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Red Cup Cooks: Onion-and-bacon-wrapped meatloaf softballs

We're deep into grilling season, and everyone knows you want to slow cook a softball of meat.

I'm what you might call an "amateurish experimentalist" in the kitchen, and for this reason I have no compunctions about working through the zaniest recipes to float across my Twitter feed. So, when "This BBQ Bacon Meatball Recipe Will Change Your Summer Barbecues Forever" crossed my eye, I looked off to the horizon, questioned my maker, and said yes, I want to cook BBQ bacon meatballs because that is what America needs and I intend to honor my country with bacon and beef.

Whatever you prefer to call these hefty alloys of ground beef, onion and bacon -- "barbecue meatball onion bombs" is a bit violent for my tastes -- I can assure you that the careful and loving attention you pay to these butcher-shop dumbbells will compensate you and your loved ones tenfold. Maybe so much as twelvefold.

A quick note on your choice of ground beef. I don't cook ground beef for myself too often, if only because I prefer to cook light at home. When I do require ground beef for domestic purposes, therefore, I always choose the leanest pound of machine-pummeled bovine product available. If it's 90/10 ground sirloin, great. Better still if it's ground bison, which substitutes well for all ground beef situations, save maybe your weak-ass tailgate in College Station.

Anyway, regardless of your situation and preferences, you will need one pound of shot-through-a-machine cow to fulfill the meatloaf requirement for your BBQ bacon meatballs. You will also need:

  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup onions, diced (use the innards of your yellow onion; more below)
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. spicy ketchup (equal parts Sriracha and ketchup works well)
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • a pack of your preferred bacon, thin cut
  • a bottle of your preferred BBQ sauce
  • a pound of beef; don't forget the beef
  • preheat oven to 425º F or fire up the grill

Two yellow onions just to be safe, though I only needed one (by the way, does anyone want a yellow onion and some parsley?). The onion is a wonderful legume, when you think about it. I can't remember a cooked meal I've embarked upon in the last year that doesn't begin with chopping an onion. That this recipe calls for yellow onions is no accident, either. Insofar as your are cooking meatBALLS, the specific tuber you're using must meet certain geometric and structural constraints. The yellow onion is longer on its north-south axis than, say, a Vidalia onion, and more spherical than, say, a red onion, which in my experience doesn't grow much bigger than a baby foot.

So yellow onions it is, then. Slice the top and bottom off your onion and peel away the outmost layers, stopping once you've reached solid white onion flesh. Then, slice the onion in half, longways (like this), and peel away the outer two or three layers from each hemisphere. Do so carefully lest you go ripping your onion peels and now you've got to slice another onion and oh my god why am I crying so much.

At this point, you should have two or three pairs of, um, onion cups. These will serve as outer walls for the meat sphere you're about to enclose therein. With the rest of your onion, chop finely and so fill out the "1/4 cup onions, diced" line on the ingredients list. If you throw that onion's guts away, I will come to your house and personally microwave raw fish while you sleep.

Time to get dirty. Retrieve the giant mixing bowl that Aunt Doris gave you all those years ago but you never really had reason to use it even though you tell her that you use it whenever she calls. Into this family heirloom, which Aunt Doris inherited from her Aunt Doris, knead together your ground moo-cow, mushrooms, parsley, diced onion, panko, brown sugar, soy and worcestershire sauces. Knead 'em good, please, and don't be squeamish.

Now begins the process of construction. Fill one half of an onion cavity with meat sludge, then lay the other onion layer opposite to match (like this). Repeat until you've exhausted your supply of meat sludge. You can be assertive in these movements, since the beef holds together well and clings nicely to the onion. Next, wrap three strips of bacon around the meat-onion-ball, being sure to cover as much of the onion as you can without double-wrapping the bacon. The more bacon that's exposed, the more evenly the bacon will cook, and -- most importantly -- your guests and children will marvel at the presentation of your work. "Doesn't it just look so beautiful?" they'll gasp, "I don't even care that it might taste like dumpster leakage."


After swaddling your brutish orb with pig tummy, stick a toothpick through the end of the last bacon strip, pinning it to the meatball. This way, the bacon won't slip off under heat and oh dear now the presentation has failed utterly, and along with it your marriage, career, and financial portfolio.

If you're baking with a conventional oven, cook at 425º F for 40-ish minutes, remove and slather with your favorite BBQ sauce, then cook for another five-or-so minutes. If you are grilling -- as the Founders intended -- smoke at about 250º F for 45 minutes, then 30-ish minutes at 350º F (and of course apply BBQ sauce liberally toward the end).

Eat, enjoy, and slip happily into a food coma. If you champ into your meatball as you would an apple, you will earn the love and respect of all the world.

meatballs after