider roll once cooked.
The extra width was also a boon too cooking, because it meant the meatballs didn't cook too fast on the grill. This helped prevent any drying out, keeping them nice and juicy. They did require a little extra time though, so to make sure they didn't burn before finished, after the meat was well seared all over, I finished them up over indirect heat.
One reason I loved these spicy pork meatballs so much was the sauce I always chose to pair with them—parmesan cream. The cream was a nice foil to the heat, while the sharpness of the parmesan was strong and distinct enough to stand out against the fully flavored meat. A cream sauce like this is best when freshly made, so once the meatballs were done, I quickly put it together on the grill by melting a tablespoon of butter, adding in some cream, and then enough parmesan to thicken up the sauce to my liking.
The final step was placing the meatballs into slider rolls I had quickly toasted on the grill, spooning on the sauce, and then serving.
Now, I used to enjoy this sauce/meat combo on top of a bed of rigatoni, and if I were making these for myself for dinner, that's still how I'd prefer it, but these little slider rolls made for a perfect a cookout snack. In a couple easy bites you got a ton of flavor—juicy pork with a nice kick of heat and mild tang along with the sharp bite of parmesan and contrasting, cooling cream. That was a whole lot of flavor for just the little amount of time it took to put them together, which was the impetus that led me to make them in the first place. So all and all, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect meatball for my cookout, and I'm sure they'll serve yours just as well.
Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Cream Sauce
Adapted from The Meatball Shop
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 6 servings
- For the Meatballs
- 1 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons finely minced pickled hot cherry peppers
- 3 tablespoons pickling juice from can of hot cherry peppers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- For the Parmesan Cream Sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme
- 12 slider rolls
- To make the meatballs: Place ground pork, bread crumbs, eggs, cherry peppers, pickling juice, salt, white pepper, and black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together until thoroughly combined. Roll out meat mixture into balls 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place meatballs on hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned all over. Move meatballs to cool side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until center of meatballs register 155°F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer meatballs to a plate.
- To make the cream sauce: Place butter in a small saucepan and set over hot side of grill. When butter is melted, whisk in cream and cook until warmed throughout. Add in parmesan and whisk until cheese is melted and sauce has thickened. Add in thyme and whisk to distribute. Set sauce aside.
- Place rolls, cut side down, on hot side of grill and cook until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Transfer rolls to a serving platter, place one meatball in each roll, spoon on cream sauce, and serve immediately.