Tag Archives: ground pork

Inside-Out Stuffed Poblanos. Smoked. With Bacon.

I was trying to think of what to stuff in this mini bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and then my husband brought in a bunch of poblanos from the garden. Usually I stuff the poblanos with meat and cheese, so it was just a matter of turning the whole thing inside-out. Traditionally, you wouldn’t use bacon with stuffed poblanos, but I didn’t expect the stuffed poblano police to stop by, so I didn’t worry about it. Smoking takes time, and ground meat needs a fatty buffer, like bacon, to keep it moist during the longer cooking. It took about 2 hours to smoke to the point that a little cheese started to melt out of one end, and a thermometer registered 165º-170º in the center (of course, the center was pepper and cheese).

I only used 1 lb of ground meat for the two of us, and there were still leftovers. You’ll have to consider how much to make for your group. Usually, for example, I would use 1 lb of ground meat to make four burgers, and we would have one left over. Personally, I prefer less than a quarter pound for my burger, but I’m probably unusual. You could make several of these rolls for a larger group of people. I cut our one roll into six thick slices.

I made a woven mat of bacon to wrap the filled meatloaf in, using my favorite local thick-sliced bacon. It’s very thick and so you can’t stretch it like the typical thin commercial bacon. I made the mat 6 strips wide, but had to add partial pieces into the weaving to make it fully woven. I’m not sure you can see those half pieces in the photo. After wrapping the roll, I sealed the edges with another strip and put that side of the roll down on the grill grate. I didn’t worry about having beautiful ends, but I did pinch the rolled meat together to hold in the cheese for as long as possible. I wrapped it all tightly in plastic and refrigerated it for about an hour to try to convince it to stay in that nice loaf shape. The lesson here is this: Don’t fret about the appearance too much. Just take your time and keep handling it until it all seems to hold together. Believe me, the gorgeous smoked bacon on the outside and the gooey cheese on the inside will overpower any construction flaws.

Inside-Out Stuffed Poblanos. Smoked. With Bacon.

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
  • Print


  • 1/2 lb ground beef, 93% lean
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut in small dice
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, mashed or grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
  • 2 long 1/2″ wide sticks of Monterrey Jack cheese, each about the length of your meat roll (it doesn’t matter if you have to use smaller pieces)
  • 1 pkg thick-sliced bacon, at least 12 strips


  1. On a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper, make a mat of woven bacon, about 6 strips wide and using as many pieces as you need to weave in the opposite direction. If you make it too big, you can always remove pieces, as needed. Set aside.
  2. Mix the first eleven ingredients together in a large bowl—meat, breadcrumbs, tomatoes, and spices. Form the meat into a log about the length of your bacon mat, then pat it out on a piece of plastic wrap to make a square.  It was easy enough to pat it out with my hands, but I’ve seen videos of people using rolling pins and even large plastic bags. Just make it even and squared off at the corners so you don’t end up with a football shape.
  3. Lay out sections of poblano peppers to fit the meat, but don’t worry about getting them out to the ends, because you want to pinch them together after rolling.
  4. Lay sticks of cheese on top of the peppers lengthwise and far enough apart that you can roll them up in the meat. But this isn’t rocket science—fill the roll as full as you like with as much as you can cram in there.
  5. Roll up the meat, using the plastic wrap to help you. Roll rather tightly and firmly, using pressure from your hands to mold and keep it all together. Pinch the ends together to cover the filling and pat the ends kind of flat so you have a neat cylinder.
  6. Set the meat roll on the mat of bacon and use the plastic wrap to bring the bacon up the sides—if you’re lucky the bacon will meet or come close to meeting and you can weave in a last piece to hold it together. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about an hour. Bring it out about 30 minutes before  the grill is ready, but leave in the plastic wrap.
  7. Set up the grill for slow, indirect heat with a 2 X 2 charcoal snake and a few handfuls of wood chips scattered over it. When your starter coals are ready and you’ve started the snake, set the roll on the cooking grate above a drip pan and close the grill. Cook and smoke for about 1 1/2-2 hours. The bacon should be browned and glossy with crispy areas, and the center will probably reach at least 165º, but keep in mind that you are measuring melted cheese in the center.
  8. Remove to a cutting board; let rest for a few minutes; then cut in thick slices.

I ended up burning only 1/3 of my charcoal snake, so today, I’m smoking some ribs with the remainder.


Pheasant Italian Meatballs

This is the last of the pheasant from this year’s harvest, but I still have some grouse left for a few more game recipes, and there is that venison backstrap in the freezer waiting for the grill.

I used 2 pounds of ground pheasant and 1 pound of ground pork, but if you’re making a chicken or turkey meatball, you could make up a different ratio that even adds veal. Three pounds of meat yielded about 3 dozen meatballs of golf ball size. It was a lot, but we had subs the first night and pasta the second. My husband had subs again the third night, but I was all meatballed out by then. I also made my own sauce, because I’m not too fond of any of the commercial sauces. Thank you, pheasant and little dog hunter.

