I've been making meatballs to go with spaghetti for years, and I've come up with a recipe/technique that differs from most recipes in that I don't pan-fry my meatballs before I put them into the sauce. I form them and then put them right into the sauce to cook. I use all beef -- I've tried pork/beef and pork/veal/beef, but my personal preference is all-beef. For a pound of meat (usually 85% lean) I use 1 egg, about 2 TB Italian breadcrumbs, 2-3 TB freshly grated Parmesan, a clove or 2 of finely chopped garlic, a dash of Kosher salt. And they come out really delicious.
But, being the open-minded person I am, I'm always on the lookout for new/different approaches to old recipes. I've seen many meatball recipes that call for the addition of milk-soaked bread in place of breadcrumbs, and recipes that suggest pan-frying them first. So yesterday I decided to make them this new way. Now I need someone to tell me where I went so terribly wrong.
I took two slices of good quality white bread, removed the crust, tore the bread into small pieces, and let it soak in 1/2 cup of whole milk. I stirred and mashed it every couple of minutes. After about 10 minutes I strained out the excess liquid. To a pound of ground beef I added the soggy bread, 1 egg, some minced garlic, chopped parsley, grated parmesan cheese, and a little salt. I was careful not to overwork the meat. I formed the meat into meatballs, and pan-fried them. What a mess! The oil popped and splattered all over the place, most of the meatballs broke apart when I tried to turn them, and it was impossible to brown them evenly all over. When they were cooked, I placed the meatballs and the little scraps of broken-off meat into my simmering sauce and let them cook for about 30 minutes.
Even though they looked somewhat malformed, they tasted really good. So my question is, what can I do the next time to avoid the oil-splattering and breakage problems?