Pork and Spinach Meatballs with Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Gravy

meatballsby Karen Frazier

Recently, I bought some lovely ground pastured pork from a local farmer and knew I wanted to make something tasty with it. Okay – true – I always want to make something tasty. As always, I turned to my slow cooker.

You may notice I’ve been posting a lot of slow cooker recipes lately. Here’s why. When you cook real food – that is, food that doesn’t come in packages, jars, and cans – it can be pretty time and labor intensive. Of course, the results are totally worth it, and I love to cook. But I’m cooking three real food meals every day – and I get tired of cleaning up the kitchen. Not the cooking – just the cleaning. Plus, Jim and I are often on different schedules, so we need to eat at different times.

The slow cooker takes care of both of these problems. First, my slow cooker is 7 quarts, so I can make a lot of food in it. Therefore, I typically double any recipe I post here. It simmers all day long, and I’ve got meals for two nights, plus leftovers for the freezer. (Bonus: The house smells great!) My freezer is packed with yummy slow cooker food that I can take out and heat up for any meal. That means that I not only get two dinners out of one day of cooking, but I also have additional breakfasts and lunches on demand. It gives Jim the opportunity to grab a healthy meal for lunches at work, too, instead of having to turn to something like a fast food meal.

The other reason I’ve been using the slow cooker so much is scheduling. When Jim and I are on our wildly divergent schedules, we can each eat a hot meals straight from the slow cooker when time permits. Slow cookers make it easy for busy families to grab a quick meal when they have the time.

So, that’s why I love my slow cooker and use it so much. Oh – and one other reason, as well. The slow cooker is a closed system that cooks on low heat all day. This tenderizes meats and allows flavors to meld beautifully, so the meals are hearty and delicious. What could be better?

For the caramelized onions in this recipe, I make a huge batch in the slow cooker. You can also make a batch by cooking thinly sliced onions on the stovetop on low heat in a sauté pan with a few tablespoons of fat and a pinch of salt for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pork and Spinach Meatballs with Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons duck fat (or your fat of choice)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 pound pastured ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder, divided
  • 3 cups organic spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 pound organic mushrooms, divided
  • 1 organic carrot, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup homemade beef or chicken stock
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onions (about one onion)
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add one of the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, about five minutes.
  2. Add the two cloves of the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Remove the onions from the heat and allow to cool completely.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked onions and garlic, pork, 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard powder, spinach, 8 ounces of the mushrooms (finely chopped), the grated carrot, the dried thyme, the sea salt, the pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Using your hands, mix well to combine.
  4. Roll the mixture into meatballs that are slightly smaller than a golf ball. Put the meatballs in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  5. Add the remaining onion (chopped), the remaining garlic (minced), the chopped carrots, the remaining 8 ounces of mushrooms (sliced), the stock, the rosemary sprig, and some salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover and cook on low for six hours.
  7. Before serving, remove the lid of the slow cooker and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes uncovered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meatballs from the slow cooker and set them aside on a platter, tented with foil. Remove the rosemary sprig and discard it. Using the same spoon, remove the solids (the carrots, mushrooms, and onions) from the broth in the slow cooker. Put them in a food processor or blender with the caramelized onions and the remaining half teaspoon of dried mustard and process until they form a smooth puree. (Remember to protect your hand with a folded towel and to allow steam to escape through the open top chute of the processor).
  8. Pour the mixture from the food processor back into the slow cooker, using a rubber scraper to make sure you get it all. Whisk the mixture to combine the broth in the slow cooker with the pureed vegetables.
  9. Return the meatballs to the slow cooker and stir to mix them with the gravy.
  10. Serve on pureed celeriac or cauliflower.

photo credit: gavinr via photopin cc

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