It’s never been quite so cool to eat rotten meat. After all, dry-aging is really just controlled, delicious spoilage, and with the rise of specialized butchers and at-home methods, pro chefs are no longer the only ones cooking up this delicacy. This also means that they’re also no longer the only ones with dry-aged beef scraps sitting around.
Those chefs do, however, have ample suggestions for how to use up those leftovers. And if you’re Maple & Ash chef Danny Grant, the answer is clear: meatballs.
“I grew up with a strong, Italian upbringing, and large family dinners were a constant, which I loved,” says the Long Island native. “My grandmother’s meatballs are incredible and were my first experience with the dish, so I often think of them when creating a meatball dish for a new concept.”
For this particular recipe, he begins with a blend of chuck, brisket and tri-tip, though any combo of cuts with a high fat content will work. He seasons the mince with all the usual suspects: onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and oregano, as well as egg to bind and milk-soaked bread for added moisture. It’s the dry-aged beef that really dials these classic flavors up a notch, lending a deep, beefy flavor.
Grant relies on a whopping four-cheese blend to add even more richness to the finished dish. Ricotta lends moisture, and fontina and Parmesan bring loads of flavor. Ultra-melty cheese curds, meanwhile, make them super photogenic.
“They give the inside that ooey-gooey ‘cheese pull’ moment,” says Grant, “while the outside gets caramelized and crispy for the perfect bite.”
Indeed, the flavors of these meatballs are only magnified with a high-heat cooking method.
“The meatballs are meant to be wood-fired,” says Grant, “full of a complex flavor and with a bit of crunch.”
But if you have yet to build your own backyard pizza oven, fear not: A cast iron pan and a ripping hot home oven will help you achieve nearly the same caramelized exterior, providing the perfect contrast for the gooey, cheesy topping. Paired with Grant’s homemade marinara sauce, the resulting meatballs are the perfect pasta topper…but in all honesty, these meatballs can just as easily stand alone.
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Servings: About 20 meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef (chuck, brisket, tri-tip)
- 1 egg
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup bread, cubed
- ⅛ cup milk
- ¼ cup fontina, cubed
- ⅛ cup Parmesan, grated
- ⅛ cup ricotta
- ¾ cup cheese curds
- ½ teaspoon red wine
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ sprig thyme, stem discarded
- ½ sprig oregano, stem discarded
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ½ tablespoon pepper
- Marinara sauce, for serving (recipe follows)
Combine the ground beef with onions, garlic, fontina and salt in a large bowl.
In a blender, combine the egg, bread, milk, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano and pepper, and blend on low power until smooth.
Add the contents of the blender to the beef mixture and fold in, adding red wine and ricotta as you go.
Roll into 1½-inch meatballs.
Place in a cast iron skillet and bake at 400º F until crispy (usually 8-10 minutes). Top with marinara sauce and cheese curds.
Bake for another 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese is partially melted.
Marinara Sauce Recipe
Servings: Enough for recipe
- 2 28-ounce cans peeled, chopped tomatoes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 sprigs basil, whole
- 1 teaspoon salt
Crush the canned tomatoes in a bowl using your hands, reserving the liquid.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and garlic. Sauté for four to five minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Add the crushed tomatoes with the reserved liquid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 mins.
Add the whole basil, salt and chili flakes. Cook for another 20 mins on low. Remove the basil before using.
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