I’ll admit to feeling some meatball envy last week at a friend’s house; she had ground moose meat and an oven. Her meatballs turned out delicious, and later in the week I just had to make some of my own; I had ground beef and my little camper stove top.
We’re fond of talking about how Alaska’s limitations can foster innovation and creativity — camp cooking is no exception.
A quick dig through my tiny pantry yielded some inspiration. I’m calling these Spanish meatballs, thanks to a generous amount of smoked paprika. And a shout out to my sister-in-law who gifted me a quart-jar full of lard for Christmas. (Yes, I used precious camper space to lug a quart of lard across the country.)
I am not a fan of binders in meatballs, mine never seem to need it. Normally I’d work some ground pork into the mix, but sometimes you just go with what you have on hand. I seasoned a pound of ground beef with about a tablespoon of smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, some salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a generous squeeze of mustard. Mix well, but gently — don’t over do it. You want to get everything combined, but no need to over mix.
I turned the pound of beef into 12 meatballs. No matter what size you opt for, try to get them approximately the same size so they cook evenly. When I was ready to cook, I got the lard nice and hot.
So hot that I set the smoke alarm off. Cooking in a tiny space can get loud.
If you’re worried about your seasoning choices you can always cook up a quick test meatball to double-check how you did. I’d definitely recommend that if you’re cooking for company or putting up a really big batch.
The meatballs hit the pan with a satisfying sizzle, and once they were browned on one side I flipped them, put the cover on, turned the heat off, and let them coast. They steamed in the pan for about 10 minutes and ended up perfectly cooked.
Food continues to cook after you stop cooking. Chefs call it “carryover cooking.” This means you should stop cooking food a bit before you want it done — especially meat — because its temperature is going to continue to creep up a bit (5, 10, even 15 degrees) after you’ve pulled it off the heat. Be especially aware of this with steaks — a perfectly cooked rare steak can turn into a medium-rare steak just sitting on a plate waiting for dinner to begin.
Back in the galley, I whipped up a quick batch of aioli (by pulling a jar of mayonnaise from the fridge) and added some chopped green olives and roasted garlic (thank you Fred Meyer olive bar). Spanish meatballs dipped in that tasty aioli and a big green salad made for a perfect summer dinner (plus plenty of leftovers for later in the week).
And, no more meatball envy.