Greek Lamb Meatballs with Crispy Polenta (w/ wine pairings)

Greek Lamb Meatballs with Crispy Polenta

Recently it came to my attention that Chobani® Yogurt is running a #MadeWithChobani campaign, with food bloggers much like myself using Chobani’s products to come up with recipes. I looked over what others were posting and I immediately realized that almost no one was incorporating the yogurts into a savory dish. It was mainly parfaits, cheesecakes, shakes or adult beverages like piña coladas. So of course, with that being the case, I decided that I was going to challenge myself to make a savory entrée using their Greek yogurt… and being that it’s Greek yogurt, why not go Greek? Well, there’s nothing more Greek than lamb and mint, so I came up with a great recipe for Greek Lamb Meatballs, accompanied by crispy Parmesan & Herb Polenta, finished with a mint jus.

As a quick sidebar, before I get into the recipe portion of the show… I have to admit that I had never before had Chobani’s yogurts, and that frankly I’m not the biggest yogurt fan, Greek or otherwise. However, when I went to the store to pick up the plain yogurt for the recipe I decided to grab some of their other products to try out. It’s been a while since I’ve had yogurt so maybe my tastes have changed, or maybe Chobani is doing something better than what I’ve had in the past. So far I’ve tried their Oats with Apple & Cinnamon and their Flip with Clover Honey, and I was pleasantly surprised that I found them both to be delicious. I plan on trying some more of their yogurts, and I have a feeling that their products are going to become a staple in my family’s fridge. The timing is actually perfect being that I’m trying to drop a few pounds from some serious holiday gluttony, and at 100-200 calories they make for great meal replacements.

Alright, one more interruption before the recipe, last one I swear! If you’re not keen on the thought of polenta or a mint jus, these meatballs are also fantastic with tomato sauce. We had some leftover and I reheated them in sauce for our kids the next day, served over pasta, and it was fabulous. I just wanted to put that out there, I understand that not everyone is into things like “mint jus”.

Ok, onto the recipe!

Serves 4

Ingredients (meatballs):
2lb Ground Lamb
2tsp Salt
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1/2c Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4c Mint, chopped
5 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1c Panko, unseasoned
1c Ricotta Cheese
1/3c Grated Parmesan
2oz Chobani®Plain Greek Yogurt

Ingredients (polenta):
3c Chicken Stock
1c Yellow Corn Meal
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1/2c Fresh Parsley, chopped
2tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2c Grated Parmesan
3tbsp Olive Oil
3oz Chobani®Plain Greek Yogurt

Ingredients (mint jus):
1 1/2c Beef Stock, low sodium if available
1 Clove of Garlic, chopped
1c Mint, chopped
1tbsp Brown Sugar
2tbsp Unsalted Butter

Ok, so the first thing you’re going to want to do is make the polenta because you’ll need to chill it before getting it crispy…

In a medium sauce pot bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly add the corn meal, whisking continuously. If you add it all at once it’s just going to clump up and you’ll have a very difficult time making it smooth. Once all of the corn meal is incorporated and it’s whisking smoothly add the garlic, parsley, salt and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Once done simmering turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt and parmesan. Pour the polenta into an oiled 9×5″ loaf pan and put in the freezer for 1 hour to chill. The reason for doing this is to firm it up enough to slice and sear.

Heat your oven to 375F.

In a large bowl combine all of the meatball ingredients. Using your hands roll the mixture into 2″ balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, you should get 16 meatballs. Bake for 30-35 minutes, the outsides should be lightly browned.

While the meatballs are baking it’s time to make the sauce and finish up the polenta.

In a small sauce pot combine the beef stock, garlic, mint and brown sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half. Once reduced, add the butter and then using a hand emulsifier, food processor or blender, blend the sauce. If you still have a fair amount of time before serving dinner simply keep it on heat over the lowest setting to keep warm, but it’s low enough to prevent further reduction.

