Project Meatball: Reflections

As I did last year, I want to conclude my study in meatballs with a few reflections. Having now conducted twelve experiments, I have a few definite thoughts to offer, if you’re thinking of increasing your own meatball intake.

1.) Meatballs are not as photogenic as a food blogger might like. I mean, the finished dish, with its starchy base and the browned and simmered balls and their garnish artfully arranged look nice enough. The process of making them, though, is decidedly less so. Think about it. Chopped and sautéed aromatics, sopping breadcrumbs, and a bowl of raw ground meat. Not particularly aesthetically pleasing. As I went through each recipe, I found myself struggling a bit to achieve attractive shots. This was, in part, due to the ragged look of the raw ingredients themselves, but also the overlap in staging possibilities: you take the bowl of raw meat, you roll it into balls, you brown and then simmer the balls. You can only take pictures of each step so many times before it begins to feel repetitive.

2.) Meat is expensive. For financial, ethical, and digestive reasons, N. and I tend to limit our intake of meat, especially red meat, and when we do buy it, we try to buy responsibly and humanely farmed product. This, of course, means a certain type of grocery store or butcher shop, and when you add one or two different types of ground meat to your list a couple times a month, your grocery bill gets noticeably higher.

3.) It’s SO MUCH MEAT! As a side effect of our choice to limit our meat consumption, N. and I have become much less accustomed to, well, how bodies process meat. While we really liked most of these meatball dinners, we definitely noticed how much more meat we were eating, and how our stomachs, among other parts, responded. It’s not an official resolution, but I think we’ll be laying off the meat for a little while next year (though the cheeseburgers my dad made us a few nights ago were everything good about beef).

4.) Despite these critiques, meatballs are delicious, and really quite easy. They follow a definite pattern: prep some aromatics, whether that means chopping some herbs, sautéing aromatics, or both; whizzing up and soaking breadcrumbs or beating egg; massage the seasonings and moistening elements in with the meat; roll, brown, remove, bring the sauce component to a simmer, and plop the meatballs back in to simmer until cooked through. In all honesty, and to no real surprise, the trickiest thing about the whole process is having all three components – meat, sauce, and starch or accompanying side – ready at the same time.

Next week I want to show you a few of my favorite images from the past year, and I’ll be back with a new recipe for you in January!

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