Core Stories

Field to Table: Hunter's Meatball Sandwich

A Wild Game[Day] Favorite

Even if you couldn't care less about who wins the big game, everyone can agree that Super Bowl food can make or break a party. Instead of being that guy (or gal) who brings another five layer bean dip, give this savory wild game meatball recipe a try.

You can serve these meatballs any number of ways, as a standalone appetizer or as a meatball sandwich. The base recipe is solid, but where you can add your own flare is how you decide to top them off. Try different cheeses, chilies, pickles, pesto, caramelized onions, crushed up chips, and more. This recipe can also be made with any type of dark game meat available in your freezer - venison, elk, pronghorn, sheep, or bear.

The ratios in this recipe create a tender meatball, so don’t be alarmed when they don’t get rock hard when cooked, this is perfectly normal. If you prefer a more solid meatball, cut the bread and milk down by 50%. This recipe was cooked in a wood fired oven but the instructions are written using a household oven.

The game meat used for this recipe was Blacktail deer. This velvet deer was shot mid-summer on a remote archipelago in B.C. called Haida Gwaii. Blacktail deer were introduced here and have since overpopulated the islands, which has resulted in a 9-month season and a bag limit of 15 deer per year. This specific deer was shot across a remote inlet and retrieval was made using a 1-man pack raft and lots of sweat equity.

We hope you enjoy this wild game day recipe and remember, everyone's a winner when the food during Super Bowl is this good.

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 18 meatballs or 6 sandwiches.

Sauce

  • 1/2 Cup - Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons - Garlic, Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon - Chilli Flakes
  • 2 Big Sprigs of Basil
  • 1 Can (26 fl oz) - Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Can (26 fl oz) - Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Salt

Meatballs

  • 5 Slices - White Bread, Crust Removed
  • 1/2 Cup - Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons - Dried Oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons - Ground Fennel Seed
  • 2 Tablespoons - Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup - Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Cup - Grated Parmesan
  • 1 Tablespoon - Salt
  • 8 oz - Bacon
  • 1.25 lbs - Dark Wild Game Meat

Sandwich / Toppings

  • Hoagie Roll or Soft Sub Bread
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Basil
  • Pickled Banana Peppers

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Sauce

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and basil in a pot and simmer very gently over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Add the cans of crushed and whole peeled tomatoes to the pot and use a potato masher to break up the whole tomatoes.
  3. Add the salt and simmer the sauce for 12-15 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, set aside.

Creating The Meatballs

  1. Place the white bread and the milk into a bowl and break up the bread with a fork to form a paste.
  2. Add the eggs, oregano, fennel seed, garlic, parsley, parmesan, and salt to the mixture and mix.
  3. Grind the wild game meat and bacon into a bowl over ice. Use a coarse grinder plate for the best texture. **If you are using pre-ground game meat, simply chop the bacon very finely by hand and add it to the game meat.
  4. Mix the bread and seasoning paste into the meat and use your hands to mix until it's distributed evenly. The mixture will seem wet when you first mix it but after a minute, it will come together and become sticky. Do not over mix.
  5. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to portion the meatballs and then use your hands to roll them into balls.

Cooking The Meatballs

  1. Place a pan over medium heat and add a touch of oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches and cook them until they are golden on the bottom. Flip the meatballs and cook the other side. Repeat until all the meatballs are seared.
  2. Put the meatballs into the sauce and bake them at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until they are cooked through. You can check their doneness by checking their temperature, it should hit 165°F.
  3. If you are serving the meatballs as is, put them onto a dish and cover the top with grated parmesan and torn basil leaves.
  4. To make meatball sandwiches, place the meatballs and some sauce into a bun, cover the top with the cheese of your choice and bake at 325°F until the cheese is melted. Top with basil leaves, more parmesan, and sliced pickled banana peppers - or whatever you think sounds good!
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