The most interesting choice I made was to use panko crumbs instead of soft fresh or fine dry crumbs. I liked the body they added to the meatballs, keeping them moist, as well. Not sure how that works, but it works.

Pheasant Italian Meatballs

  • Servings: makes about 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

I let my meatballs cook completely in simmering sauce, with no beforehand browning. I used a true simmer gas burner, which is lower than the low on most burners. If you only have regular burners, the cooking time would be shorter, because I find that the lowest setting on my other burners keeps dishes at more of low boil that you have to watch for burning and sticking. I can just let my pot sit for hours without that happening. The downside is that my sauce doesn’t want to thicken at that low simmer, so I remove the meatballs later, and turn up the heat to cook down the sauce, uncovered.

For the meatballs:

2 lbs ground pheasant (or any poultry)

1 lb ground pork (mine was reduced fat)

Optional: 2 tablespoons bacon fat or other fat to compensate for lean meats

2 cups panko bread crumbs

2 eggs

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2-1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I keep it ready in the freezer)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients with a large meat fork, which cuts through all the ingredients, rather than mashing them as a spoon does. Or mix with your hands, which gives you a good sense of when everything is evenly combined. I start out with the fork and then get my hands in there to fold it all together.
  2. Into a large pot (about 6 qt) of simmering sauce, drop shaped meatballs, first covering the bottom and then dropping some into the spaces between balls, until all are made and in the pot. Do not worry that some are sitting on the top and not covered by sauce. DO NOT STIR at this point. Your meatballs will not fall apart if you just put the lid on and let them simmer away. I go in after about 1 1/2 hours to give a light stir, just to see how it all looks. Once the meatballs are in the sauce, this is pretty much a hands-off process. People who complain that their meatballs fall apart if not browned first are obviously unable to keep that spoon out of the pot. I can see how that would be an issue without a true simmer burner, though. If you must pre-cook your meatballs, I would bake them, as in this recipe: “Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs
  3. Remove meatballs after 2-3 hours and reduce sauce, if necessary, by raising the heat to a low boil and cooking uncovered to desired thickness. Return meatballs to sauce to keep hot.

For my sauce:

2 28 oz cans peeled plum tomatoes, crushed by hand or with a potato masher

1 tube or small can of tomato paste (sizes vary from 4.5 to 6 oz)

Optional: water, as needed, if you think the sauce is too thick at this point

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2-1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

  1. You’ll notice that my sauce flavorings are the same as in the meatball. Don’t expect the sauce to flavor the meatball all by itself.
  2. Mix all ingredients in your large pot and bring to a simmer while making the meatballs. The sauce should be simmering before dropping in the meatballs so you don’t have to bring the whole thing up to heat.
  3. After removing the cooked meatballs, I used a hand blender to further chop up some of the tomato pieces to help it thicken, and I cooked it, uncovered for about a half hour, stirring often. Then I returned the meatballs to the sauce to keep hot.

At a simmer, you can cook meatballs for a looooong time, longer than the 2-3 hours, if necessary, and of course, you can make them in the crockpot, but my crock is cracked. Make sure you have plenty of extra Parmesan for garnish and mozzarella if making subs.

To reheat the next day, let the meatballs and sauce come to room temperature, or heat slightly in the microwave, before heating on the stove at a low temperature or simmer. I don’t like to heat them completely in the microwave, which seems to have a toughening effect on meat.

Spicy-Sweet Ham Loaf

The spices really make this meatloaf—don’t skip them.

I have lots of recipes handwritten on slips of paper. Today, I would just be bookmarking them on a device. I remember where some of them came from, but not all. I used to watch the cooking shows on the local PBS station, most memorably, Nathalie Dupree’s New Southern Cooking, Marcia Adams’ Amish Cooking from Quilt Country and Heartland Cooking, and Julia Child’s The French Chef, Cooking with Master Chefs and bits and pieces of most of her other series when available. This was long before the 24/7 availability of cooking channels but most of them were available when there were VCRs. I used to tape the shows as I watched them, so I could go back and write down recipes, stopping the tape to let my writing catch up. I suppose some other recipes could have been copied from the so-called women’s magazines. What can I say? I have a long interest in home cooking. It’s too bad more people have not learned how to cook and are left to rely on pre-packaged food or eating in fast food restaurants all the time. Cooking from scratch can be much more economical.

I’m not sure where this great recipe came from. It sounds like something Marcia Adams would have created, but it’s definitely not her upside down ham loaf that is all over the web. I generally did not elaborate on instructions, which mostly works out, but sometimes it leaves me scratching my head and improvising.


I only made one  addition and one change to the recipe. The only ground pork I could find was reduced fat—fat is the whole reason you use pork!—so I added 1 tablespoon of bacon fat that I had waiting in the fridge for just such an occasion. The other change had to do with that oddly inserted line, 2 T lemon. Lemon what? Juice? Zest? Both seem like odd additions, and the line looks like it was squeezed in. Well, I didn’t have any lemons, but I have a jar of dried Valencia orange peel, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of that. I don’t know if it made a difference, but it didn’t hurt.

