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Lamb Meatballs


SERVES 6 to 8


1/2 cup whole milk

1  1/4 cups day-old sourdough bread crumbs (pea-sized), lightly toasted

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen or toasted ground fennel seeds

1 small onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil


3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 pounds ground lamb (85% lean)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon piment D'Espelette or New Mexican red chile powder

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Seasoned crushed canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

1.  In a bowl, pour the milk over the bread crumbs to soak.

2.  In a small, dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds (and also fennel seeds, if using instead of pollen) over medium heat until fragrant.  Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

3.  In a large, heavy skillet, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring often, until medium brown.  Add the garlic (adding the garlic too soon will burn the garlic before the onions are ready).  Let cool and reserve.

4.  In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, soaked bread crumbs, onion-garlic mixture, toasted spices, fennel pollen (if using), parsley, paprika, and pimento D'Espelette; season with salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly but gently with your hands (overworking the meatballs will adversely affect the texture and make hard little meatballs).

5.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

6.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

7.  Line a heavy baking sheet with foil and coat 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Gently form the meat into 1  1/2 inch meatballs and place them on the foil-lined sheet.  Brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Roast until well browned, 14 to 18 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 275 degrees F.  Gently transfer the meatballs to a baking dish and add enough crushed tomatoes to cover (it is important to cover the meatballs completely so that they finish cooking in a wet environment).

8.  Bake for 30 minutes.