Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 28, 2013

Mad for meatballs: Make, freeze, have them on hand

By CHERYL GROSS Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — I love meatballs. They can be a bit fussy to make, but that is offset by preparing a really big batch and having them on hand. It is wonderful to be in a rush to get dinner on the table and simply take the homemade meatballs from the freezer and assemble your dinner.

Working with ground meat allows the cook to experiment with different meats in the same recipe. I typically use a ground turkey breast/ground veal/ ground beef blend. You should use the ground meat you favor and can acquire. Use all of one meat, such as ground beef, or experiment with ground pork, venison or bison.

Many folks fry meatballs; I prefer mine baked. Frying is a messy alternative and I have trouble keeping them round and in one piece. In baking, the fat is rendered, they retain a nice round shape, they are firm and they hold together.

A final comment regarding the use of powdered spices in some of the recipes. I generally use plenty of fresh onions and garlic in my cooking. However, in these recipes, I favor dried spices to enhance the texture of the meatballs. Additionally, their small size could be hard to produce with chunky ingredients.

Try the following recipes for Italian, Swedish and Chinese Meatballs. Make the big batch and keep them on hand for speedy dinners.

Italian Meatballs

3 lbs. ground meat, (I use 1 lb. ground turkey breast, 1 lb. ground veal, and 1 lb. ground beef)

3 eggs

6 T. (1/4 c. plus 2 T.) tomato paste

3 T. red wine

1 t. salt

1/4 t.. black pepper

StrokeStyle/$ID/Japanese Dots1StrokeStyle/$ID/Japanese Dots/StrokeStyle/$ID/Japanese Dots2StrokeStyle/$ID/Japanese Dots t. garlic powder

1 t. onion powder

1 T. dried parsley

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

1 c. bread crumbs

1 c. water to soften the mixture

Place the 3 lbs. ground meat in a standing mixer to blend. Add the ingredients in order, mixing after each addition. The ground meat should be very well mixed and the meat should have a rather beaten appearance. Alternatively, mix thoroughly with your hands and use a wooden spoon to beat the mixture. Note: Hand mixing will make it difficult to get the ‘beaten” appearance.

Prepare a broiler pan for the meatballs. Cover the pan with foil for ease of cleaning, if you wish. Preheat the oven to 400°. Using a 1- to 11/2 T.-sized cookie scoop, press the meat mixture into the scoop to form the meat into balls and place on the broiler pan. Bake for 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Repeat with the remaining meatball mixture.

Remove cooked meatballs to a cookie sheet to cool and then freeze. Bag the individually frozen meatballs in freezer bags. About five meatballs in this size are a serving.

Note: If you like the cheese flavor, add more. Same with the tomato paste, wine, parsley, onion and garlic. This recipe can yield about 110 meatballs.

Serving Suggestions:

n Spaghetti and Meatballs

n Add meatballs to jarred or homemade sauce and serve over cooked spaghetti noodles.

n Italian Meatball Appetizer: Heat meatballs in a little pasta sauce, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve as an appetizer.

n Meatball Sub: Heat meatballs in a little pasta sauce, spoon onto a bun (hot dog, ciabatta, etc.), add a layer of mozzarella or provolone cheese and run under the broiler for a meatball sub.

Italian Meatball andVegetable Soup

6 c. beef or chicken stock,

1/2 c. each onion and celery, chopped

1 c. fennel root , chopped

1 c. carrot, chopped

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained

1-2 c. tomatoes, chopped (1 15-oz. can petite diced),

1/2 t. dried oregano

1 t. dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

16 Italian meatballs, cooked

Combine ingredients except meatballs and simmer till the vegetables are soft. Add meatballs and heat through. Garnish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Swedish Meatballs

3 lbs. ground meat (I use a blend of ground turkey breast, ground beef and ground veal)

3 eggs

1 t. salt

1 t. onion powder

1/4 t. ground pepper

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 t. ground allspice

1 c. bread crumbs

1 c. water

Place the 3 lbs. of ground meat in a standing mixer to blend. Add the ingredients in order, mixing after each addition. The ground meat should be well mixed and the meat should have a beaten appearance. Alternatively, mix thoroughly with your hands and use a wooden spoon to beat the mixture. Hand mixing will make it difficult to get the ‘beaten” appearance.