Remove the polenta from the freezer. Invert the loaf pan over a cutting board to remove the polenta as a solid piece. If it does not come out when turned then gently separate along the edges using a knife or spatula. It should fall out when you turn it back over. Cut the polenta into 1″ wide slices along the long edge, you should get 8 slices. Heat the olive oil at medium-high in a large sauté pan. Place the slices of polenta in the pan, laying on their wider sides, and sear until browned, then flip and repeat.

And that’s everything… You have your meatballs, polenta and sauce. Plate it all up and απολαμβάνω (Google is telling me that’s “enjoy” in Greek, I’ll take their word for it… Feel free to correct me if it’s wrong. lol).

Now let’s talk wine pairings. You’re looking for a red, moderately full bodied, with slightly green notes to it. Think Greek Cabernets, Syrahs or Agiortiko. You could also hit a home run with a Chinon or Bourgueil from France, some cool little Alto Piemonte  or Valle d’Aoste wines from northwestern Italy, Aglianico from southern Italy, or even Malbecs and blends from the Salta region of Argentina. Here are a few suggestion, including what I had with dinner (listed first).

Estate Hatzimichalis Cabernet Sauvignon, Atalanti Valley, Greece – Atalani Valley is located in central Greece, bordered by mountain ranges to the north, west and south, and the Eubean Gulf to the east. Due to the combination of maritime influenced winds and cold mountaintop winds you’re left with a cool, dry region with a long growing season, which lends itself to elegantly developed and structured wines that have long ageability. The 2007 Cabernet from Hatzimichalis is just starting to come into it’s own. In the glass you’ll find a full bodied wine of dark purple hue. On the nose are aromas of ripe blackberry, fig, cassis, and balsamic, as well as subtle earth tones and dried tobacco. The palate reflects the bouquet, with additional nuances of fennel and oak, accompanied by firm tannins supplying a significant backbone, leading into a long and lingering finish. The wine is approachable now, but still has another 15 years of life in the bottle. I strongly recommend decanting for at least an hour, preferably longer, which is unusual for a wine in this price point… A beautiful wine and extraordinary value. PP Score: 91 (Retail $16-20)

Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil “Jour de Soif”, Loire, France – This wine will forever hold a special place in my heart, as it’s the first Cabernet Franc that I ever truly enjoyed. Not to mention that its title, “Jour de Soif” translates to “drink the day”, which is essentially my favorite past time! Domaine du Bel Air is owned by the Gauthier family who have been producing wines from their 18 hectare estate for generations, but didn’t start bottling to sell until 1979. This is their entry cuvee, 100% Cabernet Franc from their youngest vines, approximately 20 years of age, aged in stainless steel to allow the fruit to shine and give it a refreshing brightness. On the palate you find notes of dark cherry, slightly tart raspberry, dried thyme and a hint of bell pepper. The wine is medium bodied but is a surprisingly light on it’s feet with a beautiful acidic lift and subtle chewy tannins adding depth and character. PP Score: 89 (Retail $13-16) *Certified Organic

Hermanos Malbec/Tannat Blend, Salta, Argentina – Hermanos is named accordingly as it is the project of three brothers who were raised in the winemaking world of Salta, a high elevation region in the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Their red blend is a mix of 70% Malbec and 30% Tannat, yielded from younger vines (average age of 16 years) located in vineyards with an average elevation of approximately 7,000 feet above sea level. The vineyards see about 340 days per year of unobscured sunlight, leading to rich concentration in the grapes, however, the cool high elevation temperatures lend balance and structure, rather than jammy lushness. In the glass is a full bodied wine with subtle notes of dark cherry, blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorise, and more pronounced notes of green garden vegetable, dried herbs, churned loam and hints of smoke, framed by subtle acidity and firm tannins. A very interesting wine, but not necessarily for everyone. PP Score: 88 (Retail $14-17)

There you have it, my Greek Lamb Meatball and Crispy Polenta recipe, as well as a few recommended wines. I hope you’d enjoyed the read and will try the recipe and wines (if you can find them). I also hope that you’ll give Chobani’s Greek yogurts a try, they really are delicious. As always new content in en route, in the meantime crack open a bottle of Greek wine and yell OPA! (but don’t throw your glass on the floor)… Life is short, enjoy it!

καλή όρεξη!

Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

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