Thanks to Roman occupations, England and Spain were recognized by 1,000 AD as the twin centers of sheep production in the Western world. As the original breeders of the fine-wooled merino sheep that have historically dominated the wool trade, the Spanish gained great wealth. Wool money largely financed Spanish rulers and thus the voyages to the New World by explorers like Columbus and Ponce de Leon.
The powerful Mesta was a corporation of sheep owners from Spain’s wealthy merchants, Catholic clergy, and nobility that controlled the merino flocks. By the 17th century, the Mesta held upwards of two million head of merino sheep. In the spring, they left the winter pastures in the south to graze on their summer pastures in the north. Spanish rulers eager to increase wool profits gave extensive legal rights to the Mesta, often to the detriment of local peasantry. The huge merino flocks had a lawful right of way for their migratory routes and the towns and villages along the way were obliged by law to let the flocks graze on their common land. Dishes showcasing lamb arose from this period of time due to their abundance.
Cordero Albondigas (Lamb Meatballs in Brandy Sauce)
- Large bowl
- Large skillet
- 2 lb Ground lamb
- 2 large Egg
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp Flat-leaf parsley, minced
- 1 tbsp Mint, chopped or dried (optional)
- 2 tsp Coarsely ground pepper
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup Red wine
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 medium Onion, chopped
- ¼ cup Brandy or Dry Sherry
- 3 tbsp Tomato sauce
- 1 cup Beef broth
- Make Meatballs – In a large bowl, combine wine with breadcrumbs. Once softened, mix in lamb meat with eggs, garlic, salt and pepper. With your hands, form 12 meatballs per-pound of meat. If using for tapas or a cocktail party, roll into about 30 smaller balls or-so per pound of meat.
- Cook Albondigas – Heat oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat and brown meatballs on all sides in batches. Once brown, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add onions and cook 2-3 minutes until wilted. Pour in brandy and deglaze bottom of pan. From a distance, light brandy on fire to burn off its alcohol. When flame has subsided, add back meatballs and mix in broth, mint, and tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes.
- Serve – Place everything in a serving bowl and serve with mashed potatoes or rice, along with a green vegetable and crusty bread. If using as a tapas, place in a crockpot to keep warm and keep plenty of crusty bread around for sopping up the delicious sauce.
- Traditional recipe is made with lamb but meatballs may be made with ground beef, pork, or chicken thighs.