I think of meatballs as fun food, family food, including large gatherings with lots of relatives and friends. They appeal for their easy-to-chew texture. They invite never-ending ways of seasoning, shaping, and saucing. And, they are economical, carrying a power pack of flavor in but a few bites. One sort or another meatball, of meat or seafood, or, extending the concept, even of vegetable, can be found in almost every cuisine around the globe. Here’s one that plays with tastes a world away from America, Georgia, in the southwest of the former Soviet Union, right above Armenia, close to Turkey, but still in the Caucasus. There, a land rich in fruits, nuts, grains, meats, spices, and wine provides all you might want for the table. The meatball recipe makes about fourteen 1 1/4-inch balls, but you can form them into any size from tiny for hors d’oeuvres to very large for a one meatball plate. The cooking time will vary depending on the size.
1 pound ground pork, not too lean
2 tablespoons finely chopped prunes
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups thick yogurt (see the sidebar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1. To make the meatballs, combine the pork, prunes, shallot, sage, coriander, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the wine in a bowl and knead with your hands until thoroughly mixed. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes, several hours or overnight is better.
2. In 2 tablespoon portions, lightly squeeze the meat mixture to eliminate air pockets then roll into a smooth ball about 1 1/4–inches in diameter. There should be about fourteen.
3. In a sauté pan large enough to hold the meatballs without touching, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until starting to brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium, turn over the balls, and continue cooking and turning several times until no longer pink in the centers and browned all around, 16 to 18 minutes.
4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons wine to the pan and stir to deglaze the brown bits on the bottom. Transfer the meatballs to a platter and set aside in a warm place.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the yogurt. Whisk to smooth and incorporate the juices and brown bits. Stir in the dill, saving out a small pinch for a final garnish. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, sprinkle the remaining pinch of dill across the top, and serve.