Spicy Lamb and Bacon Meatballs

TGIF.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Personal (read: unbloggable) life keeps rolling on, eating up a lot of my time, but at least I’m not bored.  At any rate, I do have a really tasty recipe for you today.

If you were at all wondering what to do with any leftover ground lamb/liver/bacon from the Lamb Dirty Rice – and there will be – this recipe is it.

Boy, is it…it.

I’ve gotten to the point where, if I want The G Man to eat something he doesn’t like (anything that resembles a vegetable, for example), I hide it in meatloaf or meatballs.  The Young One, too – he absolutely loathes zucchini and summer squash, but he’ll scarf it down if I shred it and stick it in a meatloaf.  This recipe hides nutrient-dense liver – you can’t even tell it’s there, with all the bacon and spices.

These come together really quickly, are ready in less than 20 minutes and simply just delicious.  You can use just about any ground meat/liver from the appropriate animal you like, too (chicken, beef, pork) – the bacon keeps the meatballs moist and you can adjust the spices to suit your personal tastes.

These would be quite good served with the Red Onion Jam I posted earlier this week.

Note:  Make sure your bacon is “clean” and these are Whole30 compliant.  (Oh, look – I still do that.)

Spicy Lamb and Bacon Meatballs. Easy and nutritious, your family will never guess what's hiding in these delicious little meatballs.

Click the image to enlarge

Spicy Lamb and Bacon Meatballs
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • 3 ounces lamb liver, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, gently combine all of the ingredients until well mixed. Form into 16 meatballs of equal size, and place on the slotted top of a broiler pan.
  3. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center. Serve with [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/red-onion-jam/” target=”_blank”]Red Onion Jam[/url].
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 428 calories, 35.3g total fat, 195.7mg cholesterol, 902.48mg sodium, 346.5mg potassium, 5.3g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, <1g sugar, 21g protein

 

Lamb Dirty Rice

I can’t begin to tell you what compelled me to make dirty rice for Sunday brunch and serve it with Sous Vide pork belly (recipe forthcoming).  In fact, I can’t remember why I thought to make dirty rice in the first place – I’d never cooked it before, and I can’t really remember ever eating it.  Which simply cannot be, but I just don’t remember.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

At any rate, I’m so glad I did – this was simply incredible.  Now that I’ve made it, and know what I’ve been missing, I will make it again.  And again. And again.

It is just THAT good.

Dirty Rice is a classic Cajun dish consisting of rice, the Holy Trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper, bacon and some sort of meat – either ground pork or sausage, and often including chicken livers.  It can be made very spicy, or not spicy at all, whatever suits your palate.

This version isn’t spicy – the inclusion of an entire tablespoon of Cajun seasoning only gives it a bit of a tingle – but it packs a ton of flavor.  What made me decide to deviate from the norm of ground pork and chicken livers was simple convenience – I’m running a bit short on pork (we’ll be sourcing this year’s hog soon), but have 12 full pounds of ground lamb in the freezer.  I also would have had to thaw at least a pound of chicken livers, when I only needed half a cup, minced, but I had the liver from our lamb in there, which only ran about 6 or so ounces.  It seemed like a no-brainer, and you know me – I have no problem shaking things up with a recipe.

The result?  DELICIOUS.  Since I can’t remember eating dirty rice in the past, I can’t tell you how different it might be from a traditional preparation, and while the lamb flavor was noticeable, it was not at all overwhelming.  An impressive and easy dish – and it makes a ton.  Those six servings are quite generous.

Note: The rice preparation is my go-to for rice, and you can make it with just about any amount of rice and with whatever liquid you prefer.  Just keep the proportions to 1 part rice to 2 parts water – follow the directions closely and it will never fail.  Who needs a rice cooker?

Lamb Dirty Rice. The classic and delicious Cajun rice dish with a twist!

Click the image to enlarge

Lamb Dirty Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from[url href=”http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/dirty_rice/” target=”_blank”] Simply Recipes[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup finely diced lamb liver
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice and 3 cups of the chicken broth in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir the rice; cover with a clean dish towel and the lid and let it site for 10 minutes.
  2. Spread the rice out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over it. Mix to combine and set aside.
  3. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients, including the rice, over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the ground pork, breaking it up as it begins to brown. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the lamb is cooked through and the vegetables are soft and beginning to turn golden.
  5. Stir in the remaining cup of chicken stock and the diced lamb liver, stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the Cajun seasoning and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the chicken stock has boiled away.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the cooked rice. Toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 570 calories, 32g total fat, 125.4mg cholesterol, 671mg sodium, 524.2mg potassium, 46.6g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 22g protein

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions

This is one of those dishes that, if you’re a fan of organ meats, make you want to sing hosannas to The Gods of Liver.

