Sometimes, what makes a dish so delicious, so decadent, and so amazing is its simplicity. Just a few ingredients, thrown together, creating the perfect melody of flavors and textures that just explode in your mouth. My grandmother’s quesillo, that is always thick, creamy and smooth with the perfect deep caramel flavor, my mother’s arepas that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, or my father’s classic filhosas, pillows of yellow squash dough fried to a golden perfection and rolled in fine granulated sugar. Then, there are my great-grandmother’s bolitas de carne picantes. Could meatballs get any better? I am here to say yes, yes they can.
Bolitas de carne picantes are exactly that: spicy meatballs. Then again, they are so much more that that. First off, these bolitas are small. Usually served as an appetizer, they are 1 tablespoon of gold on the outside, juicy perfection on the inside. A combination of sautéed onion and garlic, minced into almost a paste, with 90/10 ground beef, hot sauce and rippling hot oil is the winning combination for these beauties. They are dredged in a light coating of flour for a crisp, dry finish. This is my great-grandmother’s winning recipe, yet… could it get any better than that?
Why yes, yes it can. (Our little secret!)
Once I decided to make these on my own and put my own spin on them, I let my imagination wander. My take upped the spice in more ways than one. While sautéing the onions and garlic, I added a teaspoon of red chili flakes, allowing the heat from the flakes to permeate the oil. I also minced half of a Serrano pepper, with the seeds, and added that to the ground beef. I added the usual amount of adobo, but kicked it up with fresh cracked black pepper and paprika for a smoky finish. Hot sauce is standard, but I used green chile hot sauce for a tang with some heat. Once I made my 1 tablespoon balls I lightly dredged them in a combination 4:1 flour and corn starch, frying them to a golden crunch.
What resulted was a spicy meatball, full of flavor with a crisp outside and steamy, juicy inside that made it hard to stop at just 1…2….5…. Let’s just say it is really hard to stop eating them. When you make these bolitas make enough to feed a crowd, because if you don’t have a crowd at home when you start you will most definitely have one by the time you are finished.
Bolitas de Carne Picantes
1 lb of 90/10 ground beef
1/2 Serrano pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon of green chile hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of adobo
1/2 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon of corn starch
1. Heat vegetable oil for frying.
2. In a sauté pan heat olive oil until it ripples. Add onion, garlic and chili flakes, and cook until onion is caramelized, stirring occasionally.
3. Add Serrano, cracked black pepper, adobo, hot sauce and the mixture from the sauté pan to the ground beef. Mix thoroughly to combine and distribute additional ingredients evenly.
4. Using a 1 tablespoon measure, make 1 tablespoon meat balls and lightly toss in the flour/corn starch mixture.
5. Fry bolitas in batches, making sure not to crowd them. Fry for 2 minutes, until a golden crust begins to develop.
6. Drain bolitas on paper towels, skewer with tooth picks and serve hot.