I first tried Bitterballen in Holland, with my friend Larry. We shared a couple appetizers over wine, bitterballen included, and watched as almost-frozen Dutch passersby hurried home along the streets of Breda. I fell in love with these tasty morsels and vowed to recreate them back home on the other side of the world.
Bitterballen is a classic Dutch appetizer normally served with an aperitif like Jenever. It's a finger food comprised of beef, flour, butter, nutmeg and broth formed into a ragout, chilled, then breaded and deep fried. And it's always served with good mustard. My version is slightly different: turkey meatballs, consumed by leftover mashed potatoes, and 'crunched' up by panko. Serve these hearty, comforting bites with whole grain mustard and a gin cocktail for a winning Dutch escape.
In a medium sized bowl, mix the leftover mashed potatoes with the nutmeg. Season it with salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add other fresh herbs, this is the time to do it. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, take 1 halved meatball and cover it with a large spoonful of the mashed potatoes. Roll it into a tight ball, making sure that none of the meatball is showing. Form the rest of the balls using the same process and set them in the refrigerator to chill. Chill about 30 minutes or more.
8 Precooked turkey or beef meatballs, halved
2 C. leftover mashed potatoes (make sure your potatoes are not soupy – they should be malleable, but firm)
½ t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Thyme (optional)
1/2 t. Thyme (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Oil, for frying.
Whole grain mustard, for dunking
In a medium saucepan, add about 2” of oil. You want the oil to cover the top of the bitterballen so they fry evenly. Heat the oil to about 360 degrees.
In a small bowl, wisk the egg. Set aside. Put about 1-1½ C. of panko in another small bowl. Set aside.
Retrieve the bitterballen from the fridge and forming an assembly. Dunk each ball into the egg mixture and then the panko, making sure that each ball is coated evenly. *I recommend doing all of the balls before you start frying or you’ll be running back and forth from the oil to the balls to the sink to wash your hands.
Carefully drop about 4 or 5 balls into the hot oil and cook until they are golden brown, turning them once. ATTN: they will cook quickly! Remove from the oil and let drain on a paper towel. Repeat the process until all bitterballen are cooked. Serve with good, whole grain mustard and an aperitif, if your audience allows.
*If you are not going to eat the bitterballen immediately, put them on a sheet pan and place in an oven set to 350 to keep them warm.
**Next time, I’ll add a bouquet of herbs to the potatoes for extra flavor