It was one of those what-to-do-with-ground-beef days. I almost, in desperation, fell back on grilled burgers, even though it was only 54° outside, then wondered if I could do something different with meatballs—and I mean different from all the meatball recipes on this site (which is 5). I still used the grill, after I put on a flannel shirt, and decided to use a combination of spices that I haven’t used with beef before. The only method I could figure out for grilling meatballs, was to put them on skewers, although I’m sure if they are big enough not to fall through the grate you could turn them individually—that sounds like too much work.
We ate them on flatbread with a sour cream-lemon-chive sauce.
Optional: 2-4 tablespoons milk or other liquid if the mixture is dry
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried cilantro
1 tablespoon parsley paste (a timesaver)
1 tablespoon grated or minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients together with hands. You’re trying to achieve a mixture that will hold its shape, so you don’t want it to be too soft or moist.
Divide mixture into 16 portions and roll into balls.
Carefully slide meatballs onto skewers then place on a large tray. You could refrigerate them at this point until ready to cook.
Grill over direct heat, turning to brown on all sides, closing the lid after each turn. Even with flat skewers, the meatballs will turn on the skewers, but it’s still pretty easy to turn the whole skewer, keeping your tongs close by. They cook pretty quickly, in about 15 minutes, but you can use a thermometer to test for doneness.
Remove from skewers and serve in flatbread with a sour cream or yogurt sauce.
This is something you could make with a variety of meats and spices. I found the meatballs to be moist and tender, and a nice change from burgers.
I just had to know if that other method of de-boning a chicken/turkey, the one where you start at the breasts and work around to the back, was any better than the one where you start at the backbone, and I’m glad I tried it before Thanksgiving, because I now know not to use it on the turkey. I’ll stick with the traditional method of starting at the backbone. See videos of the two methods here: Turkey Planning or Am I Crazy? I didn’t have any trouble taking the carcass out and keeping the skin intact, but I ended up creating two holes trying to get the wing bones out. I had a terrible time getting the leg bones out, as well, something that wasn’t hard in the other method. In addition, I don’t like how this method leaves the breast meat on the outside edges instead of mostly in the center. Yes, you can move the tenders to the center and butterfly the breasts to fill in empty spaces, but I found it easier in the other method.
Anyway, I decided to make this roll different from last week’s with a fruit and nut stuffing. I happened to have dried unsweetened apricots and walnuts on hand, so that seemed like a good way to vary the stuffing. I had already picked up a loaf of Pain de Campagne for the bread crumbs, and I always have celery and onion on hand. The stock from the carcass and other bones was simmering on the stove, so it was easy to put together while the de-boned chicken rested in the fridge.
This time, I set up a large cutting board in a sheet pan lined with paper towels to keep the work mess contained. As you can see, it all worked out, and the good news is that once stuffed and rolled up, it still makes a company-worthy main dish.
I made this stuffing with fresh bread, because I like a soft crumb, but you can toast the crumbs in the oven to dry out and brown first, or you can use croutons.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 large onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery, preferably from the innermost stalks with leaves
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
about 5 cups bread crumbs, pulsed in the food processor until roughly chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter in a large skillet. Stir in onion and celery, cooking until translucent.
Stir in apricots, walnuts, and herbs to combine.
Stir in bread crumbs or pour butter mixture over crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
Slowly add chicken stock to moisten stuffing mixture so that the crumbs are still distinct. You might not need all the stock, depending on the texture of your bread. Very fresh bread that has not been allowed to become stale will need a lot less stock. Also keep in mind that the apricots, even though dried, will release some moisture into the finished stuffing.
Stuff your bird or pork chops or whatever meat you’re having, or place in buttered dish and bake at about 375° for 25 minutes or until browned.
I must say that I am the worst at slicing these rolls and have tried all kinds of knives. It doesn’t really matter, but it does annoy me. The larger turkey will have to cook longer, so maybe it will hold together better.
I had some leftover hot dog buns and and one nice sandwich roll, so I pulsed them in the food processor to put in the freezer, but took two cups out first for meatloaf. I find fresh bread crumbs to have a much nicer effect than dried crumbs in meatloaf. They’re moister and softer and carry those characteristics into the finished loaf.
I’m kind of surprised, though, that there are so many recipes for meatloaf on the web, because it’s such a simple, basic concept that you personalize with practically no bad results. Ground meat, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, seasonings. You can do that in your head and figure out your own proportions, even though I’ll give you mine below. I don’t think my meatloaf is exactly the same each time, but I get no complaints.
1.5 lb ground beef (I used 80% lean, which releases a lot of fat, but makes a moister loaf)
1 lb ground turkey (not ground turkey breast)
1 carrot, 1 celery rib, and 1 onion minced in a food processor
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4-1/2 cup milk
About the ingredients:
So, this is a 2.5 lb loaf that will give us at least two meals, but you can vary the amounts and types of meat used. Typically recipes call for a combination of beef, veal, and pork, sometimes in thirds, sometimes with more beef. You usually don’t know the proportions in a meatloaf mix in the grocery store, but it’s nice to have it done for you and may be cheaper than buying the meats separately. Today, I used ground turkey, because I thought it would be a nice flavor addition, and I already had plenty of fat from the 80% lean beef. It was good.
Seasoned, dried bread crumbs work well, also, but when I use dried bread crumbs, I usually use evaporated milk for the liquid.
The ketchup and Worcestershire sauce is a nice combination of flavorings, a little sharp and tangy. I don’t put ketchup on top of the loaf, but you could. Other than salt and pepper, I didn’t add any herbs today, but sometimes I use thyme or oregano.
I think my mother only used onion to season hers, but I do like adding more minced vegetables, again for moisture, as well as flavor.
Mix everything in a large bowl so all the ingredients are well distributed, without overworking the mixture—you’re not making bread. I use a large meat fork to stir at first because the two tines cut through it all without over-mixing. Then I get in there with my hands kind of folding it over until I’m sure there isn’t some ingredient left in the bottom of the bowl.
Bring it together and roll it all into your baking dish. I like a free-formed loaf in a large stoneware dish instead of in a loaf pan, but if you like softer, unbrowned sides, use the loaf pans.
Bake at 350° for 1-1.5 hours. I did the full 1.5 hours to get it to an internal temperature of about 160° – 170° and let the dish rest on the stove, where it continues to cook a little more. I took it out before it reached 170° because nothing is worse than overcooked, dry meatloaf.