Posts Tagged ‘ground beef’

My dad’s funeral was a year ago yesterday, and I can’t help but imagine what he’d be saying in these crazy times. Hell, if he had died this year, would we even be allowed to have a funeral? If he were here, I would probably be steering him toward Alton’s live YouTube cooking videos he’s been doing alongside his wife. These videos are sort of like the “Pantry Raid” series within Good Eats, as Alton and his wife raid their pantry to assemble a dinner on a particular evening during our quarantine. We have sort of been cooking in a similar manner; for tonight, I decided to feed my sourdough starter, so I’m also making sourdough pizza crust that we’ll top with some frozen sauce and whatever toppings we have on-hand.

If you happen to have meat you need/want to use up, the recipes from the 136th episode of Good Eats could be suitable to make during this time. Both of the recipes in this episode are for meatballs and make enough to serve a family, likely with some leftovers. For the two of us, we were able to get at least two dinners out of both of these recipes.

Baked Meatballs

Alton’s baked meatballs are best mixed one day prior to eating, though you can get by with making them an hour before serving. Place the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:  1/2 pound ground lamb, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 t dried parsley, 1 1/2 t dried basil, 1 t garlic powder, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, 1 egg, 1/4 C bread crumbs, and 5 ounces of frozen spinach that has been thawed/squeezed.

IMG_1643(1)

Ground lamb, ground pork, ground beef, red pepper flakes, dried parsley, dried basil, garlic powder, Kosher salted, grated Parmesan, an egg, thawed frozen spinach, and bread crumbs in mixing bowl.

Using gloved hands, use your fingertips to thoroughly mix all of the ingredients. Refrigerate the meat mixture for 1-24 hours.

After chilling, portion the meat into 1.5 ounce portions, placing them on a parchment-lined sheet pan (Alton used a disher for this, but I just used my hands and my scale). When all of the meat has been portioned, roll the meat into balls with gloved hands.

IMG_1647(1)

Meat portioned into 1.5 ounce portions and shaped into balls.

Place 1/4 C of bread crumbs in a ramekin or small bowl and add a meatball, shaking the ramekin to roll the ball in the crumbs. Place the bread crumb-coated meatball back on the baking sheet and continue this process until all of the meatballs have been coated in crumbs.

IMG_1650(1)

Rolling meatballs in bread crumbs.

Set your oven to preheat to 400 degrees and place the meatballs in miniature muffin tin cups.

IMG_1652(1)

Crumb-coated meatballs placed in mini muffin tins to bake.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes.

IMG_1653(1)

Meatballs after baking.

Alton recommends serving his meatballs alongside pasta that has been tossed with olive oil, fresh herbs, and Parmesan, so that is how we enjoyed our meatballs.

IMG_1658(1)

Alton’s baked meatballs served over pasta with olive oil, fresh herbs, and Parmesan.

These meatballs are excellent. The combination of meats results in meatballs that are extra flavorful and not overly dense; I like the subtle gamey flavor that comes from the lamb. Rolling the meatballs in the breadcrumbs gives the meatballs a little extra crunch, as opposed to just adding the breadcrumbs as a filler. Normally, when cooking meatballs on a baking sheet, they sit in puddles of fat and end up with flat bottoms. Baking the meatballs in the mini muffin tins is genius because the meatballs sit above the fat as it drains away, and the meatballs retain a perfectly round shape. I plan to use mini muffin tins whenever I make baked meatballs in the future. This is one of those simple, classic recipes that Alton has just made better.

Swedish Meatballs

I recall my mom making Swedish meatballs sometimes when my parents would host parties. My parents had an old chafing dish that I’m sure belonged to one of their mothers, and which now resides in our basement. My mom would set out a small dish of toothpicks with those decorative cellophane curls on one end, and guests would stab and nibble to their heart’s content. My mom’s Swedish meatballs were pretty darn delicious, and I’m guessing her recipe may have come from The Joy of Cooking, though I’ll have to ask her to be sure. My brother happened to give me a new copy of The Joy of Cooking for Christmas (I also have my parents’ old versions), so I compared their recipe to that of Alton, and I can attest that they are incredibly similar. In this time of social distancing, why not whip up a batch of these meatballs to enjoy alongside a “quarantini” or three? It is, after all, the weekend.