Spicy-Sweet Ham Loaf

  • Servings: about 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 375°


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground cooked ham
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (I used soft crumbs from fresh whole wheat bread)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel or fresh citrus zest from one orange or lemon (adjusted from mystery ingredient in original recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon bacon fat or lard if your meats are too lean
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (not in original recipe)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (not in original recipe)


Mix all ingredients and shape into loaf in large baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for about one hour or until center registers about 160°. Baste with sauce (below) for the last half hour. Remove from oven to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Basting Sauce

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring all to boil in small saucepan. It is  not a thick glaze, but it does glaze the loaf with frequent basting, plus some of it soaks in at the bottom. Pour over enough to cover the loaf after the first half hour of baking, then baste the loaf every 10 minutes thereafter, using up the rest of the mixture. You might go over the baking time with opening the door so often. This sauce makes a splattered mess of your baking dish, but it washes right off in the dishwasher.

Savory Pheasant Meatballs

Eventually, I’ll try Asian and Swedish meatballs with all the pheasant in the freezer, but for this first batch, I’m just making a simple savory meatball with a mushroom cream gravy, so I can focus on both the texture and flavor of the pheasant. Later, I’ll think about matching other flavors with it.

Meatballs are as easy and sometimes as frustrating as making meatloaf. They can be dry if you don’t get the proportions of the added ingredients right. Dry bread crumbs, soft bread crumbs, egg or no egg, milk or stock, fat in the form of some kind of pork—these are what you try to figure out in getting the right mixture for a tender meatball. And then you have to decide if you want to bake or fry or braise them, and how that choice affects the result. I hope I’m choosing the right ingredients and method of cooking, because I don’t really want this first attempt to be a failed test.

I ground the boneless breasts of 5 pheasant—they’re not very big—and it looked like about 1.5-2 pounds of meat (yes, I need to buy a scale). I bought 1 pound of ground pork to add and did add the whole pound in the end. Some recipes for poultry meatballs add ground bacon or pork belly. I would not know where to get pork belly and I didn’t want the smoky flavor of bacon to take over, so I went with plain ground pork. Aside from onion, garlic, and parsley, the only other flavoring I used was a tablespoon of  Worcestershire sauce, which I think will add to that savory taste I’m going for.

We thought the meatballs turned out moist and flavorful, but I think I might try the braising method with the next meatball recipe instead of turning on the oven.

Savory Pheasant Meatballs

  • Servings: about 28 large meatballs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 200° to keep meatballs warm while you make the gravy or 350° if you want to finish cooking them in the oven.

Make the Meatballs

2 lbs ground pheasant (or chicken or turkey)

1 lb ground pork

4 small slices (about 4 oz) white bread, torn in pieces

1/2 cup milk for soaking bread (most will be thrown away)

1 medium onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 egg

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

olive oil for sautéing

  1. Place torn bread in bowl with milk and soak for about ten minutes. When ready to add to meat mixture, squeeze out milk and just add moistened bread. Reserve the milk until you see if your mixture needs it.
  2. In large bowl, combine meats, onion and garlic, egg, parsley, soaked bread, and seasonings. You can sauté the onion and garlic first and add after it has cooled—I did not, today. Mix with hands or a large meat fork to distribute the ingredients well without overmixing. I have seen meatball recipes that ask you to beat the meat mixture for 5 minutes in a stand mixer, but that goes against everything I’ve heard about how too much mixing makes meatballs or meatloaf tough.
  3. Form meat mixture into meatballs. Mine were a little larger than golf balls, maybe two large tablespoonfuls each. I didn’t want to be rolling and browning meatballs all evening. Smaller ones would, of course, cook more quickly by sautéing , and is probably a good idea if you plan to cook them on the stovetop. Trying to sauté large meatballs until done in the center would take a long time. Here’s what I did:
    1. Over medium-high heat, sauté meatballs in batches in olive oil in large frying pan until browned on all sides. Give up on them remaining perfectly round and accept that you will have some flat sides. Remove browned meatballs to parchment-lined baking pan.
    2. Place browned meatballs on baking pan in 350° oven for about 15-20 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness—I think 150°-160° is plenty for these little balls that will continue to cook after removing.
  4. Place meatballs in gravy just to coat. Another alternative to finishing the meatballs in the oven would be to add them to the sauce ingredients before thickened, and braise, covered, for about 10 minutes after browning.

Serve with sauce (below) alone or with noodles.

Make the Mushroom Cream Gravy

6 oz small mushrooms, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup half and half, plus more to thin sauce as needed

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) all-purpose flour

salt & pepper to taste

  1. While the meatballs are finishing in the oven, or after they have browned and are waiting to be braised, brown the sliced mushrooms in the same pan, adding more olive oil, if needed.
  2. Stir in the flour until combined. Ideally, you want to have equal amounts of fat and flour to thicken the sauce.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock until combined.
  4. Stir in the half and half and continue stirring until thickened.
  5. Optional: If you are braising the meatballs, do that before thickening the sauce, then thicken with the flour mixed with enough water to remove any lumps.