Balls to the wall!

Balls to the wall!
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s meatball madness — and you can hold the spaghetti.

On March 2, this meaty side dish is taking center stage at the third annual Meatball Slapdown at the Brooklyn Kitchen, in which the city’s best chefs will pull out all the stops to prove their culinary chops as they compete for the title of the borough’s meatball maestro.

“There’s no shortage of food competitions happening all over this city, but meatballs are concise — you can tell a whole story in a single meatball, in a very small portion,” said Harry Rosenblum, the creator of the competition who owns the Brooklyn Kitchen with his wife, Taylor Erkkinen. “The only requirement is meat, in the shape of a ball.”

Indeed, in years past, participating chefs have devised crafty, creative meatballs using unlikely ingredients such as fish, lamb, cheese, pine nuts, raisins and whole cubes of Guanchale, to name a few.

“One of the cool things about meatballs are they’re fairly easy to make, but in this competition you end up with chefs who are really pushing the envelope, and putting everything they can into [their meatballs],” Rosenblum said.

Having been long considered an add-on to saucy spaghetti or a quick, cheap and filling lunch when plopped in between two halves of a hero roll, recession-friendly meatballs are enjoying a renaissance of sorts in Brooklyn of late, and even boast a whole restaurant dedicated to their deliciousness.

“They’ve always been a staple of the American diet, but now they’re hip and cool, and definitely in the zeitgeist,” said Dan Holzman, owner of the Meatball Shop, whose rotating menu offers approximately 50 different varieties of meatballs at any given time with inventive flavor combinations such as buffalo chicken. “It started with this idea that the American diet is moving towards eating out more often, and chefs are looking for less expensive ways to use some of the scraps, so meatballs have made their way onto menus at more and more restaurants. I don’t know why meatballs are cool, exactly — but we try our best to keep it that way!”

Six chefs from restaurants including Masten Lake, the Meathook, and Meatball Shop in Williamsburg; Roberta’s in Bushwick; Vesta in Astoria; and Riverpark in Manhattan will bring their juiciest, beefiest balls with which to wow hungry attendees and a panel of judges that includes Rachel Wharton, author of the “Edible Brooklyn” cookbook and food writer extraordinaire Peter Meehan. All proceeds will go towards the Brooklyn Kitchen’s Classrooms in the Kitchen educational program, and the Brooklyn Grange Farm’s City Grower program that enables students to learn about urban agriculture. Apart from all that, this slapdown is any meat eater’s paradise.

“We’re going to be cooking meatballs, scary amounts of meatballs,” Holzman said. “God bless all the piggies we’re sending off to piggy heaven!”

The Third Annual Meatball Slapdown at the Brooklyn Kitchen [100 Frost st. at Skillman Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 389-2982]. March 2, 7 pm. Tickets, $50. For info, visit www.thebrooklynkitchen.com.

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