The days are longer and brighter, with the promise of spring in the air; this is the time of year when many of us seek out creative ways to use the stash in the freezer to make room for a new season of fishing and foraging ahead.
This week, after roasting last summer's salmon with bright notes of Meyer lemon and pickling wild blueberries, I tried my hand at making the most of ground moose from my neighbor's hunt. Combined with some local beef from Butcher Block 9, these tender, juicy meatballs with hints of ginger, soy and garlic make for an easy weeknight dinner or a stand-and-snack appetizer for weekend guests.
You can form them into patties for sliders or serve them in lettuce wraps for a lighter bite. They're also good over a bowl of steamed quinoa, rice or creamy mashed potatoes. If the meat you're using is particularly lean, you can always add some minced prosciutto or bacon into the mix.
Moose and beef meatballs
Makes 20 to 22 meatballs
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 to 5 medium cloves)
One (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated
3 to 4 tablespoons minced green onion (about 4 green onions), plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, homemade or Panko
1 pound ground moose (or pork or veal)
1 pound ground beef or elk
Vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil, if pan frying
For serving: Slider buns, lettuce leaves, steamed rice
1. In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, green onion, black pepper and whisk to combine. Add the orange juice, egg and breadcrumbs, ground meat and mix just to combine all the ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator, 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
2. If baking, heat oven to 425 degrees. Form the meat mixture into approximately 22 meatballs or patties and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake, flipping the meatballs halfway through the cooking time, until browned and cooked through but still tender and moist, about 22 to 24 minutes.
If cooking on the stove top, heat about 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add some of the meatballs, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until meatballs start to brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Gently turn and cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until meatballs are just cooked through and still tender. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Serve the meatballs with any of the pan juices. Garnish, if desired, with more sliced green onion.
3. NOTE: If making sliders and adding cheese, top patties with cheese about 2 minutes before cooking time is over. Toast the slider buns, top with patties and your favorite toppings. Or, serve meatballs with lettuce leaves and rice, or on top of rice bowls.