We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Joan's Baked Meatballs (Gluten-Free and Paleo Versions)

by Michelle

   I inherited this recipe from my mother-in-law, Joan. Many years ago, when I learned that Joan's meatballs were not fried... well, I had an "aha" moment. Baking the meatballs in broth ensures tenderness. And guess what? It's incredibly easy to make a big batch of meatballs and leftovers are conveniently stored in the freezer. When you want to make meatballs with marinara, or perhaps even mushroom sauce, there is no need to defrost the meatballs ahead of time. Simply add meatballs to the sauce and heat slowly over a low flame.
   While the meatballs are reheating in the sauce, you can bake a spaghetti squash or boil water for pasta. My favorite gluten-free pasta is made by Bionaturæ®, which cooks and tastes like traditional pasta. If you need to prepare a meal for someone who is adhering to a gluten-free or Paleo lifestyle, and don't even know where to start... well, I've just solved your problem for you. Just about everyone loves a great meatball.

   Earlier this year when I committed to eating Paleo for a month while participating in a self-inspired Whole30 program, Joan's recipe made Paleo-style (with no breadcrumbs and no Parmesan cheese), was a lifesaver. The secret to gluten-free or Paleo-style meatballs is to swap seasoned mashed cauliflower for breadcrumbs. I read about this technique in Nom Nom Paleo's cookbook by Michelle and Henry Tam. Now before you cringe and say, "Oh yuck, " rest assured that the cauliflower flavor is not even remotely detectable in the meatballs.
   If anyone could taste cauliflower hidden in food, it would be be husband Jay, who pretty much dislikes cauliflower altogether. When we talked about completing a second round of Whole30 this month, Jay asked how we could accomplish our goal and avoid eating as much cauliflower as we did the first time around when I over did making faux-rice, faux-potatoes, and faux-bagels (yes, all made with cauliflower) with varying degrees of success. Rest assured, if Jay gives this recipe two thumbs up, the cauliflower is not detectable. These meatballs are moist and tender and I think you and your family and friends will adore them as much as we do.

Joan's Baked Meatballs (Gluten-Free and Paleo Versions)

   I altered Joan's recipe to swap faux-tatoes (mashed cauliflower) for the breadcrumbs. When I was making traditional meatballs, I would prepare homemade breadcrumbs from leftover French bread or plain sourdough bread. Simply remove the crusts from bread, cube and whirl in a food processor until the result is fine bread crumbs. Fresh bread crumbs can be frozen and used for Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, or Chicken Roulade with Sweet and Spicy Orange Sauce.
   The ingredients list calls for a number of fresh herbs. I very much like adding the fresh herbs, which all grow in my garden except Italian parsley. An easy alternative to adding the fresh herbs is to add two tablespoons Pesto and twos teaspoons dried Italian herbs.
   The meatballs are great served with steamed zoodles (strands of green or yellow zucchini), spaghetti squash, or pasta (of course). My favorite gluten-free pasta is made by Bionaturæ®. The sauces that I prefer with meatballs are Basil Pesto, Mushroom, Garlic Butter and, of course, marinara, especially Roasted Heirloom Marin-ara. If you prefer your meatballs in soup, you must try Sopa de Albondigas.... so delicious... it's definitely a family favorite across all generations!
   I also enjoy a leafy green salad alongside pasta and meatballs, such as Salad of Leafy Greens with Joan's Vinaigrette or a Rockin' French Salad with French Vinaigrette. And, the final component to this meal, if you are glutening-it-up, is to remember to make the Garlic Bread.

Faux-tatoes are fluffy just like mashed potatoes.
1 head cauliflower, leaves removed, cored and cut into similarly sized pieces
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsps unsalted butter (for gluten-free), or ghee or rendered bacon fat (for Paleo)
1 tsp sea salt
a few grinds freshly ground black pepper
a pinch ground nutmeg

3 extra-large eggs, scrambled with a fork
1/2 cup filtered water
1 small onion, minced
1 cup mashed cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (omit for Paleo)
1/3 cup minced basil
1/3 cup minced fresh Italian Parsley
2 Tbsps minced thyme
2 Tbsps minced oregano
2 Tbsps minced rosemary
2 tsps sea salt (1-1/2 tsps if using Parmesan cheese)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 pounds ground beef, or 1-1/2 pounds ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork

high-heat oil for greasing cookie sheet(s), such as melted ghee, coconut or avocado oil
about 1 to 1-1/2 cups chicken broth per cookie sheet

rimmed baking sheet(s)
small ice cream scoop for uniform portioning of meatballs, optional
a Food Processor is an ideal tool for making Faux-Totatoes

Yield: ~45 "walnut-sized" meatballs, your mileage may vary.

1. To make the the Faux-Totatoes: Steam cauliflower and garlic for 10 to 15 minutes until the cauliflower can easily be pierced with the tines of a fork. Transfer cauliflower and garlic to the bowl of a food processor that is fitted with a steel blade. Add butter or ghee, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn on food processor and run for about 90 seconds. The cauliflower should have the texture of mashed potatoes. Process a little longer, if the cauliflower is too chunky.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and then add beef, or beef and pork. Use your fingers to gently break apart the meat and lightly mix with all the ingredients... get your hands dirty! Seriously, your hands are your best tools for this mixing job. Once thoroughly combined, cover and let the mixture rest for a couple of hours in the refrigerator (or all day), to allow the flavors to develop.
3. Adjust a rack to sit in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
4. Oil a large baking sheet. I like to employ a small ice cream scoop to make uniform sized meatballs. Then, use wet hands to shape the mixture into round meatballs, about the size of a golf ball. Place the meatballs on the tray without touching. Add the broth to the tray, evenly distributing the liquid across the pan.
5. Transfer the tray to the oven and decrease heat to 425°F. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
6. Leftover meatballs should be placed on a tray and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to a freezer Ziplock. Seal and store. For easy weeknight meals, remove the number of meatballs needed... figure 2 to 3 per person. Place meatballs in marinara and slowly heat over low to medium flame until hot.

For this dinner, I tossed the pasta with herbed garlic butter
and served meatballs in marinara on the side.

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