I come from a family that likes to be creative in the kitchen. I enjoy dreaming up new recipes, as well as putting a spin on old favorites.
A Childhood Recipe Re-imagined
One dish that my mother has made many times over the years is pork chops with apples and onions. I have always liked this dish. As I was contemplating ideas for new recipes one day, I remembered my mother's pork chops and wondered if I could translate those flavors into a meatball.
This recipe is the result of that experiment. I have also crafted a Dijon mustard and herb sauce to go with the meatballs. If you have limited preparation time, however, you can serve them with a store-bought sauce instead.
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4 servings for a meal, 8 for appetizers
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 1/3 cup grated apple
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup finely grated, extra-sharp white cheddar
- 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cooking oil for frying
For the optional mustard sauce:
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 tablespoons white flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup white cooking wine
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 3/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- Cook the chopped onion over medium-low heat for a few minutes until the pieces are translucent but not brown. Dump the onion onto a plate to allow it to cool a bit while going on to the next step.
- Combine the herbs, spices, and grated cheese with the bread crumbs in a small bowl.
- In a separate, larger bowl, stir together the ground pork, apple, onion, and egg. Add 1/2 of the bread crumb mixture and combine well, then add the other half of the bread crumbs. Work in the bread crumbs with your hands to ensure that they are evenly distributed throughout the meat.
- Roll the meat mixture into 1.5-inch balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball). After you have rolled all the meatballs, pour cooking oil into a skillet until it covers the bottom just over 1/8-inch deep. Heat the oil on medium until sizzling. Add the meatballs to the skillet and allow them to brown on one side, then turn them over and brown on the other side (about 2 minutes per side). When they stop showing any pink on the outside, reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet to ensure the insides cook thoroughly (this will take at least another 5 minutes). Remove the meatballs from the skillet and allow them to drain off any excess oil on a paper towel before serving.
- To make the mustard sauce, begin by heating the butter on medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and allow the mixture to brown a bit. Next, add 1 cup of the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Turn the heat down to low, then put the Dijon mustard, white wine, honey, herbs, and pepper into the sauce and stir well. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, for at least 8 minutes. Add the last 1/4 cup of milk at the end and cook for 1 more minute. Serve promptly with the meatballs.
Tips and Suggestions
- I recommend covering the meatballs at the end to ensure the centers are cooked through all the way. Under-cooked pork is not safe to eat!
- I use an extra-sharp cheddar with a low moisture content. A less-crumbly, mild cheddar will also work, but it may release more moisture into the meatball while cooking.
- An apple with a crisp flesh tends to be easier to grate than a variety with a soft flesh. Also, pick an apple that is sweet rather than tart.
- I recommend starting the sauce once you have reduced the heat for the meatballs and covered them.
- If you use regular white wine in the sauce, make sure to add at least 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the sauce.
- The mustard sauce also goes well with potatoes.
- If you would rather use barbecue sauce, I suggest using a tangy one (such as a mustard-based South Carolina-style sauce) since it pairs better with the slight sweetness of the apple and onion in the meatballs.