Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Especially delicious fried in pan with tomato sauce built over the top and then stacked onto fresh foccacia.

I feel like a bit of a flake, not posting about this sooner, as I think more than one person requested it on Karl's blog. Yes, I make meatballs a lot, and they are easy! As is usual in my home there is no real recipe, but I will write about how I do it here.

The basic proportions, in my mind, are 2 pounds of raw meat to 3 eggs, plus one cup (not packed) of bread crumbs or only 1/2 cup if using oat bran/ other grains. The meat can be almost anything: 2 pounds of all ground beef, 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound bacon, 1 pound each pork sausage and beef, venison, etc. Whatever you have to make 2 pounds, and I usually work with ground meat though you could chop roasts up for this, too. The addition of bacon is amazing, even if only a couple of leftover slices. More often than not, I use 1 pound ground pork breakfast sausage and 1 pound ground beef.  To this you may add a cup of packed, chopped greens like basil or flatleaf parsely or a mix of many. If i have it I will often add 1/2 cup of asiago, parm, or romano. Other optional additions are : 2 or 3 whole garlic cloves and/ or myriad spices including garlic powder, rosemary, etc. These will not need salt if part of the meat is sausage or bacon, or if you add cheese. If you have used neither of those, add a teaspoon of salt to the works. A note on bread crumbs or grains: I make our own hamburger buns from time to time and freeze them. I find a frozen bun grates up easy and provides perfect crumbs. Crumbs are tastier than oat bran or grains, but in a pinch bran or oats will do.

All of the ingredients go into a processor, or if you have chopped very finely you may mix with your bare hands. I use a processor so I add the garlic first, and greens, then cheese. Pouring all those back out into a little bowl I will break up the meat into the bowl and add the crumbs and eggs, mix a bit and add the rest back. Everything should be well blended and chopped. Then form neat balls of any size with bare hands, and fry them in a skillet or bake them for about 25 minutes (time may vary, my oven is old) at 350. I usually fry them in the pan I intend to use for sauce. Then I make the sauce right on top of them. You can also make extra and form them on a parchment-covered sheet. Slip the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few hours then pop them off into a baggie for long term frozen storage. That way you can take a few out at a time.

Obviously, if you use pork for these you will want to be sure they are fully cooked. If only using beef, you do not have to be so exact. Just break one open and see, they do not take long if you turn them a few times.

The reason this recipe was brought up was our basil harvest. Because I grow unreal quantities of basil, I prefer it in my meatballs. A whole fully grown plant will chop down into about  2 cups of basil, so I freeze it in little jars and thaw them to add to meatballs. The kids love these meatballs and have no idea they are eating a whole basil plant. Not that all my children are picky, but they have been and continue to go through certain phases from time to time.

The cheese is optional, so there is no reason for these to contain dairy. Further, If you prefer not to eat pork, all-beef versions are delicious. I do not include turkey or chicken because I do not grind our poultry and we have to work with what we have in the freezer. By all means, I am sure poultry would be nice, though you might want to add olive oil or other fat to the mix. If you are gluten-free, you can use gluten-free bread to create crumbs, or use other gluten- free grains (gluten-free oats are expensive, I know) or perhaps even corn meal would work. Like I said this is not even really a recipe, so don't worry about changing it. I have never had inedible results.
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