Donn's spicy meatballs reflect 'tweaking, refining'
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA, Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 10:10
Donn Euler has the equivalent of a culinary degree in meatballs. It's a subject he has studied intently, from every angle, with an eager audience of taste-testers behind him.
|Euler says it's the preparation and not the ingredients. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
"It's the preparation and not the ingredients that makes the meatballs," argues Euler, a Hannah Road resident.
"Probably about eight years ago my brother Jay and I were in a fantasy football league with about eight younger kids my sons' ages - 20 or so," says the 1975 Otsego graduate and father of four.
"We used to meet at my brother's every Sunday and watch football all day long," a tradition that would carry on throughout the entire 16-week season.
All the attendees were required to bring some kind of food and, of course, a beverage of choice.
Euler decided early on to make meatballs his regular contribution.
But what kind of meatballs? That was the real question.
"I brought every kind - Swedish, Szechwan, grape jelly," and even "an Italian dressing one that really didn't come out as well."
All told, "there were probably 10 of them I tried, but this is the one that was the favorite," Euler says of his South of the Border meatballs.
He never found a recipe for them. Rather, he developed the recipe "just out of my head," and then modified it from week to week to see if he could make the meatballs even better. "I just kind of refined, perfected, tweaked it."
He knew it was time to stop refining when the superlatives began building up.
"Everybody who tries 'em loves 'em; 'best I ever had!'" is the comment he hears most.
"It's just unique, and it's twangy," is how he describes the recipe. "I kind of like spicy stuff. It's a lot different than any other meatball."
Euler's current job is in maintenance at Phoenix Technologies, where he works the 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. night shift. But his first job was in the food service industry.
He was hired as the cook at the old L & K Restaurant on Wooster Street, the one right across from Bowling Green State University.
"There was another Don working there, so it got confusing. So I told the boss to put two 'N's in my name" to differentiate the two men. "That was 35, 36 years ago and it stuck." He is Donn to this day.
While his name spelling became permanent, his restaurant job did not.
"That wasn't my gig," he discovered. "I went into factory maintenance," working at Hunt and Wesson Foods for 20 years until they closed. A stint at Pilkington in Rossford followed, before he began his current job at Phoenix.
Besides the fantasy football league that continued for three or four years, Euler has served his meatballs to a much more unlikely crowd.
"I do a lot for Mary Kay" cosmetics as a favor to Janeen Heller, his girlfriend of nearly a decade, who is a director with the direct-sales cosmetics company. He has also made the meatballs for two of her children's graduation parties.
They also show up for Easter, reunions, and other frequent gatherings of his own family, which includes several food-service professionals.
"My nephew is a corporate chef in Chicago," and his daughter Tara specializes in making sushi in the Japanese restaurant her boyfriend owns.
His kids gifted him with a new crockpot last Christmas just so he'd keep the meatballs coming.
South of the Border meatballs are perfect for summer events where lots of people are being fed in a casual manner.
He recommends a particular meatball brand to start with. "I've used the Meijer brand meatball and it's not bad, but I prefer the Armour."
Euler offers two more tips for anyone who makes his recipe:
• Use a white cup for the seasoning mixture; it's easier to clean.
• The recipe lists microwave times as 2:22 and 1:11. "They are used for convenience. Shorten the microwave times slightly after third batch" because the oven will heat up slightly throughout the process. He suggests reducing the cooking times to 2:06 and 56 seconds.
Donn's south of the border meatballs
Body: 4 lb. bag of Armour original meatballs (keep frozen)
24-oz. jar Pace picante sauce (medium)
16-oz. jar Pace picante sauce (mild)
1 pkg. Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
Plug in crock pot, layer bottom with medium picante and turn on high.
Mix 1/2 of the taco seasoning in a cup with 1/2 cup water.
In a glass bowl, add 20-25 meatballs and nuke uncovered for 2:22 minutes.
Stir in seasoning mixture, cover with paper towel and nuke for 1:11 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon and add meatballs to crock pot. Add enough picante sauce to cover meatballs.
Pour seasoning mixture back in the cup and repeat process with the remaining meatballs. It will take about 6 times total.
• Meatballs should be in a single layer when microwaving.
• Use a white cup for seasoning mixture (easier to clean)
• Shorten the microwave times slightly after third batch.