Venison Meatballs Baked in a Mushroom Tomato Sauce

*You can substitute the venison for ground beef, veal or even turkey.

Yields 6-8 servings

Sauce
2 shallots peeled and minced
2 springs of thyme
1 bay leaf
¼-½ tablespoon minced rosemary
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup loosely packed dried porcini mushroom soaked in 1 cup water until reconstituted, reserve liquid
3-4 cups chicken stock
4 C tomato passata (pureed skinless, seedless tomatoes purchased or homemade), cooked 5 minutes

Sauté shallots, thyme, and rosemary in butter until aromatic and shallots are golden. Add red wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomato passata and bay leaf, and cook 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and keep on low heat while preparing the meatballs.

For the Meatballs
1½ pounds ground venison
½ pound ground pork, duck or chicken
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 stalk of celery finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 slices bread soaked in water and squeezed almost dry
¼ cup sour cream or cream fraiche
1 egg
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or other hard, dry cheese
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine the venison, pork, carrot, onion, celery, and mix well. Add the garlic, thyme, paprika, bread, sour cream, egg, Parmesan cheese, and blend well, but do not over mix.

To test for seasoning, form a small patty and sauté in butter until done. Check for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

Using a 4-ounce scoop or about the size of a golf ball, portion out the remaining meatball mixture. Place the meatballs on a baking rack on top of a baking sheet, and bake until brown, about 10-15 minutes in a 400° oven.

Reduce the oven to 350°.

In a deep sided baking dish, add the meatballs and the sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes to heat through, basting the meatballs with sauce twice.

2 tablespoons butter
½ pound each, button and shiitake mushrooms, or wild chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms reserved from soaking
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Sauté mushrooms and porcini in butter. When golden brown and tender, pour over the hot meatballs and top with minced parsley.

Serve over polenta.

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