Deb’s recipe calls for browning these meatballs in a pan and then finishing them in the oven, and while that certainly yields a stunner of a meatball, both in flavor and beauty, I regularly take a lazier route: I only bake them. Then I can basically walk away, and ta da, the meatballs cook themselves. Cleanup is also very easy, thanks to the parchment on the sheet pan. Do what you will.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you plan to skip the stovetop browning and only bake these, line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment.
Put the sesame seeds in a small skillet, and place the skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds smell toasty and are beginning to turn golden. I never pay attention to exactly how long this takes, but it’s not terribly long.
While the sesame seeds toast, put the lamb through cayenne in a medium bowl. When they’re ready, add the toasted sesame seeds. Mix with a fork (or with your hand, my preference) until evenly mixed. Form the meat mixture into 1½-inch, or golf-ball-sized, balls. (This is easiest to do if your hands are wet; that will help to keep the meat from sticking to you.) If you plan to brown the meatballs on the stovetop, arrange them on a tray or large plate; if you plan to only bake them, arrange them on the prepared sheet pan.
At this point, if you’re lazy like me, put the sheet pan in the oven and walk away. After about 10 minutes, pull out your thermometer (all hail the Thermapen! Possibly my single favorite kitchen tool!) and poke one or two of the meatballs: when they’re ready, the internal temperature will be between 160 and 165 degrees. If they’re not hot enough, slide them back in, and check again shortly. Again, I never seem to keep track of how long they take to cook. Somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes, I think?
If you’re a better person and plan to brown your meatballs as Deb directs, heat a generous slick of oil in a large ovenproof skillet or sauté pan. Brown the meatballs in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan or nudge them before they’re good and brown. Be gentle as you turn them: they’re soft! Transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined tray or plate, and continue cooking in more batches until they’re all browned. Then discard the oil, wipe all but a little of it from the pan, and return all of the meatballs to the pan. Slide into the oven, and bake until a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, or about 10 to 15 minutes.
Note: These meatballs freeze beautifully. I like to cook about half of them right away and then freeze the remaining half on a sheet pan lined with parchment. When they’re frozen solid, I transfer them from the pan to a plastic storage bag. They thaw quickly – and actually, I’ve even baked them while they were still slightly frozen. It took a bit longer, but no harm done.
Yield: about 4 servings, or roughly 25 meatballs
For my first go at this recipe, I used ½ cup (100 grams) sugar. That amount yielded a balanced, mildly sweet bar, but whenever I got a bite with cherries or chocolate, I wished that the base mixture were even a little less sweet. Next time, I’ll try cutting the sugar back to 1/3 cup (67 grams). Oh, and I should tell you that I used unrefined cane sugar. Like this. It’s what we use at Delancey, and over the past year, I’ve been using it more and more at home. I find it to be 100% interchangeable with regular white sugar.
Also, I might leave out the cinnamon next time. Maybe. It’s nice, but there’s already a lot of good stuff going on in here.
For chocolate, I used Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips, but you could chop up and use any chocolate you like, preferably bittersweet. And if you’re confused by the thought of coconut chips, as I’ve been in the past, they’re the big, flat flakes. (Here’s a photograph.) Last, you don’t have to use the pecan-coconut-chocolate-cherry flavor combination that I chose, of course. You’re welcome to use a mixture of any fruits and/or nuts you want, ideally 2 to 3 cups in all.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan, or grease it with cooking spray. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the bottom and two sides of the dish, leaving a little overhang. Press the parchment paper into the dish. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
Put 1/3 cup (30 to 35 grams) of the quick-cooking oats in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely ground.
In a large bowl, stir together the remaining 1 2/3 cup oats, ground oats, sugar, pecans, coconut chips, chocolate chips, dried cherries, salt, and, if using, cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla extract, melted butter, honey, and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir well, until the mixture is evenly moistened. Transfer to the prepared pan, pressing the mixture firmly to ensure that it molds to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap helps: just lay it over the pan before you begin pressing. Much less stickiness.)
Bake the bars for about 30 minutes, or until they’re brown around the edges and just beginning to color on top, too. (I set a timer for 25 minutes and began checking on them at that point, and I was surprised to find that they were already browning at the edges. I left them in, however, for another 5 minutes or so, until the tops had a hint of color.) The mixture will still seem soft and almost underbaked if you press on it, but it’ll set as it cools.
Transfer the pan to a rack, and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. When cool, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan; then pull up on the parchment paper to lift the sheet of bars out of the pan. Cut the bars into squares. Or, heck, rectangles. Whatever you want.
Note: I let my bars cool for a number of hours, and they cut very neatly, but I noticed that some commenters on Deb’s post mentioned issues with crumbling. Here’s what she suggested: If your bars seem crumbly, refrigerate them in the pan for 30 minutes to further set them, and then try cutting them while cold.
Another note: I stored my bars on a cutting board wrapped in plastic wrap, but if you’d like to put them in an airtight container, consider layering them between sheets of wax paper, so they don’t stick to one another. In hot weather, you might need to refrigerate them.
Yield: 16 squares