it just isn’t that good. i mean, i like it, but if i had to take my pick between a big fat juicy prime cut of steak or anything made of ground beef, i’ll let you guess which one i would end up with.
don’t get me wrong. i didn’t write this post to rip into ground meat with vengeance. i wrote this post because i totally understand people, like my girlfriend, who think it is gross and super shady. she dislikes ground meat for, as far as i can figure, two main reasons. first, nearly every food made out of ground meat has an unromantic, disgusting sounding name (e.g. meatloaf). second, by looking at it with the naked eye, you have approximately a 0% chance of determining what animal it is comprised of.
this post about my girlfriend’s metamorphosis from a ground meat hating caterpillar into a butterfly who enjoys well-prepared burgers, keema, and meatballs.
every time we went to the grocery store together and i picked up a package of ground meat, she would almost always retaliate with a “can’t we just get some chicken or fish?” or even the occasional “how about sashimi instead?” and i have to say, i almost always gave in. sashimi is so cheap and so tasty here, and just about any cut of chicken is superior in texture and flavor to ground meat.
but it started to weigh on me. i started to ask myself profound questions at night. what if i could never make a meat sauce again? what if i had to live the rest of my days without beef stroganoff? how could i look myself in the mirror without regularly making a triple hamburger with all the fixings? and why would i want to grow old if i could never again eat ravioli?
finally, weary of my sleepless nights, i decided to play the culinary gumshoe and dig a little deeper into her disdain for ground meats. there had to be a solution. luckily, the information i discovered cracked the case wide open.
my girlfriend hates ground beef.
and just like that, all those weeks of trouble and regret and apprehension melted away. she had developed a specific disdain for ground beef because of its weird plasticy texture and strange greasiness. but that disdain had somehow evolved into an umbrella of apprehension towards ground meat on the whole.
and so i set to work making all sorts of amazingly delicious foods chock-full of ground pork and ground chicken. kabocha cream keema. deep fried japanese spring rolls. shiitake pesto burgers. and when i got my hands on a new toaster oven, i made her some good old fashioned baked pork meatballs.
baked rosemary pork meatballs
- a can of cut tomatoes
- 350g of ground pork
- six cloves of garlic
- five stalks of green onion
- half a white onion
- fresh rosemary
- 1/4 tsp of oregano
- 1/2 tsp of dried powdered thyme
- 1/2 tsp of parsley
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 120g of ham
- black pepper
- 1/2 tsp of red pepper flake
- one egg
- japanese breadcrumbs (a.k.a. panko)
- peel and mince the onion and garlic. you might have to put in a little bit of extra work getting the mince super fine. big chunks of onion and garlic tend to make meatballs fall apart, so do your best to get rid of them. once minced, move them to a large mixing bowl.
- wash the green onions and shake as much water off them as you can. fold the stalks in half twice, and chop them as super finely. add them to the bowl.
- add the ground pork to the bowl.
- mince the ham. if you are using slices of ham, just continue chopping until it reaches about the same fineness as your garlic and onions. if you are using a piece of a whole ham, try to dice the ham into very small cubes. the cubes do a lot to improve the texture of these meatballs. once finished chopping, add the ham to the mix.
- throw in salt and pepper to taste. then, go nuts with the rosemary. i honestly believe that fresh rosemary is a spice that should never be used in moderation. the aroma rosemary provides (particularly to baked meat dishes) is like nothing else this world has to offer. sprinkle in your parsley, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flake.
- crack in the egg and start mixing with your hands. the mixture is going to be a little bit aqueous at first. if you try to form meatballs at this point, they’ll just deflate into a weird meat pancake as soon as you try to cook them.
- start sprinkling in panko a little bit at a time as you mix the meat with your hands. eventually, the texture will start to firm up. once the meat reaches the appropriate texture, form the meatballs.
- i tend to go for the giant meatballs because they look impressive on pasta. this recipe will end up making about six meatballs with a diameter of about two inches. once formed, set them on a plate.
- put a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and bring it to medium high heat. add the meatballs and brown them on all sides. once browned, put them in a deep baking pan or casserole dish.
- mix the can of tomatoes, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a little bit of salt, black pepper, and whatever fresh rosemary you have left over. ladle the mixture over the top of the meatballs. cover the pan or dish with two layers of aluminum foil, then pop the whole shebang in a toaster (or conventional) oven for about 45 minutes at 190°c.
- when finished, take them out of the oven and carefully place them on top of a dish of pasta or stacked in a shallow soup bowl. garnish them with a few ladlefuls of their sauce and any delicious grated cheese you have laying around the house.
note: as good as these are hot, they can be quite delicious when served cold. i know, i know. cold meatballs? you are crazy, poor man. when we end up with some extras, we like to slice the cold meatballs and eat them with bread, sort of like a head cheese sausage. they can also be paired with slices of cheese, fresh veggies, and softboiled eggs to make an awesome breakfast platter.