When it comes to making meatballs, Daniel Holzman can get pretty picky – which is understandable considering he’s executive chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop on New York’s Lower East Side. “I love to use pork shoulder,” Holzman says. “It has the perfect balance of fat and meat.” Re-creating his recipe for his signature succulent pork meatballs is anything but difficult, and you’ll go from famished to full in 30 minutes flat. Remember, though, not to freak out if they seem salty at first. “As they have time to sit, the salt redistributes into the meat, becoming a lot less apparent on the palette,” Holzman assures us.
• Three pounds pork shoulder
• 1 pound fresh bread crumbs
• 10 hot cherry peppers
• 1/4 cup hot cherry pepper juice
• 4-5 tbsp salt
• 4 eggs
• Olive oil
While preheating oven to 450 degrees, slice pork into grinder-friendly chunks and put in a large mixing bowl. Add bread crumbs to pork to absorb some of the meat’s moisture. “Fresh bread gives it an interesting, light, and fluffy quality,” says Holzman. Add in salt, peppers, and pepper juice and mix everything together well.
Grind meat, but don’t force it through. “If your grinder is set up properly, you shouldn’t need a pusher,” Holzman says. “If your meat gets stuck, it should take just a light tamp with a pusher, using just one finger [to clear it.]” Add eggs to ground pork and work it through – “The protein will hold the meatballs together,” Holzman says. Then make a slider-like taster patty. “This is the most important step, and I can’t stress that enough,” says Holzman. “The worst thing you can do is roast your meatballs only to find they needed a bit more salt to make them perfect.” Fry the taster patty in a pan to sample flavor. When you’ve recovered, adjust seasoning if needed.
Roll the meatballs tightly into 2- to 2.5-inch diameter balls and don’t worry about making them too squished. “The texture comes from the ingredients, not how hard it’s packed,” Holzman says, and the moist bread will help keep them tender anyway. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet to prevent sticking, then distribute meatballs on sheet and place in the oven. They should be fully roasted in eight to 12 minutes, but could take as long as 18 minutes depending on how even your oven heats. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re sizzling, firm to the touch, and just starting to get color.