Exceptionally delicious merguez meatball flatbreads layered with red cabbage slaw, herbed yogurt, and harissa.
Lately, I cook most of our family dinners. Some nights, factors like a lack of ingredients or a lack of attention conspire and dinner is kind of meh. Other times, simple ingredients come together to make a dinner that’s exceptionally delicious. These merguez meatball flatbreads are just such a dish.
After a couple bites, Brian, who is prone to sweeping pronouncements, said “I’ve had two memorable meals in my life: the blood sausage at Aux Lyonnais and these meatballs.” I’d normally feel shy or braggy about telling you this, but they’re just so good and so easy, I want you to get these meatballs on your own table and in your life, stat.
The meatballs themselves are flavored with toasted fresh ground spices, lemon zest, and lots of garlic. In the skillet, they develop a beautiful sear while staying juicy and tender in the center. Merguez meatballs are flavorful enough to eat all by themselves, but things get exceptionally delicious when they’re layered on a chewy flatbread with lemony red cabbage slaw, cooling herbed yogurt, and plenty of harissa. The assorted sides and condiments lend a playfulness to the meal, allowing everyone to tailor the flatbreads to their own tastes. While these were perfect for our family dinner, they’d be excellent at a relaxed dinner party too.
Recipe makes 18 - 20 (2-inch) meatballs.
- 1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- pinch sea salt
- 1/3 cup minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons mint leaves, blanched and minced (*see note)
- squeeze of lemon juice
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons harissa (**see note)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other heat tolerant cooking oil
- warm flatbreads
- lemon wedges
- minced herbs
To make the slaw, combine garlic, lemon juice, and vinegar in a large bowl; set aside while you prep cabbage and carrots. Add vegetables, toss with lemon juice mixture, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover and set aside at room temp for an hour or two, or set in the fridge for 24 hours. Before serving, add sea salt to taste and toss with parsley.
To make herbed yogurt, stir to combine yogurt, sea salt, herbs, lemon juice, and pepper. Taste and add additional sea salt or lemon juice as needed. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours ahead of time.
Set a small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin and coriander and toast just until herbs are fragrant or begin to pop 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from skillet right away. Grind with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
To make meatballs, combine spices, lamb, garlic, paprika, and harissa and mix well. Form into large, 2-inch meatballs and set on a clean tray. If desired, cover and refrigerate meatballs for up to 24 hours.
When ready to make meatballs, heat oil in a large cast iron or other large skillet over medium heat. Working in tow batches, sear meatballs all over – turn six times, searing 1 - 2 per side. Then move meatballs to outer edge and cook until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F (temp will continue to rise after meatballs have been removed from heat). When taking temp, use care not to piece the meatball all the way through, or the juices will leak out.
Keep cooked meatballs in a 200 degree F oven.
Serve meatballs with warm flatbreads, lemon wedges, red cabbage slaw, herbed yogurt, harissa, and minced herbs.
*Fresh mint leaves brown over time. To prevent this, immerse leaves in a small pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately dunk in a bowl of ice water. Pat dry with paper towels and mince.
**Pre-made harissa is available is available at international and specialty stores. I prefer milder jarred harissas with red bell peppers as the main ingredient. Spicier harissa will have red chilies as the primary ingredient.