Sometimes I find recipes that are historically associated with particular feast days and sometimes I make the association myself. This is the latter. Bitterballen are a popular Dutch pub snack, and seem unique without being overly complicated. Even better, they fit into existing St. Nicholas attributes and legends. The most well known story about St. Nicholas says that after his wealthy parents died, the young St. Nicholas used his inheritance to secretly help those in need. In particular he is said to have thrown money in through the window or down the chimney to help the three daughters of a man who couldn’t afford a dowry for them to be married. This story is often represented in images showing the saint with three golden balls. Bitterballen just happen to fry up to a lovely golden color, so eat them in threes and they are perfect for the day. Not to mention gooey and meaty and very tasty.
For the inside:
- 8 tablespoon butter unsalted (1 stick)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 small onion minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
For the outside:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs beaten
- 3 cups panko breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted completely, add the flour, a bit at a time, whisking to combine. It will thicken into a paste. Slowly whisk in the beef broth. Whisk until the broth is incorporated and the roux is smooth.
- Add the parsley, onion, and ground beef, stirring to break it up. Cook the mixture until the meat is no longer pink. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
- Transfer the meat mixture to a covered container and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight until the gravy has solidified. If you’re in a hurry, spread the mixture in a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Mix it every ten minutes or so, and avoid letting it freeze solid.
- Place the flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs, each in its own shallow bowl. Shape the meat mixture into 1 inch balls. A small dough scoop makes this easier. Roll each formed meatball first into the flour, then the beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs, coating it completely with each. Then place them onto a baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet with the prepared meatballs in the fridge until ready to fry.
- In a large Dutch oven, skillet or deep fryer, add the appropriate amount of vegetable oil. To the fill line for a deep fryer, about 3 inches on the stovetop.) Heat the oil up to 375°F degrees.
- Fry the meatballs about 6 at a time until golden brown. This will take about 4 or 5 minutes, but will depend on the temperature of the oil. If you have enough oil in your fryer the meatballs will float to the top when done. Until all the meatballs are fried.
- Serve hot with a grainy or spicy mustard or sweet chili sauce.