Friday, January 8, 2010

A meatball, is a meatball, is a meatball

I was into making meatballs for a couple of weeks, because I went to the market, and nothing really appealed to me except the 'ground turkey thigh meat' I bought a pound of it not knowing what the heck I was going to do with it. There it sat in my fridge for about 2 days (Sometimes I buy food that I don't need right away because I like buying food! Heck, I just like buying stuff!) Anyway, I knew I had to do something with it, or throw it in the freezer for another time....what do you do with ground meat?

Ground meat. Good Lord, the only meat I ever bought before I knew how to cook was ground beef.....seriously, that's it. I'm searching my memory....oh, OK, maybe some chicken...but I didn't know how to cook it...OK, I didn't know how to cook ground beef either, I just dumped it in a non-stick pan and cooked it to death, I'd add some jarred spaghetti sauce, then I'd add some over cooked, under salted, spaghetti noodles (that's before I called it "pasta", lol), and voila....dinner. (do hot dogs count as meat?)

But the one "recipe" I always, kinda, knew (and still use), was my mothers meatloaf. Plain and simple;

ground beef (2 lbs...why make meatloaf if you not going ot make a BIG one, lol)
egg (1 or 2 I don't remember)
oatmeal (no specific kind, like "old-fashioned", or "quick", but at least 1 cup)
ketchup (I go by "look", but probably 1/2-3/4 c....not tomato sauce, but good 'ol ketchup)
salt and pepper (maybe pepper! But at least 1 1/2 teaspoons of

Form into a loaf and bake in oven for 30-45 minutes @ 375-ish until done. (use an insta-read thermometer and bake until 165 degrees)

It's amazing how many people I talk with about food, and their mothers basic meatloaf recipe is always similar! My aunt Virginia used to create these "ditches' with her fingers in a diagonal pattern on the top of her meatloaf and actually fill them in with extra ketchup! (I copied her "fancy technique")

The only changes I make in this original recipe is....I add veggies now! I start with a minimum...onion. Diced celery, diced stems of any greens I may use, mushrooms, jalapeno (of course!), and sometimes greens like chard sliced into thin strips, etc. I saute the diced veggies, and the add the greens if I'm using them, let them cool, and add to the meatloaf mixture. I almost always use a combination of beef, pork and veal, ground meats.....but I don't trip on any details......


Back to meatballs....speaking of details. Meatballs are simply small meatloaf, aren't they? I think so! So how do you make meatballs? Well, let's look at the basic ingredients:

Meat.....ground. Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, sausage, what else is there? Whatever it is it'll work...don't trip!

A "binder". Usually and egg....or two

A "filler". Oatmeal, breadcrumbs, (if you have breadcrumbs or know how to make them, then you already know how to cook, one buys breadcrumbs if they don't know how to use them!), cooked rice, barley or some other grain (be creative), etc.

Some kind of tomatoey stuff! Ketchup, diced tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste (be careful with this one it's highly concentrated).

Salt (and pepper...if you like pepper). I use 1 t. of kosher salt per pound of meat. Sea salt and regular iodized salt is more concentrated, so I would use slightly less.


A few tips....

Don't "overwork your meat". In otherwords, the less you "stir" the better. Get your ingredients incorporated with as little mixing as possible, or it will make your meat tough. Use your hands!

Let meat come closer to room temperature before you mix it and it will be easier to NOT overmix. I always take my meat out of the fridge at leat 1 hour before I plan on cooking it, more like 2 hours....use you own judgement, but the colder the meat, the likelier you are to overcook it trying to heat it all the way through.

If you mess it up, then try again. Meatloaf and meatballs are hard to taste before they're cooked....because they're raw! But always use your own tastebuds to judge what needs to be adjusted. If you don't use enough salt this time, you can always add salt as you to them after they're cooked....but take note...add more next time.

Practice, pratice, practice! Whether it's meatballs, meatloaf....whatever "recipe" or cooking method you decide to try, you have to do it again right away, and as often as you have time or energy to! That's why I started this blogpost about how I was into making them for a couple of weeks. After the first time I tried, I did them again right away, and then again, and again. Each time slighlty differently because I made the adjustments I felt (and tasted!) that needed to be made.