Yeah.  It was good.

Really, really good.

Now, having said that, I’m a tad prejudiced because I’ve always liked liver.  Beloved, on the other hand, did not – I practically had to force him to eat it the first time I made it for him (up until that point, the only time I got to eat it was when I ordered it at a restaurant).  These days, he has a very different attitude towards offal, and we eat liver, both beef and chicken, on a fairly regular basis, and enjoy odd bits such as tongue, heart, jowls and sweet breads as often as we can.

It’s all good.  And good for you.

Of course, how you cook liver has a lot to do with how palatable – or in this case, delicious – it is.  Over cooking it will turn it into a mealy, nasty piece of shoe leather.  Cooking it to a nice medium, leaving it delicately pink in the center, makes it tender and tasty.  Beef liver also tends to be pretty strong flavored, especially compared to calf and chicken liver, but soaking it for a couple of hours in milk, coconut milk or some sort of marinade greatly mitigates that.

Anyhoo, this recipe came about because 1) apples are just now beginning to come into season and B) I needed something to do with the leftover white wine from a couple of nights prior.  I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with how the dish turned out, and Beloved simply devoured it.    It was simply marvelous served over a roasted parsnip puree.

Fall is right around the corner.  This is a good thing.

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions. A great variation of Liver & Onions - the sweetness of the apples and onions pairs well with the earthiness of the offal.

Click the image to enlarge

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large firm sweet apples, such as Gala, cored, peeled and cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound beef liver, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat, reserving 4 tablespoons.
  2. Return 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of the ghee. Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the apples and continue cooking until the fruit is a light gold color. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and wine; increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a plate or dish and keep warm.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and bacon fat over high heat. Pat the liver dry, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the liver, turning it frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is browned but still slightly pink in the center.
  4. Divide the liver between four plates and top with the apple and onion mixture. Crumble the reserved bacon over the top, garnish with the chives and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 28.5g total fat, 361.7mg cholesterol, 318mg sodium, 539.7mg potassium, 16.6g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 8g sugar, 27g protein

Crispy Lemon Liver

Well, the votes are in and the liver recipe won out. 🙂  I’m not at all unhappy about that, because I happen to love liver – I have two pounds of chicken livers in my freezer and am going to give chopped liver a try in the near future.  At any rate, we have a ton of grass-fed liver in our freezer (and a source for much more) and I’m on a quest to find different ways to cook it.

This preparation?  Is delicious.

I have to agree with my friend Jason – most people dislike liver because they’ve never had it prepared properly.  You have to be very careful not to overcook it, or it will get dry, grainy and rubbery.  Yes, it can have a pretty strong flavor (which I happen to enjoy), but there are ways to mitigate that; mainly, marinate it.  I always soak beef liver in something before cooking it – it used to be milk, these days it’s coconut milk unless the recipe calls for a flavored marinade – use which ever works.  Calves and chicken livers have a more delicate taste and marinating is unnecessary, and I’m willing to bet they would be equally delicious in this recipe.

The original recipe for this called for dredging the liver in flour, so I substituted almond flour.  It gave the dish an interesting texture, but in retrospect is really not needed; in the future, I’ll probably omit it all together and simply cook the liver in the bacon fat, unadorned.   Leaving out the almond flour will significantly reduce the calories in the dish as well.

I’ve not forgotten about your requests for the rest of the dishes – I’ll post the recipes for the fingerlings, kohlrabi and broccoli soon.

Note:  If you really like lemon, sprinkle about a tablespoon of grated zest into the dish right before serving.  Also, if you’re avoiding dairy, substitute the butter with a good quality olive oil.

Crispy Lemon Liver

Crispy Lemon Liver

serves 4

8 slices bacon
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons dried dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound beef liver, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towel, then crumble. Do not drain the bacon fat from the skillet.

Combine almond flour, dill, salt& pepper in a shallow dish; dredge the liver to coat well, shaking off any excess.  Add the coated liver to the skillet and fry over medium-high heat until crisp on outside but still moist inside (about 4-6 minutes). Remove the liver with a slotted spoon; cover and keep warm.

Discard any remaining fat from the skillet. Add the butter and melt over medium-low heat, scraping up all the brown bits. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and crumbled bacon. Return the liver to the pan and heat through.

Serve immediately.

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Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday