Every year I see a ton of recipes about what to do with the leftovers from your holiday meal – casseroles and sandwiches made from leftover turkey and stuffing, pea soup with the bone from your Christmas ham… you know the type. But what about all of those leftover Christmas cookies that are starting to get stale?
If you have gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies without icing, they can be pulverized into a fine powder that is used to season and thicken the sauce served over sauerbraten, a traditional German roast with a delicious sweet/tart flavor. The traditional version is a pain to make (it marinates for a long time and then is roasted slowly) but I’ve developed a faster take on the dish by preparing the sauce on the stovetop and serving it over meatballs. Instead of taking days of advance preparation, these sauerbraten meatballs can easily be made after work.
Of course, this recipe is good enough that it’s worth making even if you aren’t lucky enough to have leftover cookies on hand. It’s the perfect excuse to buy a bag of gingersnaps or to try your hand at making them youself (and use the leftover cookies to make gingersnap s’mores!)
For the sauce:
2 cups water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup full-bodied red wine, such as burgundy
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
4 whole cloves
12 juniper berries or 2 Tablespoons gin
1/2 tsp mustard powder
15 gingersnaps or un-iced gingerbread cookies, crushed into fine crumbs (about 1/4 cup) – see note
1-2 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
Combine the first 8 ingredients (through the mustard) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (prepare the meatballs while the sauce simmers). Add the crushed gingersnaps to thicken the sauce and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and add the sugar if it is needed. Strain to remove whole spices as well as any lumps. Season with black pepper.
Yields about 2 cups sauce.
Note: If you are using softer gingerbread cookies instead of gingersnaps, bake them at 350F for 5-10 minutes before crushing them – this will help you gte a dry, crunchy crumb.
For the meatballs:
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 slice white bread, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons oil
2 cups Sauerbraten Sauce (see above)
Egg noodles, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine the bread, bread pieces, bread crumbs, egg, and seasonings in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix it all together. Form the mixture into 16 balls, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
Heat the oil in a large, oven-safe skillet. Working in batches, add the meatballs and brown them on all sides. When the meatballs are browned, they will release easily from the pan – don’t be tempted to move them before they are ready or they will break/ fall apart.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
Return the pan to the stovetop and add the sauce. Stir gently to coat all of the meatballs. Serve over egg noodles.