Bitterballen are a smaller, rounder version of sausage-shaped croquettes. Typically containing meat ragout, these deep-fried delicacies are often served as a snack in Dutch bars and cafés, and may also form part of a selection of fried finger foods, called bittergarnituur.
While often translated as "bitter balls," this delicacy does not have a bitter taste. The name, in fact, refers to the tradition of serving these deep-fried snacks with bitters, such as jenever, although they are more often enjoyed with beer these days. And a mighty fine combination that is, we might add.
There are countless variations on the theme, from veal to vegetable, and from shrimp to cheese, but this beef version is a classic. Just serve with a smooth mild mustard, such as Dijon, and enjoy!
- For the Meat:
- 2 lbs./1 kg. stewing beef
- 1 large onion (quartered)
- 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- Few sprigs fresh thyme
- For the Beef Balls:
- 4 oz./100 g. butter
- 1 cup/120 g. all-purpose flour
- 2 shallots (chopped)
- 2 cups/500 ml. milk
- 2 cups/500 ml. beef stock (made from cooking the meat)
- 5 sheets unflavored gelatin (or 5 tsp. powdered unflavored gelatin)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- Nutmeg (to taste)
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- For the Breading:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 to 2 large eggs (beaten)
- 4 cups breadcrumbs (fresh)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, these bitterballen are broken down into workable categories to better plan for cooking.
Cook the Beef
- Place the beef in a large pan with just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer.
- Skim off the foam and add the onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, cloves, and thyme.
- Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for a few hours until the meat is tender.
- Remove the meat and let it cool.
- Strain the cooking liquid and set aside to use later.
- When the meat is cool, cut it into small cubes.
Make the Beef Ball Mixture
- In a large skillet, make a roux with the butter, flour, and chopped shallots.
- Use the roux to make a salpicon (see the Note below) by adding the milk and 2 cups of the strained beef cooking liquid.
- Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water and add to the simmering salpicon, stirring regularly.
- Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, mustard, and diced beef, mixing well.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.
Shape and Fry the Beef Balls
- Roll heaped teaspoons of the salpicon mixture into neat, even-sized balls -- about 60 in total.
- Bread them twice.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep fryer to 356 F (180 C).
- Fry the bitterballen in batches until golden.
- Remove from fryer and drain on paper toweling.
- Serve them hot with Dijon mustard.
Note: Salpicon is a French term that refers to a preparation made of one or more cooked ingredients that are minced or diced, and bound with a sauce.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Total Fat||13 g|
|Saturated Fat||6 g|
|Unsaturated Fat||5 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2 g|