To make Alton’s Swedish meatballs, tear two pieces of white sandwich bread into chunks and place them in a bowl. Pour 1/4 C of milk over the milk and toss to coat. Set the bread aside to soak.

Sweat 1/2 C of onion in 1 T clarified butter (Alton explained how to clarify butter in his mushroom episode), adding a pinch of Kosher salt.IMG_1616 Next, put 3/4 pound ground chuck in the bowl of a stand mixer, along with 3/4 pound ground pork, the milk-soaked bread from earlier, the onion, two egg yolks, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/4 t allspice.

IMG_1618(1)

Ground chuck, ground pork, soaked bread, sauteed onion, egg yolks, Kosher salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice in bowl of stand mixer.

Using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on medium for two minutes.

Using a scale, portion the meat into one ounce portions, rolling them lightly with gloved hands and placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

IMG_1627(1)

Meat portioned into 1 oz balls.

If you have an electric skillet, set the skillet to 250 degrees and add 2 T clarified butter. If you do not have an electric skillet (I don’t), you can use a large skillet over medium heat. Either way, add the meatballs to the pan, turning them often with tongs until they are cooked through, which should take 7-10 minutes; you may need to do this in batches.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to an oven-proof casserole dish. Cover the dish and place it in a warm oven while you make the sauce.

IMG_1633(1)

Cooked meatballs transferred to casserole dish to keep warm in oven.

Sift 1/4 C flour over the juices in the pan and stir it in. Add 3 C beef broth and 1/4 C heavy cream, and increase the heat. Bring the liquid to a simmer and continue to let the sauce simmer until it has thickened, keeping in mind that the sauce will thicken more as it cools.

When the sauce has reached your desired consistency, add the warm meatballs back to the sauce.

IMG_1639(1)

Meatballs added back to sauce.

Place the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish if you plan to serve them over a long period. Of course, if you do not have a chafing dish, Alton has you covered with a method of making your own. First, set down three strips of shelf liner, forming a triangle shape. Next, place a brick on top of each piece of shelf liner, forming a triangle of bricks. Place a fuel can in the center of the brick triangle and place a second layer of bricks on top of the first; the second triangle should face the opposite direction of the first triangle. Light the fuel can and place a water-filled cake pan on top. Place a pie plate full of Swedish meatballs so it nests in the water, and you have a chafing dish. We ate these meatballs as our dinner for a couple nights, eating them with some side dishes.

IMG_1641(1)

Alton’s Swedish meatballs.

While this recipe did remind me a great deal of my mom’s, I wish I had cooked the sauce a little longer, as my sauce was a little thinner than I would have preferred. Still, the sauce was very rich from the pan juices and the cream, and the nutmeg and allspice in the meatballs gave hints of warmth and spice . Swedish meatballs are not the prettiest food, but they are rich little morsels and a great contribution to any potluck… or quarantine happy hour.

The 21st episode of Good Eats features recipes on beef, specifically ground beef. What meat eater doesn’t like ground beef? The fun part about the recipes in this episode is that Alton shows you how to grind your own meat at home. When you buy ground beef at the grocery store, it is composed of all of the leftover meat trimmings, which means that the consumer is really not sure where their meat is coming from. Conversely, by grinding your own beef at home, you know exactly what part of the cow you are eating. Alton explains that there are really three good ways to grind your own meat; you can use a meat grinding attachment on a stand mixer, an old-fashioned hand grinder, or a food processor. For these recipes, Alton uses the latter. It had honestly never really occurred to me to grind my own meat, and especially not with my food processor, so this was a fun experiment for me to try.

Burger of the Gods

The first recipe Alton tackles is for a classic burger. For this recipe, you want half of your meat to be chuck and the other half to be sirloin.

Sirlon and chuck, ready to grind at home.

Sirlon and chuck, ready to grind at home.

