I’m a meatball fiend so I make these frequently, eating them as is, wrapped in lettuce leaves with good pickles, served as a party appetizer, and/or added to soups. (You know how I mentioned last week that I love crispy shrimp as a garnish for soup? Well, meatballs are a close second…I think you’ll like them too.) In addition to their undeniable deliciousness, meatballs can be made in big batches and frozen (reheat to your heart’s content for quick meals, snacks, and gatherings).
Adding a bit of chopped bacon to grass-fed ground beef is a nice way to keep meatballs (and burgers) from drying out (a trick I stole from chef Scott Pampuch years ago) with the bonus of a hint of smokiness. The kale and leeks add moisture too, as well as color and flavor, while the gelatin and starch add tenderness and act as binders (in lieu of bread and egg). I tend to just fry the meatballs, especially on a warm day, but if you’re making big batches, baking meatballs in the oven is a neat trick with tasty results.
We were so lucky to not have a rainy July 4th! I spent the day relaxing and celebrating with my sister Stacey. We decided to see a movie (Begin Again—I really enjoyed it) followed by an amazing dinner (oysters, langoustines, shrimp, arctic char) at the Sea Change raw bar, ending with a short stroll out onto the patio to catch the fireworks over the Mississippi River. It was a perfect day, fun and delicious and stunningly beautiful. I came home and slept like a rock. That’s what vacation is for: good food, fun with family, and lots of rest. I hope that you too found all three.
Beef, Bacon & Kale Meatballs
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 tablespoon grass-fed gelatin (optional)
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch (or tapioca starch or cornstarch)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, diced finely
1 cup finely chopped kale leaves
1 leek, washed and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, gelatin, arrowroot starch, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grind of black pepper. Using your hands, mix gently. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until fat is rendered but bacon is not browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to cool (retaining pan drippings). Return skillet to the heat.
Add kale and leek to the pan, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute until almost tender, 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to the ground beef (retain pan drippings; set pan aside). Add bacon to the ground beef and gently mix to combine. Roll mixture into 1-inch meatballs, setting on a baking sheet as you go.
Return skillet to the heat and fry the meatballs in the pan until browned on all sides. Serve hot, or cool to room temperature and freeze in plastic bags.