Spicy Lamb and Bacon Meatballs


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
  • 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
  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]
  • 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
  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
  • 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
  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

Grapefruit Glazed Beef Liver

Yes, yes…I can hear the groans already.

But then again, I can also imagine the interest from the contingent of offal connoisseurs among my readers – we do exist.

But if you’ve yet to take the plunge and eat some of this highly nutritious organ meat, this would be a wonderful recipe to begin with, because it is absolutely DELICIOUS.  I made it on a Friday night, when The Young One was out with friends, and it’s a good thing – if he’d been home for dinner, the situation would have gotten ugly because Beloved and I devoured this.  And were sad because there wasn’t more.

This came about because I had a grapefruit on my counter that needed to be used, and it was time for us to eat some liver, which we do 3 or 4 times a month.  It may not be exactly normal to immediately think about pairing grapefruit with beef liver (of course, I never claimed to be normal), but this was ridiculously, stupidly good and I am SO glad I did it.

The sauce is really nothing more than a spicy, tangy barbecue sauce; you can easily double it and use it on just about any meat – it would be wonderful on pork or chicken.  It was great with the fried beef liver, but I imagine it would be just as good on chicken livers.  In fact, it would probably be marvelous on my Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Livers.  (That sounds really, really good…)

A couple of notes:  I soaked the beef liver for about an hour in milk before cooking it – it really helps to mitigate the “mineral” taste beef liver can have.  I also dredged the liver in a mixture of seasoned tapioca/potato flour before frying it.  I left it out in the recipe because I really don’t think it did anything for the dish, other than increase the carb count – if your sauce is nice and thick, it will coat the meat just fine.

Grapefruit-Glazed Beef Liver.  Thin strips of beef liver coated in a tangy, spicy citrus sauce - surprisingly delicious!

Grapefruit Glazed Beef Liver
Serves: 4
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice (about 1/2 a grapefruit)
  • 2 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/monday-ketchup/” target=”_blank”]Ketchup[/url]
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound beef liver, cut into thin strips
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • lard or tallow for frying
  1. In a small saucepan, cook the onion in the ghee over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low; stir in the grapefruit juice, ketchup, mustard, coconut sugar, chili powder and cumin and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; transfer the sauce to a large bowl and keep warm.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet heat the lard or tallow over high heat. Generously salt and pepper the liver, and fry until barely pink in the center, about 1 minute per side. Do this in batches if necessary.
  3. Drain the liver briefly on paper towels, then transfer to the bowl with the sauce, stirring to coat the meat well.
  4. Serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 345 calories, 23.1g total fat, 341.3mg cholesterol, 126.2mg sodium, 453.8mg potassium, 9.5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 2.4g sugar, 23.7g protein

Oxtail Ragout

Recently I was at Whitefeather Meats (I don’t recall specifically why; sometimes we go there just to harass those poor people) when a tiny little Asian woman came in and picked up a huge box that was waiting for her.  I’m a pretty nosy curious person, and couldn’t resist asking what was in it.

It was full of tongues and tails.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” I whimpered pathetically to Bunny, the owner, after asking the woman if she had a restaurant (no; it was all for her personal use).

I guess the point of this is we forget that in other parts of the world, where animals aren’t raised in giant feedlots in massive numbers, parts of the cow (or any large animal, for that matter) like the tongue, tail and liver are considered delicacies, simply because there’s only one of them on each critter.  We’re very fortunate that we live in a society where we can buy as many of these cuts as we might like in one fell swoop, especially when they are from pastured/grass fed animals.

And then we don’t.

I never get so many negative reactions to recipes as I do to those involving “variety meats.”  Americans – Canadians, too – are pretty squeamish about anything that’s not muscle meat (and yes, we’ll ignore for the time being that both tongues and hearts are nothing but large muscles themselves).  Which is really sad, because these are among the most flavorful, to say nothing of nutritious, parts of the animal.

Oxtail in this country is really the tail of beef – steers, to be exact, since even among farmers who raise their cattle on grass it is standard practice to castrate bulls destined for market.  It’s a particularly boney cut of meat, and since bone is living tissue, oxtail is usually classified as offal.  I won’t dispute that, but it’s not the same as eating liver – if no one told you you were eating the tail, you’d think you were eating a particularly delicious, silky, unctuous cut of muscle meat (assuming it’s been properly cooked).  However, like most offal, oxtail is quite nutritious, being rich in minerals (glucosamine, chondroiten, magnesium, glycine, phosphorus), gelatin and collagen, which are important for the health of your bones, especially your joints.

At any rate, not only is this dish, which I served over roasted, pureed parsnips (I’ll have to post that recipe some day), very good for you it is also very, very tasty.  And, prepared in the pressure cooker, relatively quick and easy.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can braise this in the oven at 350 F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The rest of the instructions remain the same.

Oxtail Ragout

Oxtail Ragout

Serves: 6
  • 3 tablespoons tallow or other fat suitable for high heat cooking, divided
  • 3 pounds oxtails, joints cut into 2-inch lengths and trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the tallow over high heat in the pressure cooker, Sprinkle the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper, then brown in the fat, working in batches if necessary. Transfer the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of tallow, if necessary. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
  3. Return the browned oxtails to the cooker and stir in the celery, carrots, wine, beef stock, tomato paste, mustard, and bay leaf. Tie together the thyme and parsley with kitchen twine and add that to the oxtails, vegetables and liquid in the cooker.
  4. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
  5. Carefully unlock and remove the lid of the pressure cooker. Remove the tied herbs and bay leaf; skim any excess fat from the surface of the stew. Remove the oxtails and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork and return to the pressure cooker. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve over mashed potatoes or parsnips, and garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 421 calories, 15.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 347.7mg sodium, 1243.5mg potassium, 8.9g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, 3.5g sugar, 51.9g protein