3 ways with ground beef

Over the weekend, we got the yearly beefer delivery–1/4 of a steer, or approximately 125 pounds.  Some 25 or 30 pounds of that is ground beef, which I *could* just turn into hamburgers or chili.  Or, I could hit the new cookbooks with my pal EYB! and see what insights they have to offer.

Spicy Glazed Mini Meatloaf, from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan.  The book may be called “Serve Yourself”, but in this case it’s “Serve Yourselves” – 4 of yourselves, each with your own meatloaf in a little ramekin. It’s both a miniature and a minimalist meatloaf – just a few filling ingredients, the most exotic of which are salsa and mustard. But you get to glaze them with grape jelly and hot pepper sauce! I can just imagine making this – the kids would love having their own little pots.  But with just 1/4 pound of ground beef allotted per mini meatloaf, I almost think I’d have to double it to “Serves 8” for my family of 4. Realistically speaking.

Old-Fashioned Spaghetti and Meatballs, from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but Cook’s Illustrated has a secret weapon. It’s buttermilk. Lots of their classic recipes get buttermilk subbed in for a lighter, moister, tarter effect.  The meatball recipe is no exception. This recipe is so straight-ahead you don’t even really need to read it, and you don’t need to break out the measuring spoons (blasphemy!)  Just use buttermilk instead of milk when you soak the bread crumbs.  It’s all good.

Grilled Kefta with cilantro dressing and grapes from Mourad: New Moroccan Yeah, I have to confess–I love kefta, which are basically meatballs on a stick (although you can skip the stick).  You can get the intense grill flavor of a hamburger, but there’s more opportunity to tamper with the seasoning, because the meat doesn’t need babying when you flip it.  Mourad tampers, and tampers again, with a dozen herbs and spices, a complex green dressing which doesn’t even say “optional” when it gets to the xanthan gum, and exactly 54 grapes.  Oh, and you’ll be julienning a whole lot of cucumber with that. I may adore kefta, but I’d only do this as a stripped-down, approximate version.  The flavors look promising enough, but my knife and I got things to do, places to go, people to see.  We’ll be out of there in 45 minutes no matter what.

I was kind of looking forward to seeing what the molecular gastronomists would do with ground beef.  But the thing is – they don’t.  The pricier the cuisine, the less likely it is to use this humble staple. You might, perhaps, get something that looks a little like ground beef, like beef tartare, which you’ll have to chop yourself from expensive sirloin.

No, ground beef is the makings of meatloaves and meatballs, burgers and stuffed cabbages.  It’s not pretty, but it’s dang good eating.  The only question here is, will 30 pounds be enough?

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