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Chef Pierre Thiam prepares his recipe for beef-and-fonio meatballs with sweet potato stew on this week’s episode of F&W Cooks.

By Bridget Hallinan
March 26, 2021
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There's something incredibly satisfying and comforting about meatballs. And when you add them to a stew? Even more so. In this week's episode of F&W Cooks, Pierre Thiam—chef, cookbook author, and co-founder of Yolélé Foods—prepares his recipe for beef-and-fonio meatballs with sweet potato stew. The dish was inspired by a traditional Senegalese recipe, and he says it's "comfort food at its best." You can even make the meatballs in advance and freeze them for up to one month (just be sure to thaw them before you cook).

Read on for Thiam's step-by-step instructions and follow along with the video above.

Make the Meatballs

For the beef-and-fonio meatballs, you'll need finely chopped yellow onion, ground beef, finely chopped garlic, finely chopped fresh thyme, cooked fonio (a West African staple grain), finely grated Parmesan, an egg, and some salt and pepper for seasoning. Mix everything together (Thiam does it by hand), shape the mixture into meatballs, cover them, and refrigerate them for at least one hour.

Start the Stew

While the meatballs chill, it's time to start the stew. Heat up 1/4 cup of peanut oil, to the point where it should sizzle when you add the remaining yellow onions in. Along with the onions, add the remaining garlic and one bay leaf, cooking for 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are golden brown. Next, the crushed tomatoes go in, followed by the lower-sodium chicken broth. Thiam advises on saving some broth for later—once the meatballs are in the stew, you can add more broth to thin it if the sauce gets too thick.

Thiam covers and cooks the stew for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, after some more salt and pepper, in go the sweet potatoes. Reduce the heat, cover the stew again and cook until the sweet potatoes are almost tender, 18 to 24 minutes more.

Fry the Meatballs

Meanwhile, brown the meatballs, which should be firm when you remove them from the fridge. To fry them, add two tablespoons of peanut oil to a pan—Thiam notes to use a heavy pan, so it will conduct heat evenly—and cook the meatballs in the hot oil, turning occasionally until they're browned on all sides. (This should take about 10 minutes.) He also warns against adding too many meatballs to the pan at once, as you "don't want to crowd them."

Put It All Together

Take the browned meatballs and add them to the stew. Pour in a little more broth, and be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Let everything cook for another five to 10 minutes.

Enjoy

Once the sweet potatoes and meatballs are cooked through, you're all set to eat. Taste and add more seasoning as needed, and then, spoon the stew into a bowl and top it with more Parmesan and some fresh microgreens, if you like. 

Get the Recipe: Beef-and-Fonio Meatballs with Sweet Potato Stew