Showing posts with label Bitterballen (Dutch deep-fried gravy). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bitterballen (Dutch deep-fried gravy). Show all posts


In Holland, a night out on the town, or a social event with coworkers, usually starts out at a local café, with a beer and something called a "bittergarnituur". The word translates as the slightly confusing "garnish for bitters", where bitters in this case refers to alcoholic beverages. The Dutch were one of the first to dedicate themselves to perfecting the distillation process, presenting the world with spirits such as Dutch gin (jenever) and a large variety of liqueurs and bitters, these last ones presumably with medicinal properties. Nowadays, one of the most famous drinks is Ketel One, a Dutch vodka that is especially popular in the United States.

Alcohol is traditionally consumed with something savory on the side, and thus the bittergarnituur was invented. This colorful platter will usually contain bite-size cubes of Gouda cheese, miniature eggrolls and meatballs, perhaps some slices of salami or chorizo and of course, how can it not, the marvelous bitterballen.

Bitterballen are one of Holland's favorite snacks. In the early and mid-1900s, they were the housewife's perfect way to transform yesterday's meat leftovers into today's appetizer. Served shaped as a log (kroket) or in bite-size rounds, bitterballen were often served as an aperitif, or tapa, before lunch or dinner.

Nowadays, bitterballen are predominantly served outside the home, either as part of the bittergarnituur or as a snack on the side with a portion of French fries, but are no longer part of the housewife's culinary repertoire. Which is rather unfortunate, because bitterballen are easy to make and freeze beautifully for later use! 

This deep-fried, crispy, bite-size ball of meaty gravy is to be eaten with a good, savory mustard. Take the bitterbal between thumb and index finger, dip one side into the mustard and pop the whole thing in your mouth. No double-dipping! Bitterballen are also, presumably, best eaten while piping hot!

Bitterballen are traditionally made with beef, but can also be made with chicken, veal or even with mushrooms, for those that prefer a vegetarian option.

1 stick butter (114 gr)
1 cup all purpose flour (120 gr)
3 cups beef stock (700 ml)
3 tablespoons onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
8 oz shredded and chopped cooked beef (250 gr)

For the breading
1/2 cup flour ( 60 grams)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups bread crumbs (approx. 250 grams, depending on crumbs)

Make a roux with the butter and the flour (slowly melt the butter in a skillet or pan. When melted, add the flour little by little and stir into a thick paste). Slowly stir in the stock, making sure the roux absorbs the liquid and there are no lumps. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low heat while you stir in the onion, parsley and the shredded, chopped beef. Bring it back up to heat while stirring.Taste, add pepper and salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste again and adjust if necessary.

Pour the meat gravy into a shallow container, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or until the gravy has solidified.

The mixture should be so thick that you can cut squares out of it. Take a heaping tablespoon of the cold, thick gravy and quickly roll it into a small ball. I weigh mine out at approx. 20 grams each, or .7 ounces. They can be a bit bigger, up to 23 grams, as long as they're all about the same.

Roll lightly through the flour, and put them back in the fridge while you prepare the next round of covering. Beat the eggs well. If you use panko, you may want to pulse them once or twice in the kitchen processor, or just squeeze it between your fingers, as some pieces tend to be fairly large.

Take the floured balls out of the fridge and rub them between your palms once more, if they need rounding a bit more, then carefully dip them in the egg on the tines of a fork. Make sure that the egg covers the whole surface of the bitterbal. (If it doesn't, the filling will spill out into the fryer and you will be left with a hollow shell, and a messy fryer!). Tap the fork on the rim of the plate to remove any extra egg, and then roll the ball through the bread crumbs. Set each ball aside on a plate.

*Optional: after breading them once, I personally prefer to pop them in the freezer for about half an hour, and then I egg and breadcrumb them again. This creates a slightly larger bitterbal, but with a thicker crust. 

If your kitchen is exceptionally warm, you could refrigerate them in batches of ten. But when all are done, refrigerate or freeze the snacks while the oil in your fryer heats up to 375F. If you are not planning on serving all 50 bitterballen, you can freeze them individually and then store them in a closed container in the freezer for later. There is no need to thaw them before frying.

Fry five to six balls at a time, until golden brown. Serve on a plate with a nice grainy or spicy mustard.

Makes approximately 50 bitterballen.