I'm pretty sure I'm one of the only people in the US (or at the very least in my family) that doesn't like hamburgers or meatloaf. I will, on very rare occasions, eat a hamburger from certain restaurants (like Margaritaville, Hog's Breath Saloon, or Flipdaddy's), but really, if I never had ground beef again, I would be perfectly happy.
Of course, everybody else in my family is the exact opposite. And Gus? He loves ground beef. And meatloaf. And meatballs. So when I saw this recipe for meatballs inside an onion and then wrapped in bacon, I figured I had stumbled upon meatball nirvana.
Never satisfied to leave things alone, I decided to add some of my own touches. I swapped out the ketchup for Evan Williams Spicy Apple Grilling Sauce. If you've never heard of this, it's an amazing sauce that is made with Evan Williams Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. It's tangy-sweet, with hints of apple, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Yum. Dee-lish-us. We bought ours at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, Kentucky, but it's also available at various stores online.
I cooked the meatballs in the onion and bacon, but then I removed those outer layers and basted the meat with more of the Evan Williams sauce because I knew we wouldn't eat the bacon or onion. And for all of you who are groaning and saying, "WHAT? That's the best part!" - hey, all I can say is we're weird like that. I also baked mine in the oven instead of grilling them. So I gave my version a new name:
Baked Bourbon Bacon Meatballs
1 lb. ground Angus beef
2 large Vidalia (sweet) onions
1 pack bacon (I just used cheap bacon since I was going to remove it)
1/4 c. chopped fresh mushrooms
1/4 c. diced Vidalia onion
1 TBSP Evan Williams Spicy Apple Grilling Sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. Panko bread crumbs
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Peel onions and save the largest, outermost shell of each for the meatballs.
(Note: I only made two meatballs. If you want to make smaller meatballs, you can do this and adjust your cooking time accordingly. The reason I only made two was that I wanted my cooking time to be consistent. If figured if I used the different-sized layers of the onions, I would have a bunch of different-sized meatballs that would require different cooking times - too much work!)
3) Dice 1/4 c. of the inner part of the onion.
4) Add ground beef, diced onion, chopped mushrooms, bread crumbs, 1 TBSP. Evan Williams Spicy Apple Grilling Sauce, soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix by hand - just until loosely mixed together. Do not overmix!
5) Loosely pack half of mixture into the shape of a ball...
and place inside two onion halves. Repeat for other half.
6) Wrap meat and onion with bacon strips. I used about 5 strips for each meatball. It will vary depending upon the size of the meatball. You can use toothpicks to hold the bacon in place if needed.
7) Place meatballs into non-stick baking dish or one that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
8) Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes. Keep an eye on it during the last 10 minutes because the grease from the bacon will start to splatter and smoke. I ended up popping the lid on the baking dish for the last 10 minutes.
9) Remove from oven. Carefully slice through bacon and onion on each meatball and push it away, exposing meatballs.
10) Brush a generous amount of Evan Williams Spicy Apple Grilling Sauce all over meatballs, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.
11) Remove from oven, and serve. Add more sauce as desired.
Note: The original recipe states that it serves four. Not in my house. As I mentioned, I made two 1/2 lb. meatballs, so obviously, my version serves two. I can't eat 1/2 lb. of meat, so I just cut mine in half and gave half of it to Gus. He didn't have any problem eating 3/4 lb. of meat. He likes meat. :-)
You may be wondering what I thought of it since I don't really like ground beef. I really liked it! The flavor was awesome! Gus would say that bacon can make anything better, but I would say that bourbon can make anything better. So maybe it's that bacon and bourbon can make anything incredibly awesome?! Seriously, the Evan Williams sauce is amazing, and I highly recommend trying it.
Do you have a favorite grilling sauce?