Lamb Meatballs with Girgento Sauce and Eggplant Timbales
Polpettine D'Agnello Col Sugo Di Girgento
3 eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds (750 g) each
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs (see page 218)
4 eggs, seperated
1 cup freshly grated Peccorino Romano cheese
2 cups Tomato Sauce (see page 225)
Roasted eggplant juice (reserved from cooked eggplant above)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
3 pounds (1.4 kg) ground lamb
2 tavlespoons shopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup Italian Bread Crumbs (see page 218)
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Eggplant Timbales:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Cut the stem ends off all the eggplants, then cut in half lengthwise and score the flesh with a sharp knife, making sure you din't cut through the skin. Rub the cut surfaces of the eggplants well with the salt. Set the eggplant halves aside on paper towels, cut-side-down, and let them drain for 20 minutes
Line the bottoms of 2 (18 x 13-inch) (46 x 33-cm) baking sheets with parchment paper. Dry the cyt surfaces of the eggplant halves and brush the parchment paper and eggplant with the olive oil. Place them on the baking sheets, cut-side-down, and bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes. The eggplants are completely cooked when they dent eaisly as you poke the skin. Do not cook them more than 1 hour as they burn easily once they are cooked. Remove them from the oven and let cook for 15 minutes or longer.
Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh from the cooked eggplant halves. Discard the skin and place the flesh in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the juices. Drain for 40 minutes, stirring once. You should have at least 1 cup of juices - if you don't, try putting a plate on the eggplant with weights on top to help squeeze the juices out. Reserve the juices for the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (300 C). Grease 8 small custard cups and use 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs to coat them. Set aside.
Mix the eggs yolks, the Romano cheese and 1 cup of the bread crumbs with the roasted eggplant flesh. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them gently into the eggplant mixture. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared custard cups and set the cups on a baking sheet. Bake the eggplant timbales in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and beginning to brown on top. Remove from the oven and immedieately take the timbalesout of the custard cups. They may be served immediately or cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 days. To reheat, cover each timbale with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375 F (190 C) oven for 20 minutes.
For tge Girgento Sauce:
Liquefy the tomato sauce and the reserved roasted eggplant draining juice in a food processor or blender for 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar and mint and set aside until ready to use. The sauce can also be made 1-2 days in advance, just cover and refrigerate.
For the Meatballs:
In a large bowl, mix together the ground lamb, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, sugar, salt, pepper, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the parsley, the mint, Romano cheese and bread crumbs. Mix well and form into meatballs that are sliightly flattened for easier browning. Use about 2 heaping tablespoons of meat mixture for each meatball. This will yield about 30-38 meatballs. (Sometimes I like making larger meatballs, which will yield fewer - make them however you prefer). Heat the remining olive oil in a large saute pan set on high heat. Brown the meatballs in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towls or brown paper grocery bags (these work great!). Drain the grease from the pan. Put the meatballs back into the pan and pour the Girgento Sauce over them. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
To serve, place an eggplant timbale in the center of each plate. Surround it with meatballs and pour some of the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with the remaining chopped parsley.
If you are short on time, but are just dying for meatballs, eliminate the eggplant timbales. When making the Girgento Sauce, substitute chicken stock for the roasted eggplant juices. Serve the meatballs and their sauce over the pasta.
©2013 Nick Stellino Productions