Leek and Meat Fritters

Albóndigas de Prasa

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes 36 to 40 meatballs; serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean

Sephardic Flavors

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 2000

  • About

Meat patties extended with cooked vegetables are common on the Sephardic table. The classic combination of leeks and meat is associated with Izmir, and of spinach and meat with Salonika. The mixture may be thickened with fresh bread crumbs or with mashed potatoes. Nicholas Stavroulakis adds chopped haminado eggs and dill, while Esin Eden adds cinnamon. Sometimes grated walnuts are added for albóndigas de prasa kon muez, a recipe from Sefarad Yemekleri. And, as we have seen in the vegetable chapter, the patties can be reheated in tomato sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds leeks (12 small, 8 medium, or 4 large)
  • ¾ pound ground beef or lamb
  • 3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry, or 2 potatoes, peeled, boiled, and mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grated walnuts (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • 2 onion skin eggs, peeled and finely chopped
  • teaspoons salt, plus salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil for frying
  • all-purpose flour or matzoh meal
  • lemon wedges

Method

Cut away the root ends from the leeks and most of the green and discard. Peel away loose layers, cut the leeks in half lengthwise, and then cut crosswise into ½ -inch-wide pieces. Soak them in a sink full of cold water, swish them around to loosen any dirt, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain well in a colander. You will have about 6 cups chopped leeks. Put them in a saucepan with salted water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the leeks are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain very well. You will have about 2 cups cooked leeks.

In a bowl, combine the leeks, meat, bread or mashed potatoes, egg yolks, and the cinnamon, walnuts, or dill and chopped eggs, if using. Add the salt and pepper, then knead with your hands until the mixture holds together well. Form into balls about inches in diameter. You may keep them round or you can flatten them a bit, as they will cook more quickly.

Pour olive oil to a depth of ½ inches into a large sauté pan and heat to 350 degrees F on a deep-frying thermometer. Meanwhile, spread some flour or matzoh meal on a plate. In a bowl, beat the egg whites until very frothy but not stiff. When the oil is hot, dip the meatballs in the flour or matzoh meal, then in the egg whites. Add to the oil, in batches, and fry until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm. When all the fritters are fried, arrange on a platter and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with lemon wedges.

Variations

For albóndigas de espinaka(spinach meatballs), use 3 pounds spinach, wilted, drained, squeezed dry, and finely chopped, in place of the leeks. Use the bread instead of potatoes. Roll the meatballs in the matzoh meal or flour, let stand briefly, and then roll them again in the meal or flour. They are fairly moist, and this will make it easier to brown them. Fry as directed.