Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Moto Deli's Moroccan Meatball Sandwich

Fans of chef Alex Carballo have followed him around San Diego as he's gone from The Fishery to The Brigantine, then Indigo Grill and the Crosby Country Club. He's been with The Cohn Restaurant Group, but most recently at Stone Brewing Co. and then URBN Coal Fired Pizza.

Well, Carballo is now in the role of entrepreneur with his consulting business Service Culture. And he's teamed up with friend Mario Warman to develop Moto Deli, an ambitious motorcycle-themed sandwich shop/deli in Leucadia on Highway 101.

The site, which since 1975 had housed the iconic Sub Palace, is a 1927 building that has pretty much been gutted and is now being rebuilt to house what will include space where Carballo, chef Andy Halvorsen, and their staff will be able to do their own smoking, bread baking, pickling, sausage making, and condiment creating. The deli will offer prepared sandwiches and tables for dining in, but customers will also be able to purchase all the ingredients--sliced meats, breads, mustards, pickles, etc. to take home. Plus, Moto Deli is set up to do catering. It's a big undertaking.

Carballo expects Moto Deli to be open in June, but neither he nor Warman have been waiting around for the doors to open. In the meantime they launched a food truck, previously owned by chef Hanis Cavin of Carnitas Snack Shack, that is usually housed in front of the construction zone but does travel. Their calendar is published on the website. Most of the prep is done at a commissary kitchen, where the larger catering production also happens. But inside the truck is a big commercial flat top and storage in a space that Halvorsen joked is actually a little wider than some of the kitchens he's worked at.

I visited with Carballo and Halvorsen last week and Halvorsen made me their signature meatball sandwich. I loved the play on the concept, which takes it from Italian American to Moroccan in a heartbeat. The meatball is made with ground lamb and veal, panko crumbs, and spices that include cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. An extra bite of spice comes from chopped pickled chiles. They nestle into a toasted hoagie roll, surrounded by a unique harissa marinara, then topped with a couple of slices of melted muenster cheese and--get this--sprinkled with pieces of preserved lemon. It's a marvelous mouthful, rich and spicy-and accompanied by their fab house-made potato chips (they're lucky I didn't walk off with the tall container filled with them) and spicy sweet house-made pickles.

Halvorsen, who has worked at Blue Ocean in Carlsbad, the Lodge at Torrey Pines, and Stone Brewing with Carballo, shared with me the recipe for making these sandwiches. He emphasized that the cornerstone of a good sandwich is the bread. Got a big juicy sandwich like this in mind? Be sure, he said, to toast the bread so that it won't fall apart once you add sauce.

"What's fun about sandwiches is that you can do what you want," he said. "You can sneak all sorts of good things in them that may be unexpected or unconventional but really work."

Moto Deli Moroccan Meatball Sandwich
Recipe from Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
(printable recipe)
Yield: 5 sandwiches

For each sandwich:
1 6- to 8-inch French or hoagie roll
3 meatballs
1/4 cup harissa marina sauce (can vary amount depending on your preference)
2 slices muenster cheese
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon (optional)

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
From Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
Yield: 16 meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound Ground Veal          
¾ cup  panko bread crumbs
¾ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon toasted, ground cumin
1 tablespoon toasted, ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup chopped, pickled chilies

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Soak bread crumbs with milk for at least 20 minutes. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Form 2-inch meatballs and place on a well-oiled baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Harissa Marinara 
From Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
Yield: 6 cups

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
About 5 medium red peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded (or 1, 16-ounce jar)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup garlic, minced
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon caraway seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon Salt
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Place roasted peppers in a blender and puree. Add ¼ cup of water if necessary to help blending. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium/high heat, add oil and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes or until garlic is aromatic and just begins to brown.

Add dry spices and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, peppers and parsley. Mix well and ensure that there aren’t any spices or garlic stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Lower heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

To make sandwich:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Halve the meatballs and warm them in the sauce.

Lightly toast a sliced roll. Fill the roll with warmed meatballs and sauce. Top with the muenster cheese. Place in oven until cheese is melted. Sprinkle the top of the sandwich with chopped parsley and chopped preserved lemon.

Moto Deli is located at 810 North Coast Highway 101.

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