Winter has come to South Louisiana. Well, we don’t really get a “winter” like most of the country. Rather, we look forward to the next cold front. When it gets cold, nearly every home South of the Mason-Dixon Line has the delectable smells of comfort food wafting from open doors, followed by a hug, and a wave to come on in. Wherever you live, cold weather means comfort food on a cold day, and Meatball Stew is one of my favorites.
Earlier this year, Mrs. Greatoutdoordinary sent me on a meat mission because we were nearly out of deer meat. It’s a tough job, but I guess a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, right? If you wish to see where the meat for this meal was collected, then check out Meat Mission. What did we do with all of that delicious deer meat? Well, this dish is a good start.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Take two large potatoes, coat in olive oil, and pop them in the oven (on a pan, or just on the rack) until baked. This should take between 45 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the potato. The skin will be golden brown, and the potato will feel soft when you push down on it.
- 2lbs of ground venison (or whatever kind of meat you like, but I like to give my meal a chance to escape)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper. Adjust to your heat level.
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. For this recipe I used T-Boy’s garlic seasoning from Mamou, Louisiana.
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
This part is easy, just combine the ingredients, and smoosh (this is a technical culinary term) them together. If I give them gloves to wear, my girls love to help with this part. This can be done the night before, and refrigerated, or wrapped and frozen for later use. Roll them out into balls a little smaller than a golf ball, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. I used to brown them in my dutch oven, which gives the gravy a great flavor. However, a friend showed me that by using the baking method, it prevents the meatballs from turning into “meatsquares” while browning or from falling apart. Plus, it is a huge time saver.
You can use any kind of store bought roux you like. Dry roux, jarred roux. I’ve always been partial to Kary’s Roux from Ville Platte, Louisiana. But to get the flavor you want, you must make a roux yourself.
It is simple, and this can be used for a variety of dishes.
- 1 cup oil (I use canola oil, but you can use vegetable oil or even butter, etc.)
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour.
Add the oil to a black iron pot, or dutch oven, then the flour. Mix ingredients together, and cook over medium heat. You do not want to get this too hot, or let it sit on the hot part of the pot too long, or it will burn. Stir constantly to insure that it cooks evenly, and does not burn. If you get little black spots in your roux, it is burnt, and will taste that way, so throw it out, and start over. Use a flat bottomed wooden spoon (a roux spoon), or even a spatula. While the flour browns, you will be scraping the bottom of the pot to keep it from sticking. This process can take a while, but is worth the end result. If you can do this, then it will open the door to many different Creole and Cajun dishes, so give it a whack.
Once the roux is roughly the color of peanut butter, then you will begin to turn it into the gravy for the stew.
- 2 cups of the Cajun Trinity (celery, bell pepper, and onion mix). This is a mix of roughly a stick of celery, one onion, and one bell pepper. You will see this reoccurring in many dishes, and you can adjust the mixture to personal preference.
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.
- 64 ounces of Beef Stock.
- Water to reduce the thickness if needed.
- Chopped green onions as a garnish (optional).
- 3/4 to 1 cup of your favorite chopped mushrooms. I didn’t have any when cooking this, but that’s the good part about a stew. Roll with the punches, man. It’ll still taste great.
- Seasoning to taste (salt/pepper or Cajun seasoning).
With your roux still hot, pour in your Cajun Trinity, and parsley. It will sizzle, and darken your rough slightly as the sugars in the veggies caramelize. Cook until the veggies begin to soften, then add the minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, or about 1 minute.
Slowly add the beef stock, and increase heat until it is at a heavy simmer. Add mushrooms , or chopped smoked sausage (andouille) if using.
Your potatoes should be done by now, so remove them from the oven, pull the skin off, and break them into bite sized pieces (1/2 inch to 1 inch in size). Add the potatoes to the gravy. I know that you will probably want to skip this step, but it adds a texture and hardiness to the dish that is worth giving it a try.
Add your glorious meatballs to the gravy, bring to a heavy simmer. Add water if needed to thin out the gravy to the desired thickness. Add salt/pepper or Cajun seasoning to taste, cover and lightly simmer for 10-20 minutes or so.
Serve over hot white rice. If you serve this to the right person, they may just volunteer to keep you warm.