Traditionally made in the home with a high liver content and gradually introduced to the general public via butchers’ shops the atriaux or attriaux is a variable feast, with countless versions that only have pork liver and pork meat in common.
According to the Swiss Culinary Heritage database entry for atriaux ‘there is virtually no standard’ for these iconic meatballs.
The Swiss Union of Master Butchers’ recipe includes sausage meat, liver, flour, garlic, mustard, egg, shallots, black pepper, coriander or parsley and marjoram, the liver content among Swiss butchers being no more than one fifth of the meat content.
There is also a huge difference between the attriaux made in France, in Haute Savoy and Savoy, and the atriaux made in Switzerland, in Neuchâtel, Vaud and the Jura.
They are regarded as specialities of the Chablais in Switzerland and of the Faucigny in France.
Of the combinations it might be said that with the wet mixture containing leek the content should include flour. With the dry mixture containing onion or shallot the content can include egg but not necessarily.
Garlic and mustard are options.
The researchers at Swiss Culinary Heritage found that flour, egg and mustard are never used together. ‘We can therefore find, for example, attriaux containing flour, egg and raw onion, but no mustard or garlic. There are others incorporating flour or egg, or mustard, or garlic, but no onion, leek and white wine.’
They found recipes with ginger, lovage and nutmeg, and that shallots replaced onion.
In France the tradition has liver and offal (heart, kidney, lung) whereas in Switzerland the tradition is liver only, with the content variable in both countries, as high as 70% in Savoy and as low as 5% in Neuchâtel.
The sausage school in Spiez in Switzerland have a variant that is a sausage rather than a meatball, with a mixture of pork and veal sausage meat.
Generally these meatballs or sausages are wrapped in pork caul.
The cooking method is also variable.
This is our version, a little wetter than most.
- 700 g pork shoulder, minced
- 300 g pork liver, minced
- 100 g cured ham, diced
- 100 g leek, thin sliced
- 45 g white wheat flour + extra for handling
- 35 ml water
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 10 g mustard powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 sprigs marjoram, chopped small
- Dried lovage
- Pork caul (optional)
- Water for cooking
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Paper towels for drying
Blend the leeks with the water, add the dried lovage, a pinch or a couple of teaspoons, and the mustard powder.
Combine the minces with the ham, knead to mix the ingredients. Add the garlic, marjoram and seasonings, then work in the leek mixture with three tablespoons of flour.
Rest the mixture in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
With floured hands and some flour on a clean work surface, spoon a large dollop of the mixture onto the flour, and with the palm of the hand shape into rolls.
For authenticity and to add a little flavour wrap each ball in pork caul.
Place water in a large deep frying pan, about half-way up, heat.
This amount will make about 16 meatballs, and we recommend they are cooked in two batches.
Place the meatballs in the hot water, begin to simmer. After a minute use a knife to free the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a separate frying pan.
Place the cooked meatballs on paper towels to remove the moisture.
Fry the meatballs turning several times until they are browned.
Serve with fried or mashed potatoes, and with a salad.