We’re on the final stretch of Grandmother Jane’s retro church cookbook recipes.
Last week, I prepared one of her easiest recipes, rice pilaf, and paired it with some meatballs I prepared by the seat of my pants. I’m trying to brace myself for those crab casseroles, fruit cake (as in the infamous Christmas fruit cake bricks), and chicken marengo.
I’ve made meatballs so many times. I don’t measure ingredients and add whatever strikes my fancy, but I’ll do my best to share my tried and true meatball tips. These meatballs simmered in a gravy seasoned with chipotle peppers and grainy mustard which may sound like a strange flavor combination, but worked well together.
We liked Jane’s rice pilaf, most especially the addition of the sauteed mushrooms. I took a number of liberties with her original recipe, though:
- I used less than a 1/2 stick of butter.
- I used basmati rice instead of Uncle Ben’s.
- I added beef broth instead of “2 cans of Campbell’s beef bouillon.”
- I cooked the pilaf in a saucepan instead of pouring it into a casserole dish and baking for an hour. I followed the method I typically use for rice and quinoa: Saute rice briefly in oil until it smells toasty, add twice as much water, stir, bring to a boil, cover, and steam on low.
Meatloaf/Meat Ball Tips
Keep leaner ground meat, like turkey, moist by adding sautéed vegetables. I especially like finely chopped onion, celery and mushrooms. To reduce the need for breadcrumbs, add an egg yolk instead of a whole egg. You can also soak fresh breadcrumbs in a little bit of milk or cream to add moisture to lean meat. Always cook a little bit of the mixture before forming the meatballs to test the seasoning levels.
1 lb ground beef
Mushrooms, a handful, finely chopped
2/3 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Worcestershire, a few dashes
Dijon, a couple squirts
Soy sauce, to taste
1/4 cup butter, olive oil, or combination
1/4 cup flour
Half and half or cream, a couple glugs
Chipotle Peppers, 2-3
Sugar, a pinch
Fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375℉.
- Sweat the mushrooms and onion in a little oil until translucent. Add garlic and briefly cook until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the cooled vegetables, egg, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, a squirt of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, a splash of milk and enough bread crumbs to bind. Take a pinch of the meat and cook so you can test the mixture for proper seasoning.
- Form into balls and bake on a sheet pan until golden brown, flipping part-way.
- While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. Begin by making a roux.
- Melt half a stick of butter in a large saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup flour, stirring constantly. Stop adding flour when the roux resembles the texture of wet sand. Since this a brown gravy, the roux can brown a little. Cook long enough to remove the raw flour flavor but do not burn.
- Add the stock and whisk. The gravy will thicken as it cooks. I gradually added about two cups. If it’s too thick, add more stock. If it’s too thin, you’ll have to reduce the sauce or made more roux and whisk it into the gravy.
- Flavor the gravy with mustard (I used grainy), garlic, soy sauce, chipotle peppers, salt, pepper, a little sugar, fresh parsley, and some half and half for creaminess. Get wild and crazy. You won’t go wrong if you keep tasting it as you go.
- Add the meatballs and juices from the baking pan and simmer.