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New twists on meatball recipes for Super Bowl Sunday

A classic Super Bowl matchup calls for classic muscleman food. I didn't say classy, just classic. • Two of the NFL's old-school teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, square off Sunday in a game most of us will watch on TV (6:30 p.m., Fox) while we eat mass quantities of dip. The Super Bowl is now the most-viewed TV event of the year, and if you haven't been invited to a gathering, check your breath. • This game won't be for sissies. These are storied he-men teams that play in the frozen tundra, that don't have cheerleaders, that strut their legacy of toughness. The Steelers had their Mean Joe Greene, and the Packers their Ray Nitschke, whose hard-hitting career became a biography called Mean on Sunday. This is a game between teams named after ironmen who bent steel to their will and guys who carved carcasses for a living. • Save the quiche for Mother's Day. This party is all about meat. Meatballs, to be specific.

The meatball is the perfect football party food because of its versatility. Stuff Italian-flavored meatballs into hoagies and cover with red sauce and melted cheese for a hot, messy sub. Skewer spicy jalapeno-spiked turkey balls and serve them as passed hors d'oeuvres. Reshape the flavors of buffalo wings using ground chicken, lots of wing sauce and blue cheese dip. Tuck any type of meatball into a small roll and call it a slider.

You might even serve Asian-flavored meatballs on lettuce leaves, keeping in mind that even football players need roughage.

We played with the flavors of the regions, making sauerkraut meatballs with pork to celebrate the eastern European roots of Pittsburgh and cheddar-stuffed meatballs to honor Wisconsin's dairy industry — don't forget that Packers fans are also called cheeseheads. You can bet that a fair amount of Sunday's Super Bowl parties will feature cheese soup. And pierogi, for that matter.

There are three basic ways to cook meatballs, four if you use the grill, and that method works best if you have a grilling basket. Otherwise, flipping small mounds of meat can be problematic on the grate and you may end up leaving meat behind. Unless you're making massive meatballs, you won't have that much to spare.

The easiest cooking method, and the one in which the meatballs are most likely to remain round, is baking. Roll the balls, making sure they are a uniform size so that they will cook in the same amount of time, then place them in a single layer in a baking dish that's been spritzed with a nonstick spray. Some meats are so lean these days that they don't give off much fat and will stick to the dish. Again, you'll risk losing part of the meatball to the pan.

Baked meatballs brown nicely without being turned as long as they aren't covered with a sauce. You can flip them halfway through the cooking if you'd like, but be gentle so they aren't misshapen.

Meatballs can also be browned first and then baked, or completely fried in a skillet in oil that's about 350 degrees. Browning or frying in a skillet tends to result in meatballs that look more triangular than spherical. (Check out the photo of the Meatballs With Parsley and Parmesan on Page 1E to see what I mean.) Browning is a good technique for meatballs heading for red sauce. They will be slightly firm so that they won't fall apart when you stir the sauce, and the color is appealing. But unsauced meatballs meant for party noshing can get a little dry when cooked with this method.

(Some people add raw meatballs to red sauce to cook, which is perfectly legal too, and makes a tender meatball.)

A third technique, and we used it for the sauerkraut balls, is deep frying. This generally works only if all the elements of the meatball are already cooked; otherwise the exteriors will turn brown and crispy before the raw meat is cooked through. For the sauerkraut balls, bulk pork sausage is browned and then mixed with other ingredients before being shaped.

I liked these crispy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle sauerkraut meatballs quite a bit and they are best if made and eaten right away. If you want to prepare them in advance, reheat on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Microwave reheating will make them soggy.

Soggy meatballs? I'd hate to serve those up to an adrenaline-fueled football player, or worse, to someone who has really just come for the food. And that's a whole bunch of us on Super Bowl Sunday.

Times food critic Jim Webster contributed to this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>easy

Green Bay Packers

Cheddar-Stuffed Meatballs

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 beaten egg

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound lean ground beef

16 cubes cheddar cheese (1/2 inch each)

1 can condensed tomato soup, undiluted

In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Divide into 16 portions. Shape each portion around a cheese cube.

Place meatballs in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray; top with soup. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.

Makes 16 meatballs.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

>>easy

Meatballs With Parsley and Parmesan

4 large eggs

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds lean ground beef

Additional olive oil (for frying)

Stir eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend. Add ground beef and mix thoroughly. Form mixture into 1 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs.

Pour enough oil into heavy, large skillet to coat bottom; heat over medium-low heat. Working in batches, add meatballs and fry until brown and cooked through, turning frequently and adding more oil as needed, about 15 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate.

Makes about 40 meatballs.

Source: Bon Appétit

>>easy

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey

1 can (10 ounces) Ro-Tel brand diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained and liquid discarded

3/4 cup cracker crumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 chopped fresh jalapeno peppers, seeds removed

1/2 tablespoon powdered garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place in large baking dishes (9- by 13-inch pan and an 8- by 8-inch baking dish) that have been coated with nonstick spay. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

Makes about 25 meatballs.

Source: Adapted from Ro-Tel

>>moderate

Pittsburgh Steelers Deep-Fried

Sauerkraut Balls

1 pound bulk spicy pork sausage

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 can (14 ounces) sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and finely chopped

1/4 cup plus 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs, divided use

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Oil for deep-fat frying

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

In a skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat, breaking sausage apart until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain. Stir in sauerkraut and 2 tablespoons bread crumbs; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, parsley, mustard, garlic salt and pepper; stir into sauerkraut mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Shape into 3/4-inch balls;

roll in flour. In a small bowl, beat eggs and milk. Dip meatballs into egg mixture, then roll in the remaining

bread crumbs. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees.

(You can also fry them in 2 inches of oil in an electric skillet.) Fry meatballs until golden brown; drain.

Combine mayonnaise and mustard; serve with meatballs. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes about 2 dozen meatballs.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

>>easy

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

1 pound ground chicken breast

1/2 small onion, grated

2 cloves garlic, grated

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup hot sauce, such as Frank's brand

3 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced, for garnish

Blue cheese dressing

Celery sticks and carrot sticks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, onion, garlic and parsley and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide mixture into 16 even portions and form into balls.

Arrange the meatballs on a sheet pan and drizzle them with oil. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.

While the meatballs bake, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and whisk to combine. Toss the baked meatballs in the hot sauce to coat. Sprinkle with scallion slices.

Serve on toothpicks with blue cheese dressing for dipping, and carrots and celery on the side.

Makes 16 meatballs.

Source: Rachael Ray

>>easy

Spicy Asian Meatballs

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 teaspoons sesame oil, divided

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce, such as sriracha*, or more to taste

2 teaspoons sugar

Sesame seeds, optional

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Pour milk over bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add pork, egg, water chestnuts, salt, chopped cilantro, soy sauce, ginger and 2 teaspoons sesame oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 2 tablespoons meat mixture into balls and place on a sheet pan. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together hoisin, remaining 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, chili sauce and sugar in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.

Toss cooked meatballs in sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro sprigs and sesame seeds and serve.

* Can substitute hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank's.

Makes about 18 meatballs.

Source: Adapted from epicurious.com

New twists on meatball recipes for Super Bowl Sunday 02/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 7:16am]

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