Albondigas de Pirasa
For Turkish Jews, the Passover Seder meal always includes a variety of succulent vegetable and beef patties, which are prepared days ahead and are then warmed up in the oven during the Seder. My favorite of these Sephardic dishes is a seasoned ground beef and leek mixture formed into patties and fried—hence the name Albondigas de Pırasa (a combination of Spanish for “balls of” and Turkish for “leeks”). Variations on this dish substitute spinach, mashed potatoes or roasted eggplant flesh for the leeks. On Passover, my aunts used to shape the potato patties round and the leek ones oval so we could tell them apart. These patties are great to have in the refrigerator when you’re looking for a savory snack during Passover.
- 6 medium leeks
- ¾ pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup matzah meal or matzah cake flour
- 4 eggs, divided
- Vegetable oil for pan frying
- Additional matzah meal or flour for dredging
- 1/3 cup chicken broth for reheating albondigas
- Cut off tops and ends of leeks, keeping white and light green parts, and remove toughest outer leaves. Cut into 1-inch slices. Submerge in cool water and wash meticulously to remove sand or grit. Drain well and rinse again. Boil leeks in a large covered pot, with enough water to cover, for 20 to 25 minutes or just until tender. Don’t overcook or they’ll become mushy. Drain well and let cool. Squeeze leeks between palms to remove as much water as possible. Then chop very finely by hand and set aside.
- Place meat, salt, pepper, matzah meal and 2 eggs in a large bowl and knead well with hands for at least 4 minutes. Add leeks and continue to knead until mixture is thoroughly blended. Add more matzah meal if mix is too wet to form into patties.
- Cover a baking sheet with aluminum paper. Have a small bowl of water nearby when you are ready to form patties. Moisten hands and grab about 1/3 cup of mixture and pat it into a flattish, oval patty about ½-inch thick, rounding the ends. Set aside on tray. Repeat with remaining meat.
- Heat oil about ½-inch deep in a large skillet over high heat. Meanwhile whisk the remaining 2 eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside. Prepare a wide plate filled with a layer of matzah meal for dredging and a baking sheet with paper towels spread across it for soaking up excess oil. Test oil temperature by carefully flicking a tiny drop of water into it (but stand back in case the hot oil jumps). It should sizzle. Dredge each patty; first in flour and then in egg. Gently lower into hot oil. Continue with 4 to 5 more, and fry until they turn a deep golden brown (about 3 to 4 minutes). Gently flip over, brown other side 2 to 3 minutes and drain on paper towels. Fry remaining patties. (Tip: if you find you’re running out of egg for dredging the last few patties, and don’t want to crack a whole new one, stir a little water into the remaining egg to stretch it. In Sephardic cooking, we waste nothing!)
- When the albondigas have cooled, remove paper towels from under them and freeze patties on baking sheet for at least 3 hours. You can then transfer them to a large freezer bag in freezer until needed. To serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees and thaw patties in refrigerator on the day of Passover. Twenty minutes before the end of the Seder and the beginning of the meal, arrange patties in an ovenproof casserole dish. Pour chicken broth over top, cover and warm for 15 to 20 minutes until all the broth has evaporated.