Meatballs With A Surprise Inside…

My “Best Ever Meatballs” is my go-to recipe for an hors d’oeuvre but I wanted to experiment with a meatball recipe that could serve as a entree and not an appetizer. I definitely wanted them to taste differently from the appetizer version and I also wanted to have some fun with them. So I decided to make these meatballs and I think they’ll be my go-to entree recipe.

This is a great recipe for a variety of reasons. I love it because the meatballs are easy to make, they’re delicious, they cook quickly, the cheese inside is a delightful surprise and it makes great leftovers! I have to say I cheated when I made these, I used pre-made mashed potatoes instead of making them from scratch. But by doing that I could have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. So it was worth the short cut.

So let’s talk meatballs with a surprise…

ground beef mixtureLesson Learned 1 – It doesn’t take many ingredients to make the meatballs flavorful: basically you’re mixing the meat with an egg yolk, some panko, minced onion, worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard – that’s it. Combined with the cheese inside and the beef gravy you get flavorful meatballs without a lot of work! The key is to make sure you combine all of the ingredients but not over work the meat. If you do you’ll have tough meatballs and you don’t want that.

Cheese Inside the MeatballLesson Learned 2 – A little bit of cheese goes a long way: You can use any kind of good melting cheese in the center of your meatballs. I chose one called Buttrekase, a cheese that originated in Switzerland and now produced in Wisconsin. It’s American name is “butter cheese” although it has no butter in it. It melts luxuriously and has a mild buttery flavor. This was a perfect choice for these meatballs.

You will get approximately 15 meatballs out of one pound of ground beef. You don’t want your meatballs to be too big, maybe an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Make sure you cut pieces of cheese that are small enough to support a meatball that size. Then just take the meat mixture and wrap it around that cheese, pressing the meat together to try to minimize any holes. But don’t worry if cheese leaks out when you bake them. There will still be more inside.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t over bake your meatballs:  Although the meatballs look large, remember that there is a good amount of cheese inside them. So I would not bake them any longer than 15-18 minutes. Keep in mind you will also be simmering them for a few minutes in the gravy once you take them out of the oven, so they have plenty of time to get cooked through.

The amount of meatballs you get with a pound of ground beef.

This has got to be one of the easiest recipes ever and produces a great meal in a short amount of time. I love topping a mound of mashed potatoes with these meatballs and then drizzling the beef gravy on top. Add a sprinkling of fresh cut flat leaf parsley and you’ve got a meal that looks as good as it tastes. Enjoy!

MEATBALLS WITH A SURPRISE INSIDE...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS

(For The Meatballs)

1 pound 93% lean ground sirloin

2 Tbs. minced onion

1 egg yolk

3 Tbs. panko bread crumbs

1 Tbs. worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. dijon mustard

4 oz. good melting cheese (I used Butterkase cheese)

Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

(For The Sauce)

4 – 6  cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups beef stock, divided and unsalted

2 Tbs. corn starch

2 Tbs. ketchup

2 Tbs. worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a lipped baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Cut the cheese into about 15 small pieces. Combine onion, egg yolk, minced onion, bread crumbs worcestershire sauce and mustard until well combined. Add the ground beef and mix until just combined.

Divide the ground beef mixture into about 15 equal sized pieces. Flatten each piece, add a piece of cheese into the center and roll the meat around the cheese sealing it to the best of your ability.

Bake 15-18 minutes. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until tender (5-8 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (approx. 1 minute). Pour all but 1/4 cup of the beef stock into the pan. Mix the remaining stock with the cornstarch, making sure that the cornstarch is completely absorbed into the stock. Add that to the pan along with the ketchup and worchestershire sauce. Cook until thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

Take the meatballs out of the oven and add them to the sauce. Simmer them in the sauce for about 3 minutes. Serve warm.

Cooked onions and mushrooms

Simmer Meatballs In The Sauce

Meatballs With A Surprise

Meatballs With A Surprise Inside

Chicken Shepherds Pie…

After having made a delightful roast chicken (check out my roast chicken in a cast iron skillet recipe) I was faced with how to use the leftovers. Quite often I make a simple chicken salad consisting of cut up chicken, scallions, grapes, mayo and seasonings, but this time I wanted to do something different.

I’ve always liked the concept of shepherds pie. You basically take your leftover meat and mashed potatoes and create a pie that is oh so good – the true definition of comfort food. Most recipes I’ve seen suggest using frozen vegetables and if you’re in a hurry that will certainly work. But I like to use fresh vegetables whenever I can so I decided to do that instead. I also did not have any left over mashed potatoes so I just whipped up a batch. I’ve tried shepherds pies with store bought pre-prepared mashed potatoes or with instant mashed potatoes but I didn’t think the consistency was as good as when you use homemade mashed potatoes. But you can still use them if you want to.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is the beauty of this recipe is you can make it as simple or as intricate as you like. I still think taking the time to use fresh ingredients and home made mashed potatoes produces the best results. But the choice is yours.

