Thursday, September 6, 2012

BBQ Pork Meatballs + "Lower East Side" BBQ Sauce

I still remember vividly a particular Martha Stewart episode last November. She featured Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow from The Meatball Shop in New York. I was captivated by the concept of two guys starting a restaurant that was based on one simple thing – The Meatball. Genius. Brilliant. Perfectly contemporary.

Daniel and Michael are two guys born and raised in New York City. They are distinct individuals who had a vision and executed it perfectly. Daniel is the Executive Chef and co-owner who began his culinary adventures and career at the tender age of 15 at the reknowned LeBernardin and attended the Culinary Institute of America with a full scholarship from the acclaimed James Beard Foundation. Impressive indeed. Later he would weave his way around the united states with career stops in Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Michael is the General Manager and Co-owner of The Meatball Shop. He began his professional restaurant career in 1996 behind the bar at a popular nighclub on Bleeker Street in NYC. Like Daniel, he made the move to Los Angeles and worked at Woo Lea Oak’s and then returned to NYC to open Punch and Judy and later opened the flagship restaurant called Frank on Second Street. He graduated from the French Culinary Institute with honors. Nice credentials.

If only these two innovators were to open a location on the west coast, specifically in the Bay Area. Sigh. At this time, I can only dream OR hop on a plane to NYC to relish their glorious meatball delights. The next best thing was when their cookbook jumped out at me with my visit last weekend to Williams Sonoma. The distinctive yellow cover, just screamed – “ buy me now!”

Once I got the book home and carefully reviewed each magnificent recipe, the BBQ Pork Meatballs sung to me along with the “Lower East Side” (L.E.S.) BBQ Sauce. All I can say is that they were simply divine! Hubby was in meatball heaven and asked when are you making another recipe from that wonderful cookbook? My answer was – “quite soon”. Smile.

“Lower East Side” Barbecue Sauce

Makes 3 cups

¼ Cup Whiskey ( add a dash or two more if desired - wink )
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup espresso
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups ketchup
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium high flame. Add the garlic, cumin, onion, red pepper and salt and cook stirring frequently until the onions and garlic are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to brown, add a few tablespoons of water if necessary.

Add the espresso, vinegar and whiskey and bring to a boil.

Remove to a blender and blend on high until smooth (be careful when blending hot liquids).

Add the blended mix back into the pot and whisk in the brown sugar and ketchup until fully incorporated and smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

BBQ Pork Balls

Makes 2 dozen 1/1/2 inch meatballs

2 pounds ground pork
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup “Lower East Side” barbecue sauce, recipe below
2 large eggs
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the onions and sauté over a high flame, stirring frequently until they are soft and well-browned (about ten minutes). Remove to a tray and cool in the fridge.

Combine all of the ingredients except for the rest of the olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Drizzle the olive oil into a large baking dish (9” x 13”) making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-sized meatballs, making sure to pack the meat firmly.

Place the balls into the oiled baking dish such that all of the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.

Roast until firm and cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing from the tray.

*Recipes slightly adapted from The Meatball Cookbook by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow


  1. I love meatballs, but don't usually make them with pork. And this sauce sounds amazing!

  2. I like that whiskey is the first ingredient in the "Lower East Side" BBQ sauce and I know my hubs would love these meatballs - I've been using pork instead of beef in my ragu sauce to change things up. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Lisa. Have a great weekend :)

    1. I know nothing wrong with a bit of whiskey in a BBQ sauce. Have a wonderful weekend!!!

  3. That BBQ sauce sounds so tasty with the whiskey and espresso additions! A perfect dip for meatballs, pinned!

  4. Great recipe Lisa. I love the whiskey...well I love whiskey. :) Happy Friday!!


  5. Whiskey in the BBQ sauce! I like these for Sunday afternoon 49ers football watching food, thanks for passing on the recipe Lisa:-) Have a fabulous evening:-)

  6. Meatballs are so hard to photograph, just from my personal experience. But somehow, you made it so appetizing. If not for this darn computer screem in front of me, I'll be devouring them now! Hahaha...

  7. I love this cookbook too! I made one of the Middle Eastern meatballs and served in pita breads for a sandwich...must make this one soon! I'm coming to Foodbuzz Fest next month...will you be there? If so, hope we can meet in person!!

    1. I am inspired to make alot more recipes from this book! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I had planned to attend Foodbuzz but realized that hubby's high school reunion falls on the same weekend. Darn. It would have been great to meet you in person. Let me know when you are back in the Bay Area.

  8. I seriously like this one! I make my meatballs half with pork and half veal with tomato sauce. This one looks like a winner to me. My kids and I will love this! I can't wait to try it Lisa!

  9. Why have I never been to these places. I am ready to head to Manhattan right now. Or I can make these at home. Whiskey makes everything taste better!

    Erin -

  10. Meatballs are a much loved food in my home so I cannot wait to give this recipe a try. I think my husband will go crazy for them! Hope you are having a great weekend!

  11. Love homemade BBQ sauce and this one looks great, I bet those meatballs are a crowd pleaser!

  12. Now why do I want a spoonful of that amazing sauce for breakfast? Your meatballs look so tempting, Lisa:)

  13. I knew this sauce was calling my name...the bourbon is just so me! Love the idea of pork meatballs with this luscious sauce.

  14. I enjoyed my fair share of meatballs during the Germany portion of our trip and I obviously didn't get enough because seeing this post makes me want to run to the kitchen and make your version. I'm with Lora, I want some of that sauce!


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