A long time ago in Eastern Europe, a Jewish housewife stood by her wood-burning stove, wondering what to make for lunch. The kids would be coming home soon, rowdy and hungry.
So much noise they make, like wild Indians, she sighed. She tied an apron around her waist and put her hands on her hips. How was she going to satisfy the Wild Indians on half a kilo of ground meat?
Klops, she said.
Naturally, there had to be sauce. And plenty of mashed potatoes. The kids loved the klops, stuffed themselves, and remembered them when they left Europe to make a new life in the Goldene Midina. Sons pestered their wives to cook them; daughters served them up “just like Bubeh used to make.” And so the Jewish meatball migrated – or so I’d like to think.
I was never introduced to klops, although my Latina mother makes divine Italian meatballs and good old American meatloaf. Following her style, I add only a few tablespoons of something starchy to ground meat, more to help it keep its shape than to stretch it out.
Anyway, I always thought of a “klop” as a blow to the head, like how you kill a fish. Maybe it’s because butchers had to “klop” the meat with a heavy knife to get it fine enough – before there were meat grinders? But there they are, klops.
My friend Mirj sent me a recipe for American-style klops, which I interfered with greatly. If it’s slow-cooked meat, by mir it has to have red wine and Mediterranean herbs. Our Ashkenazic great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize either recipe, I’m sure, because tomato sauce and wine were luxury items back then. But the rich flavor, the piquancy of onions and the soft texture of the meatballs, I think they would have known. Husband and the Little One gobble this up and ask me to make it every so often, so I guess it’s good.
In fact it’s darn good. And easy to make. Try my klops, they’re almost as good as chicken soup.
Klops in the Crockpot
1 kilo – 2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon paprika
3 scallions, chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried. Or oregano.
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the ingredients for the klops well. Set the meat aside, covered, to for the flavors to start integrating while you make the sauce.
In a medium pan, sauté the onion in a little oil till golden. Add the garlic and tomatoes; cook 10 minutes or so till everything is very soft. Add the tomato paste, wine, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. You should have a thick sauce. Simmer it a few minutes longer.
Wet your hands and form big, flat, plump patties. Place them in the crock pot, and when you run out of room, make a second layer on top.
Tip the hot sauce over the klops and cook for 4 hours on low. Mirj says that 1 hour on high works well too. Serve with crisp-skinned potatoes or for comfort, mashed potatoes. And to balance, a leafy salad.