So let’s talk chicken shepherds pie…

Sauteed vegetablesLesson Learned 1 – Use whatever vegetables you want or have on hand: This time I used the “trinity”, onions, celery and carrots along with some frozen peas. But really you can use anything you have. You just have to make sure that you sauté the vegetables to crisp tender before putting them into the pie dish. Next time I’m going to try using some broccoli and cauliflower heads chopped on the smaller side along with onions and carrots. I may even try adding pearl onions instead of chopped onions. It is important to cut the carrots small as they will take the longest to soften. I halved my carrots lengthwise and then halved them again before chopping them. That way they softened right along with the celery and onions. And if you’re using frozen peas (which I did) don’t add them until the very end. They thaw very quickly.

Lesson Learned 2 – Add the chicken at the very end: The chicken you use in this recipe is already cooked so your goal is to warm it through and not cook it to the point that you dry it out. All you really need to do is mix the chicken with the vegetables and then put the mixture into the dish(es) you will be using. The time the pie spends in the oven will be more than enough to warm the chicken through. You might want to take the chicken out of the refrigerator about a half hour before using it in the recipe. That way you will get the chill off of it and it will warm nicely in the oven.

Shepherds Pie FillingLesson Learned 3 – You can use individual pie pans or one 9 inch pie pan: I prefer giving everyone there own little pie but you can certainly bake this as one big pie as well and spoon out individual servings. Either way will work.

Lesson Learned 4 – Put the pie(s) on a foil lined baking sheet before placing them in the oven: I guarantee you, the pie filling WILL LEAK OUT of the pie dish. In order to avoid the filling dripping all over the bottom of your oven make sure the pans are resting on a foiled lined rimmed baking sheet. That way you’ll save yourself a lot of mess and clean up time.

Lesson Learned 5 – Use russet potatoes when making mashed potatoes: Russet potatoes have a lot more starch in them and hold up better in the baking process than other types of potatoes (at least that’s my opinion). Use russet potatoes and don’t make them too runny. Although I will write out some ingredients for making the potatoes use common sense when making them. If they already appear very soft after you mash them add very little liquid to them. If they are stiff, add a little bit of liquid at a time and see how they turn out when you mix them. Remember you can always add more of an ingredient if you need to. I think you get the best results when the potatoes have a slightly firmer consistency. If they’re too soft they will get even runnier in the oven, and you don’t want that.

Also another trick I learned is to add an egg yolk at the end of the mashing process. That gives the potatoes a richer color and more depth of flavor. Just make sure your potatoes are not hot to the point that they scramble the egg yolk. Chances are that will not be the case.

Also if you want to be fancy you can use a pastry bag and pipe the potatoes on the top of the pie. I chose not to. I used a frosting knife and after I dolloped some potatoes on top smoothed them over the vegetables. Try to create some peaks with your potatoes. The peaks are what will brown in the oven and give the eye pleasing look as seen in the second picture below.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Fresh Out Of The Oven

Fresh Out Of The Oven

This recipe is the epitome of comfort food. Try it and tell me what you think… Enjoy!

CHICKEN SHEPHERDS PIE…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cup of carrots, chopped small

4 cloves of garlic, divided: 2 whole and 2 minced

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided

3 Tbs. flour

1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 1/2 cups roasted chicken, cubed or shredded

1/3 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 cups loosely packed emmenthaler cheese (a good melting swiss)

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tsps. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the potatoes and two peeled cloves of garlic in a large pot and cover them with cold water (the water should be about an inch over the potatoes. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender about 20-25 minutes (the cooking time will vary depending on how large or small your cut the potatoes). The potatoes are done when they are fork tender.

Meanwhile in a large skillet melt 3 Tbs. of butter. Add the onion, celery and carrots. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until crisp tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir for about a minute to remove any “floury” taste. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook until the liquid thickens about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and oregano and stir until the cheese is melted. Taste the mixture and add any additional salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken and peas. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and let stand.

Drain the potatoes and put them back into the pot. Add 1 Tbs. of butter and cover for a few minutes until the butter is melted. Using a hand masher or electric hand mixer, mash the potatoes until most of the lumps are gone. Add the heavy cream (you may want to add it incrementally instead of all at once so that the potatoes don’t wind up to runny) and finish mashing. Separate an egg and put only the yolk into the mashed potatoes. Stir until completely combined. Add any additional salt as needed.

Place the vegetables mixture into the pan(s). Top with the mash potatoes. Smooth the potatoes over the top of the vegetables until they are completely covered. Place the pan(s) on a foil lined rimmed backing sheet. Bake until the potatoes are lightly browned and the vegetable mixture is warm and bubbly, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Chicken Shepherds Pie

Chicken Shepherds Pie