Just so we’re straight here: I’m not a real food blogger because I make food and then we eat it, so my pictures are often hideous-looking because they’re taken in the terrible LED/CFL light of our kitchen at 6pm and because our children and my husband are clamoring to just eat already. I feel like I need to give this disclaimer often because, while the pictures might look terrible, I don’t post anything here that we don’t love.
Back to business…We eat A LOT of ground beef, pork, and venison. Why? Because we only eat local, sustainably-raised meat and poultry – and because that stuff can get pricey. The ground varieties tend to be more affordable. We buy a pig from a local farmer so we pay a bulk price, but it actually is pretty reasonable because we’re buying in bulk and he uses the leftovers from the cuts to make ground pork. We have another local source that processes whole beef ground beef (which incidentally makes the best burgers you have ever tasted). Grant has a buddy who is a hunter that always shares his ground venison. If you’re just dipping your toes into trying to eat more sustainably, ground meat is a good place to start because it is affordable, typically easy to find, and versatile.
I admit to getting a bit sick of coming up with ideas for all of the ground beef/pork/venison* in our freezer. I thought maybe if some of you were suffering from a similar frustration, I could start a little series here on spicing things up a bit when it comes to using up your ground meat. I first made this at the beginning of fall. It came together really easily, tasted delicious, and has since become a regular at our house. As a bonus, it freezes well (just assemble it and then pop it in the freezer instead of the oven), so I try to make a double batch when I do make it so that I have a back-up in the freezer for busy nights.
ground beef and polenta casserole
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- Sprinkler of red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicier)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 pound ground beef (or pork or venison)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 sweet pepper, diced (I used some that I had frozen - post coming soon)
- 1 tbsp fat of choice (I used lard from our pig!)
- 1 cans diced tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 350°. Bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a pan. Whisk in cornmeal; reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in salt and seasonings and 1/4 cup cheddar cheese. Spread cornmeal mixture into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.
- Brown ground meat in a large skillet.
- Sauté onion and peppers oil in skillet until softened. Add tomato paste and garlic and continue to saute until you can smell the garlic. Add diced tomatoes and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Pour beef mixture over cornmeal crust. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.
- Add some greens (salad, sauteed kale, roasted broccoli), and you have yourself some comfort food for these wintry nights.
*This would work just as well with ground chicken or turkey, which we don’t have very often around our house because we buy whole (happy) chickens/turkeys, and I never want to grind up the meat because we find other, tastier uses for it. Buying locally and sustainably raised poultry is expensive; when we do buy it, we make sure to eat all of the meat and then get at least a couple rounds of stock out of the bones and skin.