Sunday, September 13, 2009

Easy Slow Cooker Meatballs

This is a tale of two meatballs. I made two separate and very different meatballs last weekend. One was great; the other I tinkered with too much and it turned out to be edible, but not tasty.

The good meatballs are the ones I made in the slow cooker. It's your basic Italian-style meatball in a huge amount of tomato-based sauce. It's great for sopping up using a crusty garlic bread. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

The ingredients were:

1) ground beef
2) Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3) chopped fresh parsley
4) minced garlic
5) onion
6) egg
7) spaghetti sauce
8) crushed tomatoes
9) tomato puree

Changes That I Made:

I made a few minor changes, based on what I already had on hand. I used ground turkey that I had in the freezer, instead of buying ground beef. I had a 2 pound pack and the recipe only called for 1 lb, so I just eyeballed it. I probably used a bit less than that actually, because the meatballs had a very dry feel to them. The meat-to- bread crumb ratio was low. I actually liked it, because the meatball mixture didn't feel, well, as slimy as these things normally do. I bought regular bread crumbs and mixed in, oh, about 2 tbsp of dried Italian seasoning mix. I basically just kept adding the seasoning mix until it looked right. I also used dried parsley instead of the fresh. My last substitution was using diced canned tomatoes instead of the crushed tomatoes. I considered buying tomato paste instead of the puree, as the paste was cheaper, but decided against it since I've never used tomatoe puree before and I wasn't sure how the texture compared to tomatoe paste. As it turned out, the difference is negligible...puree was just thinner than the paste. Good to know for the future. I did add salt and pepper to the meatball mixture; I learned a long time ago that meat without salt is a horrible thing to eat.

I must say, I don't think I make my meatballs correctly or maybe there was too little meat in these meatballs because they just fell apart when they were done. I ended up with a chunky meat-sauce after I stirred up the cooked dish. I was a bit disappointed, initially, because forming those little balls took some time. But in the end, it was a great sauce that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Part II: The Bad Meatballs

The other meatballs I made last week were doomed by too much tweaking. They're called "Tantalizing Turkey and Blue Cheese Meatballs." After eating them for a whole week, I would agree that these are really good, if made according to the recipe!

Sigh. I had every intention of following the recipe at the outset but as the preparation of the meatball mixture progressed, I started to get worried about how wet the mixture was. I'm having some trouble conveying exactly how wet this mixture was. Rather than holding it's shape in a rough ball, it oozed. The instructions call for 3 egg whites, 3 tbsp of oil, and 1 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce. That's nearly a 1/2 cup of liquid there. All for just one pound of turkey. I held back on adding the full amount of oil (I think I only added 1 tbsp). I was also alarmed by the amount of blue cheese the recipe called for, 3 tbsp. I mixed in two tablespoons and stopped there; it looked like a lot!

I shaped the meatballs with some trouble as they did not keep their shape well. I baked them in the oven and did something else while they cooked. The smell was encouraging and I couldn't wait to taste them. Imagine my disappointment when they were Dry and Bland. Ugh. Not a total waste but they definitely needed more oil and more blue cheese. I ended up eating them over macaroni noodles and adding more soy sauce for flavor. I will definitely make these again, in a few months, and follow the recipe the next time!

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