Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fish Meatballs in Tomato Saffron Cream Sauce for the January 5 Star Meatball Makeover

The theme for the first 5 Star Makeover of the year - hosted as always by the lovely and talented Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks! - is meatballs. But how to create a gourmet dish centered around a classic - downright messy, even -  comfort food?

So rather than attempt to create something neat and pretty and dainty and perfect, I decided I would work with the meatball's essential nature and present something simultaneously rustic and elegant; unstructured, yet refined. I think I've done that with this dish, a simple fish meatball flavored with shallots, parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, bathed in a rich saffron tomato cream scented with fennel, leeks, white wine, and thyme.

And yes, the bread is homemade - an absolutely crucial component, as you will want to sop up that sauce!

Fish Meatballs in Tomato Saffron Cream

For the meatballs:
make approximately 24 meatballs
3 minced shallots
3 slices French bread, soaked in milk and squeezed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound of firm white fleshed fish (I used Greenland turbot, a sustainably fished relative of halibut)
2 small or one large egg, beaten
1 cup parsley, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch white pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon
flour, for dusting
oil, for frying

In a food processor, whizz the shallots, bread, garlic and fish. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. The mixture should be slightly sticky, add more bread crumbs if necessary. Form into 1 inch balls and roll in flour just to coat. Refrigerate to chill, about 20 minutes. In a sautoir, fry each meatball over medium high heat until just browned; remove to paper towels to drain. 

Tomato Saffron Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron
1 cup fish stock
1 cup diced tomatoes, such as Pomi
a few thyme sprigs
1/3 - 1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the fennel and leeks in butter over medium high heat until soft. Add the white wine and saffron and reduce by half. Add the seafood stock and simmer until reduced by about a third. Add the tomatoes and thyme, lower heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Temper the cream and add to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Gently add the fish meatballs, cover,  and simmer on low until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve with the wine you used to make the sauce and a hunk of fresh baked bread. 

I think sometimes simple can also be gourmet. Right?

To see all of the other fabulous meatball creations, check out Friday's wrap up by following the link below.  

Thanks again to Natasha and Lazaro for hosting!


  1. Such a tempting recipe, love that saffron and tomato creamy sauce to go with the meatballs.

  2. You have really out done yourself on so many levels here. The sauce, the bread, those meatballs. Wow. What a super star. Oh, and those pictures! My mouth is watering.

  3. Harmonious combination. Some of my very favorite flavors all together on one plate!

  4. Hi Tracey - this is fabulous. Looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Stellar pairing of ingredients.
    Brava! YAY for the Cooking Group and the Meatball Challenge.
    P.S. Love the colors in your photos too, the gorgeous orange sauce, and the pale green background, so pleasing to the eye. Congrats!

  5. The dish just leaps out and screams "EAT ME!" with that beautiful orange sauce and delicious meatballs.... and I love that you've used fish. Serve me up a huge bowl, please!

  6. You had me at Tomato Saffron Cream Sauce...and everything else. I think this is super refined and I am sure it is divine to taste. Great job on the challenge.

  7. Yeah.. I would need a bushel of bread to soak up that sauce. I love seafood sausage and this is a great rustic cousin, isn't it. Mixing up texture is a cook thing to do sometimes. YOu really worked the concept like a pro, Trix. Kudos.

  8. I'm not much on fish as you know but I have to say this looks real beautiful. Fish has never been more tempting. And here you feature so much wine with this dish! If I'm going to taste fish its usually after I've had a lot of wine.

  9. I love fish balls - and these are magnificent! That sauce looks simply awesome.

  10. As soon as I read the title, I thought..."bread"! Beautiful combination of flavors and nicely presented.

    I'll be joining the group with the next challenge and can't wait to learn what it is.

  11. looks like a fun time with all these meatball posts yours looks yummy!

  12. I prefer simple gourmet vs. often overly complex gourmet any day! And your description of this rustic yet elegant, unstructured yet refined fish meatball dish is spot on! Fabulous flavors - I'd have to wipe the sauce and the big smile of pleasure off my face :)

  13. This is such a beautiful meal! The sauce...the beautiful little fish balls...sigh. I want a big bowlful with a hunks of that bread for sopping up the glorious juices.

  14. I love the rustic and elegant presentation! The tomato saffron cream sauce sounds incredibly flavorful!

  15. You deserve 10 stars! Tomato saffron cream??? What a great and inventive idea!

  16. I've never thought of making a fish meatball, but if I could make a pot of these, I know I'd be in heaven! Another gorgeous recipe (and a heck of a lot better than braised potatoes ;)).

  17. Simple and rustic yet definitely refined. You accomplished everything you set out for with these meatballs. Your pictures are making me hungry!

  18. Trix,

    You may say rustic but your flavor profile is complex with fantastic depth of flavor. Love using fish to make "meatballs" awesome. This is my kind of dish all the way.

    Photograph = Awesome.

    Be well

  19. Simply gorgeous, and wonderful photos! Fish, fennel and saffron sounds like an exquisite combination.

  20. Yum! I knew just from the title that I would love this dish! To be tested asap!

  21. You did an absolutely beautiful job with this dish! The flavors are beyond amazing and the Tomato Saffron Cream die for!
    Fantastic contribution the the challenge, and the photos are lovely!

  22. This was going outside of the box and your sauce looks heavenly too. What an interesting way to interpret the challenge.

  23. Lovely flavours as usual :) Fish meatballs... that I need to try and make them at home

  24. Just saw this on Natasha's blog! Definetely my favourite of the bunch!! Wow!

  25. This is quite out of ordinary meatballs, Trix! I love it. In Asian cuisine we have fish balls but nothing comes close to this. The flavor of fish balls and saffron tomato sauce sounds heavenly good. Yes, simple food can be gourmet food and I think you proofed it to us.

  26. Your fish balls sound so light and luscious and pairing them with a tomato saffron cream sauce sounds fantastic and creative. I'll have to remember to make fish balls next time in place of meatballs. They make me feel lighter just thinking about them.

  27. These are one of the best meatballs I've ever seen. My mouth is watering so much right now. Must try Trixies Meatballs- yum!

  28. The saffron/fish/cream combo is making me want lunch at 9am! Such gorgeous colours! (Your link to the Makeover is not working, FYI...) Theresa