Thursday, February 24, 2011

(our) Allergen Free Meatballs (beef, corn, gluten, peanut & soy free)

A staple in our home is meatballs. I always have (home made) meatballs in the freezer. I usually do about 1/2 clean ground pork and 1/2 grass fed ground beef. Now that I'm allergic to beef I've been investigating meat alternatives and figuring out how to stock up on this heavily relied upon freezer staple.

I chose:
Pork because I was familiar with it as an ingredient.
Lamb for a little flavor and fat.
Ground chicken for extra meat but relatively neutral flavor.

I purchased clean (no antibiotics, no hormones, pastured piggies) ground pork and clean ground lamb at the market. I purchased whole organic chicken (boneless skinless) breasts and stuck them in the freezer. This morning I sent them through the "shred" attachment on my food processor. I don't have a meat grinder but because they were mostly frozen they went through cleanly and shredded quite nicely. I think that boneless skinless thighs would be fine as well but more difficult to shred because of the smaller size.

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground lamb
1 lb "shredded" chicken breast

2 eggs (I have heard that you can supplement ground flax seed & water for egg)
1/2 cup or so quick cooking oats {one can use traditional (NOT Irish!) oats but they should be ground or chopped prior to adding them to the meat.}

Onion Granules
Garlic Powder
Italian Season Mix from Cost Plus World Market

2-3 oz Plain Feta, crumbled
2-4 oz Parmesan, shredded

Drop all meat into large bowl (in my case I used a stand mixer with flat attachment but a large bowl and clean hands would work too). Mix until the meats are thoroughly combined. Dump in season & cheeses. Mix again until all is thoroughly combined. I then added one egg and mixed thoroughly to see how it would feel. I decided that for my preference I wanted a 2nd egg and some oats. Mix until everything is combined well and the meat clings to the mixer paddle.

Scoop onto cookie sheets. I use a hand held medium scoop and fill up the sheets. Then I use my hands to form them into a better ball shape.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit about 18-20 mins. (Baking them this long is baking them all the way through. If you want to finish baking them in a sauce prior to serving cut baking time in 1/2.) When you peek at them they should be paler than when they went in but browning and you should be able to hear a sizzle. Don't over bake. They are very low fat and will be tough, chewy and unpleasant. (Well I think they would be, thankfully I didn't have to experience this.)

I ate them hot off the pan to make sure they were delicious before baking my second batch. Ordinarily we eat them with pasta and tomato sauce but they are good for sandwiches and pizza topping also.

After the meatballs have been cooled completely, I always set aside several for the evening meal. Then I put the rest of them into a zip top freezer bag and drop them in our deep freezer. Typically I make meatballs about once every 6 weeks or so. When we use the last few I wait a few days or a week and start the process over again. This recipe yields approximately 48-50 medium (2 inch diameter) meatballs. It's very easy to double this recipe if one feeds more than 2 people at a time. I find that this is a good number to have on hand for the two of us for quick meals.

I think it's evident there is no beef. That being said they are delicious. I can't wait to get them soaking in marinara and onto my (rice) pasta tonight. I've eaten 3 fresh off the pan and I can taste a little lamb but it's very subtle. Neither pork or chicken stand out and I think once the balls are in a sauce or dish the lamb flavor will be concealed except that I know it's there.

Pictures are in order of preparation starting with the method I used to shred my chicken and working the way through the recipe to show the difference between "scooped" meat balls and "shaped" meat balls (there really isn't much difference but I'm particular). The in the oven shot is about 1/2 way through baking. The cookie sheet shot is just out of the oven and the final picture is of my first batch of meat balls cooling and waiting on the final 30 to arrive from the oven.

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