Minted Lamb Meatballs

Serves 6 to 8 as a tapas, or 4 as a main course

Fresh mint is added to the meatballs and dried mint is added to the sauce,
because the dried variety stands up better to the slow simmering. These
can also be made with half ground lamb and half lean ground beef. Serve
with saffron rice.

Adapted from "The New Spanish Table" by Anya von Bremzen (Workman
Publishing).

2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped ( 3/4 to 1 cup)
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, with 2 to 3 tablespoons of their juice
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 cup chicken stock or broth or low-sodium stock or broth
2 teaspoons finely crumbled dried mint

In a medium bowl, place the bread, add cold water to cover and soak for 5
to 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid, then finely
crumble the bread. In a large bowl, place the crumbled bread and the
lamb, fresh mint, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper,
and the egg. Gently knead the meatball mixture with your hands just until
all the ingredients are thoroughly combined (do not overknead). Wet your
hands, then break off a piece of the meatball mixture and shape it into a
1-inch ball, gently tossing it between cupped hands to give it shape.
Repeat with the remaining meatball mixture, placing the meatballs on a
small rimmed baking sheet.

In a deep, 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add half
of the meatballs and brown all over, 3 to 4 minutes, shaking the skillet
so the meatballs brown evenly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned
meatballs to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining meatballs. If the
meatballs have released too much fat, drain off all but 2 to 3
tablespoons. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium-low, cooking until
the onion is soft and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes
and their juice and cook, stirring, until they are thickened and reduced,
about 7 minutes. Add the sherry and the chicken stock or broth and cook, 6
to 7 minutes. Let the sauce cool slightly, then transfer it to a food
processor and puree it.

Return the Sauce to the skillet, season it with salt and pepper to taste,
and add the dried mint. Return the meatballs and any accumulated juices to
the skillet and turn to coat with the sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook,
partially covered, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce
has reduced further, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a
serving dish, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.


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