The best recipe is one you don't need....and learning to make things based on knowledge you have from experience is the only way to cook without recipes. The only way to gain knowledge and experience is by doing something, repeating it, so often it becomes effortless....second nature.

How do you cook meatballs?

Well, once you form them into balls, there's a couple of things you can do with them.

1) Saute them in a pan until brown on all sides and add them to soups, pastas, sandwiches, etc. But this uses extra oil to for the browning process (browning adds extra flavor it's a trade off). Or you could simply...

2) Dump the formed meatballs into hot soups, or sauces cover with lid until meatballs are cooked through. This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes or so if your meatballs are about 1 1/2 inches diameter....if they're super huge, 2-3 inches then use common sense...they'll take longer! In fact if they're seriously big, then you may want to turn the heat back up, and cook them in near boiling soup or sauce.....make an adult decision, people!

3) Freeze them indivually and save them for another time.

I chose to dump the meatballs into my soup as not to add anymore calories/oil to my food. In fact with one batch of soup I used a 2 tbl scoop and never used my hands to form balls, I just used the scoop and dropped them into the soup.

PS If you chose to add diced veggies to your meatloaf/meatballs then sauteed red bell pepper is a nice addition, as is some red pepper flakes. Oh, and by the way....I am in NO way an expert on cooking.....I just cook....alot.

PPS The top picture I actually took the time to form balls, lol! The second picture is my bean and bacon soup w/ground turkey thigh meatballs and chard. The last picture is the same basic bean and bacon soup with collard greens and beef/pork meatballs. Of course I make my soup in the pressure cooker, but I didn't bother to form the meatballs into round balls, I just 'scooped' them into the boiling hot soup, replaced the lid and let them cook in the residual heat for about 5-10 minutes (the meatballs were already at room temp when I added them to the soup).

PPPS blogposts about food and recipes are THE most time consuming......that should give a clue as to my passion about homecooking. This blog is about food and eating as much as it is about anything.


Jen said...

YUM!!! Bean and bacon soup?! DOUBLE-YUM!

Thanks Tracy... I don't think I've thought about a meatball in a long time. Greg will love these ideas!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Since I know you have the blender to be all blenders....I used old fashioned oats in my meatballs (1 c.), but I put them in my blender to make them smaller....don't pulverize them, just grind them a little finer, lol!

Jen said...

Thanks Tracy... meatballs are on the menu this week :)

cathy b said...

I believe meatloaf was my first cooking venture with you and guess what I still enjoy making it. Always thinking of you.

Tracy Reifkind said...

Good God woman!

I was just thinking of you! You HAVE to get your HKC! Seriously! I'm participating in the February RKC to re-Cert, and I wish you were are not off the hook yet.

So here's the crazy thing.....I know your bodyweight when we were working together was about 142lbs. and how unhappy you were at the time. Well, guess what? I'm way over that bodyweight (not really, but close), and how I'm having to take my own advice these days to find, to FEEL, relief about the judgements about myself and the comparisons of what I used to be....or weigh...

I'm becoming a better person. I didn't realize I "asked" for it, but I did, and I'm grateful.

Anyway.....I remember the conversation we had about meatloaf, and I'm glad your kids will have "Mom's recipe" to pass on to their kids! Nothing like Mom's cooking!

cathy b said...

Hey you, I remember our talks and you know what I have to remind myself of a few things, but I am better for it. I know I'm not off the hook yet and as a matter of fact I need to get up to see you. I have to get my swings going since I am having shoulder problems and I can't do much of anything else like I use to. I will train but maybe for another cert. BTW Joe is leaving for a year to Saudi in April :( I'll email you soon if you don't mind. BTW they actually like it when I cook!!!!

Tracy Reifkind said...


We need to take a look at your shoulder problem, you're too young to have to be injured and it won't get better on it's own.

When you have time, email the details of how it started giving you problems, and where is the pain exactly, etc.

I have a habit of overtraining by doing exercises that aggravate my shoulders and traps, and if I don't do the rehab, then I can't train....and I can't have that now can I? (neither can you!)

So if Joe is leaving, are you staying here in CA?