Edit ModuleShow Tags

FreshTartSteph Recipe: Meatballs in Tomato-Serrano Chile Sauce


Published:

Stephanie Meyer

My son Nathan and I have been enjoying the privilege of volunteering at Perspectives Kids Cafe on Friday evenings. Founded by Sue Zelickson in 1998, Kids Cafe is a nutrition and self-esteem program for high risk and homeless youth living in St. Louis Park. Under the leadership of "Chef Dan" Tobias-Kotyk, the cafe is humming five days a week, serving more than 55 elementary-aged children each day. Chef Dan, along with volunteers like Nathan and me, work with the children as they prepare, serve, and clean up a nightly dinner. The food is deliciously cooked from scratch, from Chef Dan's time-tested and popular menus and recipes, with fun twists and education about nutrition and what makes fresh food taste good.

The whole crew sits down to dinner together. The kids talk about what they like—and don't like—as well as howl with laughter at how much taller my son is than I am. The little boy sitting next to me last Friday lost a tooth during dinner, while the other kids debated the merits of cinnamon rolls with butter or without (breakfast for dinner is a favorite, as is Chef Dan's famous Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza).

The magic of Kids Cafe isn't just the food, though. It's the calm, funny presence of Chef Dan, who is an educator by training and a chef by accident. After graduating from college, he substitute taught while cooking at the Ukrainian American Community Center to pay the bills. When Perspectives was hiring a kitchen manager with teaching experience for their new Kids Cafe program, it turned out that the cooking teacher was their man. Fifteen years later, Chef Dan says his favorite part of the job is working with the kids in the kitchen, seeing the children try new foods, and having the children develop favorite meals to cook for the whole group.

He cooks at home too, making up and adapting recipes for his wife and daughters' soy, dairy, and gluten allergies. When I told him I couldn't eat gluten, he said he had a recipe for Mexican-style meatballs that I might like. We made them with the kids a couple of weeks ago and...ding ding ding! Huge win, absolutely fantastic. Nathan asked me to make them at home, I asked if I could share the recipe with you, and luckily Chef Dan said...yes. So here you go! The meatballs are made with crushed tortilla chips, in a spicy tomato-chile sauce, to serve over rice. It's worth mentioning that I've also eaten them wrapped in a warmed corn tortilla, and Nathan pointed out they'd make an incredible meatball sandwich, so make the whole batch and try them as many ways as you can.

Note that the meatballs aren't browned before adding to the sauce. They emerge so tender and flavorful, I may never brown another meatball again. Great technique.
 


Meatballs in Tomato-Serrano Chile Sauce

Recipe via Chef Dan Tobias-Kotyk, Perspectives Kids Cafe
Serves 8

Meatballs:
2 c. ground tortilla chips
1/2 c. milk
6 Tbsp. finely chopped white onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground pork
1 c. finely chopped seeded tomatoes
3 large eggs
6 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Sauce:
3 medium serrano chiles, stemmed (or more, to taste, depending on heat of chiles)
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2-29 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
6 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

To serve:
Mexican White Rice (recipe below)
Sliced avocado, sour cream (optional)

For meatballs:
Combine bread, milk, onion, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper in a large bowl. Mash with fork until thick paste forms. Mix in beef, pork, tomatoes, eggs, and mint (mixture will be soft). Form mixture into 2-inch balls. Place on baking sheet as you go; chill while making sauce.

For sauce:
Line a small, heavy skillet with foil and place skillet over medium-high heat. Add chilies and garlic and scorch, turning frequently, until skins begin to blister and blacken, about 15 minutes. Cool briefly, then peel garlic and coarsely chop chiles. Working in batches, pure tomatoes with juices, chilies, and garlic in blender or food processor until almost smooth. (Meatballs and puree can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate.)

Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add tomato puree, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Carefully add meatballs to the sauce. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer until liquid is reduced to sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Spoon Mexican White Rice into 6 shallow bowls. Top rice with meatballs and tomato-serrano sauce. Garnish as desired and serve.
 

Mexican White Rice

Serves 8

2 Tbsp. oil
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. medium-grain white rice
1 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 3/4 c. water

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until starting to brown, about 1 minute. Stir in onion and saute until glassy, about 5 minutes. Add rice and saute, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in salt, parsley, and water (mixture will sputter). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan tightly, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with fork.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Vietnamese Marinated and Caramel Glazed Back Ribs Recipe

Bring the sweet and tangy taste of Asian cooking to your backyard grill

Bourbon, French fries, Pride, and Fried Chicken

Three must-eat dishes for this week

Maybe the city's most underrated restaurant, Heyday tries to figure out tipping

A 15-percent service fee supposedly takes care of tipping—but does it go to the server?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

TC Taste answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the TC Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Recent TC Taste Posts

Vietnamese Marinated and Caramel Glazed Back Ribs Recipe

Bring the sweet and tangy taste of Asian cooking to your backyard grill

Bourbon, French fries, Pride, and Fried Chicken

Three must-eat dishes for this week

Maybe the city's most underrated restaurant, Heyday tries to figure out tipping

A 15-percent service fee supposedly takes care of tipping—but does it go to the server?

French fries, chocolate chip cookies, and a new twist on the iced latte

Three Twin Cities treats from the Lynhall, Sandcastle, and Meritage

Celebrating Father's Day

This Father's Day, let's treat our dads to some special treats

Linguine in Creamy Basil-Avocado Sauce with Seared Scallops Recipe

The creamy richness of avocados makes for a perfect pasta sauce in this homemade restaurant-quality meal

Bites that guarantee that old summer feeling

Ice cream, coffee, and brandy—just because they make us happy

Angel Food Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Driscoll's Angel Food Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Napa and Kale Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing and Sriracha Cashews Recipe

Whether you want to fit back into last summer’s shorts or are looking for a healthy salad idea, toss up this easy recipe that mixes in filling nuts with antioxidant-rich kale and a kick of spice

The Near-Death Experience of the Owner of Jake O'Connor's and McKinney Roe

From trouble golfing in Ireland to emergency heart surgery, Dermot Cowley is alive and recovering—but plans for a new restaurant are now on hold

Meet the Joy Makers

Meet the Joy Makers

Rum and Molasses Marinated Beef Kebabs with Grilled Cantaloupe Recipe

Get fired up for a taste of the tropics in sizzling grilled kebabs
Edit ModuleShow Tags

4 Restaurants, Nearly $850,000 in Park Board Money

How much do Sea Salt, Sandcastle, Tin Fish, and Bread & Pickle make for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?

Consider the Humble Raspberry

Consider the Humble Raspberry

Fancy Fresh: 3 Things to Eat This Week

A morel tasting menu, a trendy foie gras egg creation, a worthy cinnamon roll—for your long-weekend staycation
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags