I know, I know. The title is tacky, in bad taste, and maybe a little inappropriate. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help it. It did get your attention though, didn’t it?
I have been making my meatballs out of ground turkey meat for years. I snagged the original recipe from Ellie Krieger and was so impressed by how flavorful they turned out that I haven’t made beef or pork meatballs since. I have served them to guests twice, have gotten rave reviews, and am always delighted by the expressions of surprise on their faces when I reveal the meatballs they have just devoured are actually healthy.
My entire life I have adamantly swore that I did not like venison. It was gamey, it was chewy, it was so not like beef or pork meat. Then a year ago my husband decided to take up deer hunting. He has had what I would consider to be a successful hunting season. He has killed three deer. I try not to dwell on the fact that he’s out there shooting bambi. Just like I don’t dwell on the fact that my ground round used to be a living, breathing cow. I am an animal lover. But I also like meat. I’m not going to give it up, so I pretend my New York strip just magically showed up in the freezer section at Kroger that morning.
With a successful hunting season comes a freezer full of deer meat. This is just from one deer. We haven’t even picked up the other two from the processor yet. We have more sausage and ground venison than we could ever eat in a year. Great. Just great. Remember, I don’t like deer meat.
Other hunter’s wives have suggested using it in soup, chili or sauces. Ground venison is similar to ground turkey in that it is very lean and tends to be on the dry side. I don’t see myself making a big juicy burger out of the stuff, but I have successfully incorporated it into my recipes that call for ground turkey. A few weeks ago I made venison tacos and Friday night I made venison chili. I was skeptical, but they both turned out to be pretty good. Not the gamey flavor I was expecting.
Since the turkey meatballs were so tasty, I thought maybe . . . just maybe . . . venison meatballs would be just as good. I begrudgingly admit that they are better than the turkey version.
I acknowledge that if you live in, say, New York City, it is probably next to impossible to get your hands on venison. If that’s the case, just make the original turkey version. However, if you are ever in my neck of the woods, be sure to stop by my house for dinner. I would love to serve you a plate of hot spaghetti and deer balls.
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
- 1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread, pulsed into crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground venison (or turkey meat)
Preheat broiler. Combine all ingredients except the turkey meat into a large work bowl. Once the ingredients are well-mixed, add turkey meat. Using your hands, combine ingredients. Form meatballs into 2-1/2 inch balls (a cookie dough scoop works well). Place meatballs on a greased cookie sheet. Broil for 10 minutes until meatballs and brown and no longer pink in the center.
Makes about 20-24 meatballs