2.03.2009

Turkey Meatballs (a rewritten post from 2004)

Ever since Frankie was a teeny, tiny baby, she liked turkey meatballs. We make them often but I've learned a lot since I first started making them and they're better than ever. I decided to rewrite the post.

The significant observations that have guided my new, almost finished, master recipe for Turkey Meatballs are ...

• Grind (size) is crucial. Andrew has guided me in the craft of Charcuterie and recommends a coarse grind in most sausage preparations (kielbasa, sausage, etc.); his guess is the more coarse the grind, the less likely it is to dry out during cooking. I think he's spot-on; the few sausage preps I've done have come out exceptional. Just as significant, the coarseness of the grind contributes greatly to mouthfeel. There's an Ohio brand of ground turkey sold frozen that is ground really fine. It tastes mealy when cooked. When I bought some coarsely ground 93/7 turkey the other day it was infinitely better when cooked in this recipe. A coarse grind definitely wins. Thanks for the tip Andrew.

• When I was buying that super fine grind stuff, not knowing any better, I changed the mouthfeel by adding cracked wheat or bulgur. Far from a new method, cracked wheat has been added to ground lamb in kibbe forever, but it's not commonly used in combination with ground turkey. The cracked wheat made that turkey taste good. Don't worry, the hard nuggets of grain hydrate and soften in the mixture and upon cooking. There is no discernible taste or texture of the wheat. And, it's whole grain causing the meatball to be a pretty darn complete meal with protein, complex carbs and some fat all in one tasty little nugget of goodness.

• Like any meatball (traditionally sirloin), don't handle the thing much. Compress these things together as gingerly as a biscuit. Too much man-handling and it's gonna be tough.

• Future directions. Soon, I'd like to grind my own turkey thighs. It should be outstanding - another post.

That's it. Here's the recipe. I make them, freeze them on a cookie sheet and the next morning put them in a ziploc bag for cooking in tomato sauce (I don't fry meatballs, I cook them slowly in tomato sauce - any other method is just wrong).

Turkey Meatballs
Put the following in a bowl
Coarse ground turkey, 1 lb, highest fat content you can find
cracked wheat or bulgur, 1/2 C
bread crumbs, fine, 1/4 C
milk, 1/4 C
finely minced onion, 1/4 C
a few fine slivers of garlic
reggiano, 1/4 C (optional)
eggs, 2
oregano, dried, 2 T
salt, 1 t (I almost always salt 1% by weight, here, 5 g / 500 grams ingredients)
pepper, to taste

Put everything in a bowl, using your hands, gently fold everything together without working it too much. Form into whatever size meatball you like (we like golf ball sized). That's it.

I may modify quantities of cracked wheat and bread crumbs as I remake them. Toss a few frozen ones in tomato sauce and let simmer gently an hour or so. You'll eat the leftovers for breakfast.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

>>>Ever since Fast Food Nation, suspicion as to the source of ground beef has given us pause.<<<

Hi Dave - My toddler is grown up now (she's given me two grandkids) and I've had time to be on pause for a while about ground beef sources and practically anything else you can put in your mouth. We raised her organically -- mainly vegetables -- but in this day and age organic beef is not hard to find (at least in Minneapolis, MN). I gotta believe there's some in Ohio and if your state's organic food laws haven't been hijacked by the corporate farming conglomerates, it should be nutritious, safe, and taste better than anything you might buy at Sam's Club.

Enjoying your site and your writing.

Peter in Minneapolis

dave said...

Thanks for visiting the site and your kind words.

In Ohio we have this great organic turkey farm (I forget the name right now) but that was part of the motivation for using that particular raw material (the turkey). However, your point is well taken. There are good sources of organic meat these days. I believe even most of what Trader Joe's carries is organic. I'll be checking it out.

The thought of me ever being a grandfather makes me a bit overwhelmed.

Thanks again for writing and visiting.

Andrew said...

Looks darn good-it seems like the only turkey the supermarkets carry after thanksgiving is a turky breast roast type thing. Thighs seems like a lot safer bet for making good meatballs