Basic Wild Game Meatballs
Having relied almost exclusively on wild game meat while living in remote Alaska, I developed this meatball recipe that held up well in several types of dishes.
By Evy Gebhardt, Outdoor News Director of Business Development
This recipe offers a versatile meatball that works well into Italian-inspired tomato based sauces, or for the cream-based sauce that ensconces the classic Swedish meatball.
Since you’re working with leaner game meat, you will want to balance your ratio of ground meat with an equal amount of ground pork so that your meatball will stand up. The foundation of the recipe here originally relied on ground moose meat, however you can substitute venison, elk, caribou, antelope or even ground wild turkey meat.
1 medium yellow onion (about ¾ cup) chopped
1 medium sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
1 lb. ground game meat
1 lb. ground pork shoulder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (Prefer the Italian-style fine crumbs)
¼ cup superfine grated parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbls. unsalted butter
Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet until it starts to foam. Add the onion and carrot and saute approx. 5 minutes until onions start to brown and the carrots caramelize. Remove from heat and scoop the vegetables into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground meats, seasonings, eggs, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese to the bowl. Using your hands, mix together thoroughly, then let rest 10-15 minutes before forming into 2-inch balls. (makes approx. 24)
There are two options for cooking the meatballs. If you plan to use them immediately in Swedish meatballs, you will want to use the same pan that you cooked the vegetables in, so that you are able to take advantage of the flavor profile left by the bits of meat that stay in the pan during the browning process. For tomato-based dishes, you are better off partially cooking them on parchment paper, or an oil-lined pan, in the oven, then finishing them in the preparation of your sauce to allow them to marry with the sauce ingredients.
Pan frying: Simply place the meatballs into your buttered skillet and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes over medium high heat, turning gently to make certain all sides are evenly cooked. Remove from the pan and keep warm under a tent of aluminum foil while you use the same pan to craft your cream sauce. Reintroduce meatballs into the pan with the sauce, stir gently and serve immediately on a bed of mashed potatoes.
Oven Prep Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use a pan with raised sides. Line with parchment paper or lightly oil to prevent sticking. Place the uncooked meatballs on the tray so that they are not touching. Bake until they are firm, but not entirely baked through, about 10 minutes. Add to your homemade tomato sauce and finish cooking by simmering for another 15-20 minutes.
Want cocktail sized meatballs for an appetizer? Using the oven prep method, make your meatballs smaller, about 1-inch in size, and bake 12-14 until almost entirely cooked through. Turn the meatballs midway through cooking. Remove from the oven and add to your favorite BBQ or chili sauce in a slowcooker and continue cooking on low at least 30 minutes.