Decadent Bison Meatballs
Done poorly there's nothing worse than meatballs. Done well, they are little nuggets of heaven. Today, we're going to arm you with the tools you need to make the best meatballs you've ever tasted. Read on to find out the tips and tricks that will make you famous in your family for the best meatballs around. NOTE: Here's a little tip: If you put this in a bread pan instead of rolling it into balls, it's called meatloaf. Same ingredients, same technique. Ingredients: Ground Bison You can use as much or as little as you like. I suppose you could use beef in place of the bison, but why would you want to? Sausage If you're into the whole low fat thing, you could use turkey sausage, or something like that. If not, good old pork sausage is what you use. Use it in equal parts with the bison. Just to clarify, you can use whatever type of sausage you have (or whatever type of sausage your family and guests enjoy.) Many people like regular, old Jimmy Dean pure pork sausage. But you could use spicy sausage, or Italian spiced sausage. Whatever you have in your freezer will work fine. Bread You can use whatever bread you have. Typically, sandwich bread is used, but you could use artisan breads as well. Just remember we're only using the white part of the bread. Nobody wants to come across a big old piece of crust in a meat dish. Oh, and don't use whole wheat bread. Cooking concentrates the flavors and it overpowers the flavor of the meat. Use about 1 - 2 pieces of bread per pound of meat. Bread is an extender, so you don't want the bread to overpower the meat in any way. I like it best when you can't really tell if it has bread in it. One thing to consider if you're using Italian Sausage in your recipe: those spicy Italian croutons in the salad dressing aisle go great with both spicy and Italian sausage. Use the croutons from the package in place of the bread. Make sure you smash them up before mixing them with the meat. Eggs Use large eggs. Figure one egg per pound of meat. Nothing special here. Just garden variety eggs. Their function in the dish is to bind everything together so you have to have them, but you don't want to go crazy either. Just enough to hold everything together. Milk Again, don't fret about the milk. Just use whatever you have. Raw milk is nice, but skim milk or whatever you have in the fridge will work fine. If you're going out of your mind to make this a healthy dish, you could even use almond milk. Use about 1/4 - 1/2 cup per pound of meat. Onions Use a yellow onion (like a vidalia) and use one onion per pound of meat. They add a tremendous amount of flavor to your meatballs, so don't go short on the onions. Garlic This is one of those things where you use to taste. If you're one of those people who believe that garlic is one of the few things in the world you can't get too much of, use a couple of cloves per pound of meat. If you don't like garlic, don't put it in. Why would you do that? Spices If there's a particular spice you like, add some. If not, this will still have plenty of flavor from the sausage. Be sure whatever spice you add will go well with the fennel in the sausage. Not everything does. Salt Remember, the sausage has salt already, so you're really only salting the bison. Figure 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per pound of bison (not per pound of meat total, just per pound of bison used.) Pepper Freshly cracked black pepper is best. If you haven't bought a pepper grinder yet, pick one up! There's no substitute for freshly ground black pepper. Use pepper to taste. Hint: You can use more than you think. Instructions: Cut the bread (only the white part, remember?) into roughly one inch squares. Don't obsess over this and don't measure. Just chunk it up. Mince onions and garlic. You could leave the onions somewhat larger if you were inclined, but generally they are minced finely. In a mixing bowl add the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Then add the bread, milk and everything else. This is where it gets messy. Put your hands into the bowl (you have washed them recently, right? If not wash your hands before starting this step.) Mix all the ingredients together until they are well mixed. When in doubt, keep mixing. You want the bison well blended with the sausage, and you want the bread, eggs, and spices well distributed in the meat. So keep on squishing until everything is fully mixed together. Once you have things well mixed, pull off a piece of the mixture and roll it between your palms to make a ball. Size doesn't matter here. You're looking for a finished product that goes well with what you're using it in. For example, if you're thinking meatball subs, you don't want your meatballs to be any larger than about an inch to an inch and a half. Otherwise you have to cut them in half to put them on the sandwich. So just do whatever size you like, based on how you intend to eat them. Once the balls are formed, you can put them in a heavy bottomed pan with a little oil and go to frying. Use heat level appropriate to the size of your meatballs. If your meatballs are baseball size, and you try to cook on a high heat, you're going to have the outsides burned and the middle cold. Usually, a medium to medium low heat will work best. Turn the meatballs regularly. If they seem like they're sticking (and they might if you made them ultra lean) then use a spatula to "un-stick" them from the bottom of the pan before you try to turn them. When the meatballs are done, set them aside to rest on a plate with a paper towel while you cook the next batch, or get everything else ready. Don't be afraid to experiment with these meatballs. The most likely problem you'll have is you used insufficient spices and your meatballs are bland. The sausage mitigates that, but for most people, the biggest problem is bland meatballs. Don't be afraid to take a flyer. Cooking is supposed to be fun. Let us know in the comments section below what you're doing that makes yours special. And don't forget to try this recipe as meatloaf as well. It's pretty much all the same. Happy cooking!