Comfort Meatballs

I mentioned in an earlier post that January’s gourmet club centered around the recipes of Pioneer Woman.  We had a great time (as always) and the food was absolutely delicious (again, as always!), but we narrowly avoided a meatball-overload catastrophe this time around.  It’s rare for the gourmet club members to have to worry about any duplication of recipes since we usually pick a type of food (Northern Italian, Mexican, Greek, etc.) and then pull our recipes from a variety of sources.  Choosing Pioneer Woman as our theme, though, left us with two primary sources: her cookbook and her Web site.  At a party the night before our meeting, the other members and I were chatting about what we planned to serve when we determined that the existing plan called for these meatballs as both an appetizer and an entrée.  Oops!  Although our guys pretty much loved the idea of meatballs with a side of meatballs, I decided to change up my appetizers a bit to avoid the repeat.  (I wasn’t about to get in the way of meatballs and macaroni and cheese for dinner, believe me.)  Plus, don’t things usually taste better when someone else makes them for you?

I didn’t mind giving up my plan since I had already experimented with the meatballs earlier in the week.  Since the work was done and the photos were taken, I could still share them here with you. 🙂  To make them, I started by combining 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, 3/4 cup of quick-cooking oats, 1 cup of milk, 3 tablespoons of finely minced onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (I used coarse), and ground black pepper (to taste) in a large bowl.  (Try not to overwork the meat so the meatballs stay tender.)  I portioned the mixture in heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet, formed them into balls, and placed the sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes.

While the meatballs were chilling, I made the sauce.  In a medium bowl, I combined 1 cup of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 3 tablespoons of white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire, 4 tablespoons of finely minced onion, and a dash of hot sauce.  (I used Cholula.)

After 5 minutes of chilling, I dredged the meatballs in plain all-purpose flour and transferred them to a plate.  Next, I browned them in batches in a large skillet (medium heat, 3 batches, 1 tablespoon of canola oil per batch) and transferred them to a glass baking dish.  (Mine is about 11 x 17 inches, but a 9 x 13-inch dish would work well.)  I poured the sauce over the meatballs, baked them (uncovered) at 350F for 45 minutes, and served them with Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits and green beans.

Comfort Meatballs

These weren’t the absolute best meatballs I’ve ever had, but they’re certainly good, solid, crowd-pleasing comfort food.  On one end of the spectrum, kids would probably love them (with really finely minced onion, of course); on the other end, you can dress them up and serve them with Fancy Macaroni for your foodie club.  They’re really more of a meatloaf-style meatball; I especially liked the tangy, slightly sweet sauce.  Since they’re super easy and could be prepared ahead, I would probably make them again.

TIPS:  I made my meatballs with 92% lean beef and my friend Katie made hers with 80% lean beef.  While they were already extra delicious because Katie made them for us, I have to admit they were tastier and more tender with the fattier meat.  Pioneer Woman would approve.

Recipe link: Comfort Meatballs

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