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November 12, 2007

Venison Meatballs? Brown With Care


Take a moment to ask yourself . . . what is the difference between meatloaf and a meatball?


Few have taken the time to strike at this mystery. Most who do get bored with the question, and leave it unanswered. To those brave few who labor on, the answer is this – one is meat in loaf form, and one is meat in ball form.


You may take this one step further and intuit that a meatball is a bite-sized meatloaf. All of the components are the same, you see, right down to the breadcrumbs that hold the things together.


There seems to be a misperception, however, that ground meat or ground turkey are the only meats proper to use. This is, of course, wrong. Any ground meat may be loafed or balled, including that of game animals.


Take, say, a pound of ground venison and mash it up with your hands. Add to that some breadcrumbs to bind it together, along with a beaten egg. You will perhaps want to also add some thyme and Worcestershire sauce for flavoring.


Once you have these things mixed together, form it into small balls and turn on a burner.


Here, a word of caution. You are about to brown the outside of these meatballs, which poses special problems. Ground venison is a very lean meat, and will cook very quickly. It’s advised that you lay down a layer of olive oil in the bottom of your skillet and not use too much heat, or else your meatballs will char on the outside and stick to the bottom of the pan (thus defeating the ball approach).


It’s also advised that you not brown too many meatballs at once, because what you have in the pan will require constant attention. To be forewarned on these matters is to be forearmed.


Once you have browned your meatballs, place them in the oven (preheated to 350 degrees) for a few minutes. Always keep in mind the lean nature of this meat, and that it can overcook quickly.


Perhaps 15 minutes will be enough to cook them all the way through. Perhaps, the question is this: I have balled meat . . . now what?


Drop a dollop of butter in the bottom of your skillet and scrape the bottom with a spoon to kick up some of the flavor left behind by the venison. Sauté mushrooms in the butter, salting them to release their earthy goodness – they are true fruits of the earth.


When softened, remove to a bowl, and add more butter and flour. Mix together, until a thick paste forms, adding beef stock as necessary for liquid. Return the mushrooms to the skillet, and allow to cook down to gravy consistency.


By now, your meatballs have cooked, and you may add the drippings from the bottom of the pan to the gravy for added flavor. Serve the meatballs and gravy over egg noodles, and consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to contend with a loaf’s worth of meat. 


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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