Multi-use Venison Meatballs
An abundance of cultures utilize some form of ground meat rolled into a ball. This is the simplest recipe that takes you to the step where you choose where you take these meatballs. I’ve included a few sauce recipes that we love to use in the Johnston house, but you can use basically any BBQ sauce or whatever you can find at the store to make these interesting.
½ lb ground meat – We use a lot of venison, be considerate of fat content, it’s integral to the integrity of your meatball
¼ cup booze
Yeah that’s it… I know, where’s the bread crumbs and egg and ketchup and blah blah blah?… Here’s the thing, Grandma used to put bread crumbs in her meatballs to dry them up a bit, then she added egg because the meat was too dry from the bread crumbs.
Ground meat, when dosed with the right amount of salt, will form a ball.
In the following flavour profile recipes, you can add more flavour to the actual balls, but this is the basics.
Mix salt, pepper, random ingredients, and meat together. Roll balls into average, slightly smaller than golf balls, ball size. Heat a heavy pan, pot, or Dutch oven to medium high heat. I really prefer the Dutch oven as you can basically bake the meatballs on the stove top to finish them.
Preheat the oil until just about smoking temp, then gently lay your meatballs into the pan. Just like any meat recipe, we’re going to brown those balls to add flavour. Brown = flavour. It also keeps them together during the rest of the cooking. Grey, mushy, meatballs are going to fall apart. Brown all sides then reduce heat.
Browning always leaves a little bit of dark bits stuck to the pan. That’s where the booze comes in. We need to deglaze this pan for two reasons. 1. It eliminates scrubbing the dishes late, 2. We want all those little brown bits in whichever sauce we pick.
Add flavour profile ingredients, cook away until sauce is bubbling. And that’s it. Meatballs!
Classic Italian Baked Meatballs:
- Add to meat: Prepackaged Italian seasoning or, a do it yourself mix, Garlic powder, oregano, basil, the usual suspects.
- Sauce: Literally any pasta sauce you love. Alternatively, you could make your own, there are a million recipes online.
- Cheese: Mozzarella, and parmesan
- Deglazing Liquor: Red wine, the heartier the better
Method: Once meatballs are browned, add a splash of red white to cover the bottom of the pan. Let it bubble and boil and use a spatula to scrape the bits into the quickly thickening wine. Once the wine thickens you can add your red sauce. Bring the sauce to a slow boil, then cover and let the meatballs simmer in that sauce, 8-10 minutes is plenty. Sprinkle mozzarella all over the top of them (or slice mozza if you have the fancy ball kind and lay on top of each meatball) broil in a hot over and sprinkle parmesan over once cheese starts to brown.
That’s is, you can boil your favourite pasta in well salted water, then serve topped with a few meatballs and your fancy sauce.
BBQ Meat Balls:
This couldn’t be easier…
Add to Meat: nothing
Sauce: Danny’s Whole Hog BBQ sauces
Deglazing Liquor: Whiskey, or any dark liquor. Rum, Rye, Bourbon, let’s not waste Scotch… you know liquor.
Method: Deglaze pan with whiskey, simmer down to an almost syrup, roll those meatballs around and add to pre-warmed BBQ sauce (Microwave works great for that)
Look like a pro by deglazing with a cognac or brandy, if you don’t have a gas stove just light it on fire. Trust me, everyone is impressed until you burn the cupboards.
*Added fun: I like to give options, so grab all those different Danny’s BBQ sauces you have in the fridge and heat a little up in a few bowls. Roll a few meatballs in every sauce and have yourself the best tasting menu ever!
Swedish Meat Balls: Ikea style:
Add to Meat: Higher pork fat mix if you can, and milk-soaked bread. Go figure….
3 tbls butter
¼ cup flour
3-4 cups beef broth (or make your own venison stock)
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbls Soy Sauce
White Pepper (because it blends in for colour, but black pepper works fine)
Deglazing Liquor: White wine
Method: To really pass off your meatballs as Ikea, I suggest adding the milk -oaked bread. In a separate pot melt the butter down and whisk in the flour. Over medium heat lightly “toast” the roux until just barely brown. Dump in your beef broth and whisk until smooth. Add in remain ingredients.
Add white wine to pan of meatballs, deglaze, then simmer down by half at least, pour your new gravy over top and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Boom, Ikea in your kitchen.
To look like a pro, top some fluffy mashed potatoes with your meatballs, a little gravy, and sprinkle some cheap green dried parsley over it in the centre of a platter that seems waaaaaaaaay to big, and voila… you look like a pro. Or just do what I do and stick the whole mess in a bowl.
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