Since chuck is about 30% fat, it is ideal for blending with lean meats like sirloin. To begin, you want to trim your meat of any visible fat or tough connective tissue. My meat needed very little trimming. Once trimmed, you cut your meat into 1 1/2″ cubes. For grinding, you want your meat to be chilled. My meat was still cold after I trimmed it, so I began grinding right away. You want to process your meat in small batches, using short pulses. I found that putting eight ounces of trimmed meat into the processor was the perfect amount of meat for one batch, so I only had to do a total of two batches. Alton tells you to pulse the processor about 10 times for perfect burger meat. I ended up doing about 15 pulses for mine, and it seemed to be just about right. FYI Alton tells you to pulse meat about six times for perfect chili meat.

Sirlon in the food processor.

Sirlon in the food processor.

Ground sirloin, after ~15 pulses.

Ground sirloin, after ~15 pulses.

Ground sirloin.

Ground sirloin.

Chuck, ready to be ground.

Chuck, ready to be ground.

Ground chuck.

Ground chuck.

Once your meat is ground, you lightly mix it with your hands in a bowl. At this point, you can use the meat right away, or you can refrigerate it for a day or two.

Ground chuck and sirloin.

Ground chuck and sirloin.

When ready to use your meat (I used mine right away), add some Kosher salt and mix it in gently with your hands. Alton stresses that salt is all the seasoning you need for a perfect burger.

Ground meat, plus salt.

Ground meat, plus salt.

For a perfectly sized burger patty (4″ x 3/4″), weigh five ounces of meat. Lightly toss the meat between your two hands, forming it into a ball, and then flatten the meat into a patty. You do not want to compress the meat too much, as this will kill its texture.

Lightly formed patties.

Lightly formed patties.

When your patties are all formed, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until water sizzles and bubbles away, about two minutes.

Cast iron skillet.

Cast iron skillet.

Cook your burgers for four minutes per side if you want a medium-rare burger. Cook for an additional minute per side to get a medium burger.

Burgers in the pan.

Burgers in the pan.

Burgers flipped after 4 minutes.

Burgers flipped after 4 minutes.

Though this may conflict with every burger you have ever seen being cooked in an American diner, Alton informs you that you should, under no circumstances, smash your patty with a spatula while it is cooking. Patty smashing only serves to get rid of the good juices you want in your burger. Alton’s other rule for burger cooking:  flip burgers only one time. Once your burgers are cooked to your desired degree of doneness, let them rest for a minute or two before eating.

Resting burgers.

Resting burgers.

In the episode, Alton begs you to serve your burgers his way, which is on a toasted bun with only some mayonnaise and freshly ground pepper. I complied with his request.

Bun adorned the Alton way, with only mayo and pepper.

Bun adorned the Alton way, with only mayo and pepper.

We ate our burgers with French fries on the side. The texture of the beef was great, as the burgers stayed moist and were not overly dense. Unfortunately, my burgers were a little overcooked, which I think was due to my burner being a little too hot from the French fries cooking simultaneously below.

Burger with fries.

Burger with fries.

Still, though, the burgers were flavorful and juicy. I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise, so I was skeptical about eating my burger with only mayo and pepper. I do have to say that the meat flavor really stood out and was complimented by the spice of the pepper and creaminess of the mayo. I do think that we sometimes overwhelm the basic flavors of the meat itself by piling on a lot of condiments. Really, though, it’s just about what you like, right? This burger recipe was a winner. Grinding the meat at home really took very little extra time and effort, though it is a bit more expensive to do so. If you want to treat yourself to a good burger at home, it is worth the expense to grind your meat. Plus, you’ll know exactly what you are eating, which is a bonus.

Good Eats Meatloaf

The second recipe in this episode is for meatloaf. I really like meatloaf, especially at this time of the year. Like the burger recipe, this recipe uses a food processor. The food processor I use belonged to my parents, and I’m fairly sure it was a wedding present to them in 1974. You do have to keep your hand pressing on the lid or it will stop running, but it otherwise works just fine. To begin, you combine garlic-flavored croutons, black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, and dried thyme in the processor.

Garlic croutons, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, and thyme

Garlic croutons, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, and thyme

Grinding the crouton mixture in the food processor.

Grinding the crouton mixture in the food processor.

You want to process this until all of the visible crouton cubes are gone. This mixture then goes into a large mixing bowl.

The ground crouton mixture.

The ground crouton mixture, and Coonhound cameo.

