The 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery
Written on November 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm, by Eric Cressey
It's interesting how folks like to pigeonhole people into specific specialties. Over the years, I've been called "The Shoulder Guy." I've also heard "The Deadlift Guy" and "The Mobility Guy." And, if you talked to my wife, she'd probably call me "the guy who can't empty the dishwasher without getting distracted."
The truth is that expertise is in the eyes of the beholder. And, since this is my blog, let it be known the I really see myself as "The Meatball Guy," and I'd prefer to "be holding" a meatball.
Being a meatball connoisseur isn't just a gift, though. Much like any proficiency, it's a craft I've worked tirelessly to hone. And, while my closest friends and family are very supportive of my meatball pursuits, the truth is that not everyone understands. As an example, my phone rang the other night as my wife and I were preparing a meatball extravaganza. One of our Major League Baseball clients was calling, and it went like this:
Me: "What's up, bud?"
Him: "Nothing. What are you up to?"
Me: "You know, the usual. Just eating some meatballs."
Him: "Dude, you have to find a new meal!"
Find a new meal? Seriously? Maybe he should "just" take up playing professional football instead of baseball! And, maybe Bobby Fischer should have "just" played checkers instead of chess! Me walking away from meatballs at age 33 - the prime of my meatball career - would be analogous to Barry Sanders walking away from football healthy at age 30 after ten consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. It just wouldn't make sense. I want to change the world, one meatball at a time.
Recognizing this, today's post is about recognizing those who have helped me achieve this level of meatball expertise, but also offering key advice to the up-and-coming meatball aficionados. To that end, I present to you the 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery.
Law #1: Meatball Mastery does not occur without the help of others, so you must be open-minded.
As shocking as it may seem, I did not invent the meatball. Rather, I've stood on the shoulders of a few meatball giants who've provided my top three "go-to" healthy meatball recipes. Here they are:
1. Everyday Paleo Marvelous Meatballs (Sarah Fragoso) - These are great for a numbers of reasons, the foremost being that they are a) meat and b) in a ball shape. Beyond that, I like the fact that I get to use a lot of stuff from the spice rack that I might not otherwise use.
2. Everyday Maven Paleo Pesto Meatballs - I'm a sucker for pesto, but unfortunately, it almost always comes in really high calorie Italian Food recipes. This is a nice alternative. Candidly, we generally make these with ground turkey instead of ground beef and add a bunch of spinach and onions. It tastes awesome, but doesn't always stick together as well as you see with ground beef, presumably since the fat content is a bit lower.
3. Anabolic Cooking Baked Meatballs - I like this recipe because I'm a big oregano fan, and the oat bran gives a little different texture than using almond flour. This recipe is featured in Dave Ruel's Anabolic Cooking, an awesome healthy recipe cookbook I highly recommend. Fortunately, Dave is a good friend of mine, and was kind enough to give me permission to post the recipe here (click to enlarge):
Law #2: Meatballs are a form of artistic expression.
We've been conditioned to believe that meatballs should just be a few different ingredients: meat, bread crumbs, and eggs - basically whatever it takes to make things stick together. This is like saying that a good gym should just be full of cardio machines and nothing else.
Instead, we load our meatballs up with all sorts of vegetables and spices. In terms of vegetables alone, we might include celery, onions, spinach, carrots, and peppers. Try adding these, and you'll get a heck of a lot more nutritional value - and get to feel like you're creating a completely unique piece of meatball art each time you cook.
Law #3: Meatballs can (and should) be used for special occasions and as gifts.
Meatballs aren't just a versatile food choice; they're also a gift for every occasion. I made a "meat-heart" for Valentine's Day for my wife, in fact. We're still married, so I have to assume that she loved it.
And, what birthday would be completely without blowing out the candle on a meatball?
I also like to incorporate meatballs into the celebration of Labor Day, Arbor Day, and Presidents' Day. And, I fully expect a meatball feast in celebration of my first Father's Day this upcoming June. Meatballs are the gifts that keep on giving.
Law #4: As with a fine wine and dinner, accompaniments matter with meatballs.
If you think meatballs can only be eaten with spaghetti, you're missing out. Some of our favorite meatball sides include baked kale chips, spaghetti squash, brussel sprouts, and sweet potato fries. Experiment and you'll find your favorite pairings.
Law #5: Don't even consider store-bought meatballs.
Next time you walk through the frozen foods section of your local supermarket, take a look at some of the pre-prepared meatball options. In most cases, they will include several ingredients you can't pronounce. When it comes to meatball ingredients, with the exception of eggs, if it wasn't green and didn't have eyes, it shouldn't belong in your meatball. This leads me to Law #6...
Law #6: Meatballs must actually have meat.
As is often the case in mass food production these days, "soy protein concentrate" and "texturized soy flour" somehow managed to make their way into MEATballs. If you think this is limited to only the store-bought frozen versions, think again.
I like Whole Foods, including their hot foods bar. Unfortunately, one of the things I like the most about them is the fact that they display their ingredients - and it gets them in my doghouse with respect to meatballs. I'd love to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it's tough to do so after this Twitter exchange...
Please don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. Meatballs shouldn't include "filler" materials, especially when sold at WHOLE Foods.
Law #7: Meatballs must meet a minimum size threshold.
As I showed in my picture earlier, any respectable meatball should be large enough to be eaten like an apple during the "leftovers" period. If it's small enough to be eaten put on a toothpick without that toothpick breaking, then you're really just dipping your foot in the shallows of a vast meatball ocean. Go big or go home.
Law #8: Meatballs bring the world together.
Last year, I attended John Romaniello and Neghar Fonooni's wedding in New York. At the reception, they had a meatball bar that featured four different types of awesomeness. Combined, Jason Ferruggia, Adam Bornstein, Sean Hyson, and I consumed approximately 600 of them. While it was probably a horrific experience for the terrified caterers that looked on, it's strengthened our friendships. Come to think of it, in communicating with these guys over the past year, I don't think we've had a single conversation or email exchange that didn't involve meatballs.
The next time you've got an old friend with whom you've want to reconnect, send him some meatballs as an icebreaker. If he's not more than thrilled at the gesture, then he's probably not worth the effort, anyway.
Law #9: Meatballs do not require bread crumbs.
Historically, bread crumbs have been a key inclusion in both meatballs and meatloaf because they help to hold everything together. Thanks in large part to the gluten-free and paleo trends, we've learned that almond and coconut flour (or meal) are healthier ways to hold things together.
As a quick tip, it's cheaper to buy your almond flour in bulk than it is to buy individual bags at the grocery store. We order four pounds at a time on Amazon.
Law #10: Meatballs are meant to be shared.
If there was ever a food to selfishly guard for yourself, the meatball would be it. That just wouldn't be right, though; meatballs are best enjoyed in the company of others.
Moreover, meatball recipes are meant to be shared, too. Have a favorite way of enjoying them? Please share it in the comments section below.
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