Prepare a broiler pan for the meatballs. Cover the pan with foil for ease of cleaning, if you wish. Preheat the oven to 400°. Using a 1- to 11/2 T.-sized cookie scoop, form the meat into balls and place on the broiler pan. Bake for 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Repeat with the remaining meatball mixture.

Remove cooked meatballs to a cookie sheet to cool and then freeze. Bag the individually frozen meatballs in freezer bags. Five Meatballs of this size are a serving. This recipe can yield approximately 104 meatballs.

Serving Suggestions:

My favorite way to serve Swedish Meatballs is to braise a variety of root vegetables in chicken stock, add meatballs and serve the meatballs and vegetables in the stock with a green salad and crusty bread.

Braised Root Vegetableswith Meatballs

4 c. chicken stock

1 c. carrot, cut in julienne

3/4 c. celery, cut in thin slice on the diagonal

1 c. rutabaga, peeled and sliced in julienne

1 c. fennel root, sliced in strips

20 Italian meatballs, cooked

Simmer the root vegetables in the chicken stock. Add the meatballs to heat through. Serve the meatballs and vegetables in about 1/2 c. broth in a shallow bowl/dish with a green salad and crusty bread.

Swedish Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce

6 T. butter, divided

1/2 c. onion, sliced

8 oz. mushrooms (white or Baby Bella) sliced or roughly chopped

1 T. white wine

6 T. flour

3 c. chicken stock

1/4 t. nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

20 Swedish meatballs, cooked

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 2 T. butter in the pan and add the onions and mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are well cooked. Sprinkle with 1 T. white wine and reduce. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 4 T. butter. Whisk in 6 T. flour. Add stock, 1 c, at a time, and whisk while it begins to thicken. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Once the sauce is smooth, add the onions, mushrooms and meatballs to heat through. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Chinese meatballs are typically large and are likely not made with bread crumbs. I prefer a smaller meatball, which requires a bit more substance to hold the pork together.

Chinese Meatballs

2 lbs. ground pork

4 T. soy sauce, divided

2 T. sherry

2 scallions, including green top, finely minced

2 t. ginger root, peeled and finely minced

8 canned water chestnuts, finely minced

2 eggs, beaten

1 T. cornstarch

1 c. bread crumbs

Prepare a broiler pan for the meatballs, covering the pan with foil for easy clean-up, if you choose. Preheat the oven to 400°. You will want to pay close attention to finely mincing the scallion, ginger root and water chestnuts.

In a standing mixer, add all ingredients, beating after each addition. Using a 11/2-T. scoop measure, shape the meatballs and place on the pan. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Yields approximately 68 meatballs.

Try this meatball in the traditional Lion’s Head cabbage braise or drizzled with hoisin sauce as an appetizer.

Lion’s Head Cabbage Braise

1 medium-sized head of Napa or Green Cabbage, sliced in shreds, 1/4- to 1/2-inch wide

1/2 c. chicken stock

1/2 t. sugar

1 T. soy sauce

20 Chinese Meatballs, cooked

Remove the root end of the cabbage and rinse under cold water. Separate the leaves and shred the cabbage. Place half of the cabbage in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Place the meatballs on the cabbage. Cover the meatballs with remaining cabbage. Mix the chicken stock, soy sauce and sugar and pour over the cabbage in the pot. Cover the pot and place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. Check the pot after 30 minutes and add more stock or water if the pan has cooked dry.

Plate the cabbage on a serving platter and arrange the meatballs on top. Pour pan juices over the meatballs. Serve with cooked rice.

Chinese Meatball Appetizer

Place meatballs on a pie plate (1-2 per person). Drizzle with hoisin sauce. Heat in a 350° oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through.

Cheryl Gross is a Benzie County-based freelance writer.