Ground crouton mixture in mixing bowl.

Ground crouton mixture in mixing bowl.

Next, again in your food processor, you combine onion, carrot (no need to peel), garlic, and bell pepper.

Bell pepper, carrot, onion, and garlic.

Bell pepper, carrot, onion, and garlic.

He is NUTS for carrots.

He is NUTS for carrots.

Catching his carrot piece.

Catching his carrot piece.

Veggies in the food processor.

Veggies in the food processor.

You want to process the vegetables until they are finally chopped, but you do not want to puree them. Once chopped, the veggies go into the bowl with the crouton mixture.

Chopped veggies.

Chopped veggies.

Veggies in the bowl with the croutons.

Veggies in the bowl with the croutons.

Next, into the food processor goes your meat. Just like with the burger recipe, you want to use 50% chuck and 50% sirloin that you have trimmed and cubed.

Sirloin and chuck to be trimmed and ground.

Sirloin and chuck to be trimmed and ground.

I had to do a bit more trimming with this meat than for the burgers, so it took slightly longer. I was still able to do my meat in two batches, pulsing about 15 times.

Sirloin in the food processor.

Sirloin in the food processor.

Sirloin after ~15 pulses.

Sirloin after ~15 pulses.

Chuck in the food processor.

Chuck in the food processor.

Once your meat is ground, you add it to the bowl with the other ingredients, along with some Kosher salt and one egg.

Both ground meats added to the veggies and croutons, along with salt and an egg.

Both ground meats added to the veggies and croutons, along with salt and an egg.

You want to use your hands to gently toss this mixture. Alton tells you not to squeeze the meat. Once everything is suitably combined, pack the meat into a loaf pan, using a spatula.

The combined mixture after mixing with my hands.

The combined mixture after mixing with my hands.

Packed into a loaf pan.

Packed into a loaf pan.

Here is where Alton’s recipe differs from most meatloaf recipes, as you do not actually bake the meatloaf in the loaf pan. Instead, you turn the meatloaf out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, using the loaf pan simply as a mold. Alternatively, you could just shape the meatloaf on the sheet pan with your hands. Why does Alton not have you bake in the loaf pan? Cooking the meatloaf on a sheet pan allows the fat to escape while the heat gets in.

Turned out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Turned out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.

After baking for about 10-15 minutes, you want to brush a glaze onto your meatloaf. For the glaze, combine ketchup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (I used Tabasco, as did Alton), and honey. In the online recipe, the glaze calls for a teaspoon of ground cumin, though Alton used a whole tablespoon of cumin in the episode. I, or course, went with what he did in the episode.

Glaze ingredients:  ketchup, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and honey.

Glaze ingredients: ketchup, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and honey.

Finished glaze.

Finished glaze.

Meatloaf after 10-15 minutes in the oven.

Meatloaf after 10-15 minutes in the oven.

Glaze brushed on and back into the oven.

Glaze brushed on and back into the oven.

For his meatloaf, Alton uses a probe thermometer (set to 155 degrees), which he inserts into the center of the meatloaf at a 45 degree angle. I do not have a probe thermometer, so I simply checked the temperature of my meatloaf regularly until it reached 155 degrees. Confession:  my meatloaf’s temperature was a bit higher than 155 degrees when I removed it from the oven. Once you remove your meatloaf from the oven, be sure to let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Meatloaf after baking to 155 degrees (+).

Meatloaf after baking to 155 degrees (+).

We ate our meatloaf last night, alongside some steamed, seasoned broccoli. The meatloaf did crumble a bit when it was sliced, but it was far from dry. In fact, it was very moist in the middle with a nice crust from the glaze on the outside.

Meatloaf after resting.

Meatloaf after resting.

We both really liked the combination of spices used, and said we will likely use them again for any future meatloaf, even if we are not grinding our own meat. The cumin was the predominant spice, so those who do not like cumin may find this to be a bit overpowering. We, however, thought it was just right. The flavor was zesty, slightly spicy from the cayenne and hot chili powder, and sweet from the ketchup and honey. The meat flavor still came through, even with all of the spice, and the vegetables served to keep moisture in the meatloaf. If you are looking for a super flavorful, spicy meatloaf, give this one a try.