8-10 oz good quality bacon
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 lb shitake mushrooms, sliced
1-2 sprigs each, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme, roughly chopped
Approximately 1.2 lbs 80% lean ground beef (ideally, grass-fed)
Approximately 1.2 lbs ground pork
2 tbsps milk
2 tbsps breadcrumbs
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 large egg
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2-3 tsp coarse kosher salt (less if using normal salt)
Sub-style Italian bread (soft on the inside), or french baguette
Spicy marinara sauce
Grated parmesan and sliced mozzarella cheese
In a medium skillet, heat about 1 tbsp oil and cook the bacon until cooked well (but not crispy). Transfer the bacon to a paper-lined plate to cool, then roughly chop it. Leave the bacon fat and oil in the skillet, then reheat it over medium heat to saute the celery, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs. Once the vegetables are softened, remove them from the heat, and mix them together with the chopped bacon.
In a food processor, pulse the vegetables, herbs, and bacon until they are finely chopped. Let the mixture cool a bit, and meanwhile prepare the ground meat.
In a large bowl, add the ground beef, ground pork, milk, breadcrumbs, soy sauce, egg, remaining dry herbs and spices, and pureed vegetables and bacon. Ideally, mix every thing together using your hands in clawing motions - this will help to keep the meat more 'fluffy' and aerated instead of overly dense. If you don't like touching the meat, you can also mix everything together with a spoon. When everything is well-mixed, use a spoon or your hands to roll meatballs that are about 1 3/4-inch in diameter (this is the size I like, though you can certainly try larger or smaller).
Form about 12 meatballs, then add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the skillet so they are not crowded or touching, and cook them on one side until they are well-browned. Turn them over to a second side, and cook until browned, then finally try to flip them a third time to cook through the middle. When they are done, they will still feel soft the touch and will have a nice brown sear on the sides - make sure you don't over cook them so you still get nice plump, juicy meatballs. (You can also break one open to check the middle for doneness.) Repeat this process to cook all the meatballs in batches.
Once they are done, serve the bacon meatball subs by cutting the bread in half, lining the inside with plenty of sliced mozzarella cheese, and adding hot meatballs and marinara sauce. (The heat will melt the cheese.) If you like, top with extra parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.
See the story behind the recipe here.