Chef’s notes: “The pork koftas are essentially meatballs seasoned with chiles and spices and parbaked ahead of time. You then coat them with this delicious tamarind glaze sweetened with raisins.” Serve on skewers for easy noshing, or shape into sliders and pop on Hawaiian or potato rolls with mint and pickled red onion.
Yield: 16 skewered koftas (or 12 to 14 sliders)
Dress up versatile spiced meatballs with a sweet tamarind glaze
photo: JOHNNY AUTRY
For the spice blend
1 guajillo pepper (or other medium-hot pepper), stem and seeds removed
½ ancho pepper (or other mild pepper), stem and seeds removed
1½ tbsp. whole coriander seeds
¾ tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 stick cinnamon, broken into smaller pieces
⅛ tsp. turmeric
For the onions
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small/medium yellow onions, small diced
1½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. minced peeled ginger
For the koftas
1 lb. ground pork
⅓ cup cooked white rice
1½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup currants
2 tsp. honey
Tamarind glaze (recipe follows)
Mint sprigs, for garnish
For the tamarind glaze
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp. raisins
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
¾ cup tamarind pulp, thawed if frozen (available online and in specialty grocery stores)
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. chopped ginger
Salt, to taste
Make the spice blend: Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add both peppers and cook, flattening the peppers with tongs and flipping often, until fragrant and toasty, about 4 minutes. Remove and cool completely. In the same pan, toast coriander, cumin, and black peppercorns until just starting to crackle, about 5 minutes. Add poppy seeds and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds (shake pan to prevent burning). Transfer to a plate to cool completely. In a spice grinder, whirl the peppers, toasted spices, cinnamon, and turmeric until fully ground. Store in a tightly sealed jar for 2 to 3 weeks.
Make the onions: Heat olive oil in a small to medium skillet over medi- um heat. Add onions and season with salt. Cook until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until golden, about 2 to 4 minutes. Fold in 2 tsp. of the spice blend and cook for 20 to 30 seconds more. Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.)
Make the koftas: In a mixing bowl, combine pork, cooked white rice, 3½ tsp. of the spice blend, olive oil, salt, ½ cup of the prepared onions, currants, and honey. Mix with gloved hands until well incorporated, but don’t overmix. Chill mixture for 6 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 325°F. Roll koftas into small egg-shaped meatballs. Line a sheet pan with parchment, and place koftas about 1 inch apart. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until internal temperature reaches 150°F (they will be cooked again). Don’t overcook.
Cool completely. These can be precooked 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
Make the tamarind glaze: In a dry pan, toast the cumin until just starting to crackle, about 5 minutes. Whirl in a spice grinder.
Soak raisins in vinegar and set aside. Combine tamarind pulp, sugars, ½ tsp. ground toasted cumin, and ginger in a small pot. Simmer for 5 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is glossy. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Puree tamarind mixture in a blender with raisins and vinegar. Season with salt and transfer to fridge (glaze thickens as it cools). Can be made up to 5 days ahead.
Before serving, coat (or dip) the koftas in tamarind glaze and bake in a 375°F oven for 5 to 8 minutes until glaze is caramelized and the insides are heated through. Insert skewers for easy noshing. Garnish with mint and serve with your favorite pickled veggies.
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