07 January 2015

house (turkey) meatballs

I figure waiting for the perfect time to capture sun-drenched kitchen photos for this overdue post is a game not worth playing. I've been making them all Fall and can't wait any longer. Sure I could schedule them on the lunch menu some winter Saturday but on the weekend breakfast is usually lunch and menus rarely scheduled, and that would just be keeping you further away from the point of these meatballs: winter dinner. These have become our house meatballs and I particularly love making them when it is Unacceptably. Cold. Out. They're turkey-based, lightly herbed, very tender and just warm you the heck up. Tomato sauce does that, yes? So open a bottle of red, dress greens (I love caesary baby kale with this) and warm some bread. I promise you don't need to bother with spaghetti. 

Over the summer, with zucchini and corn around, I made Ottolenghi's spiced turkey meatballs several times. After the fresh produce went away I started with this recipe from TheKitchn because the technique sounded up my alley. After being formed, the meatballs are lightly browned in olive oil and then tomato sauce is poured directly on top and the pan is covered, the heat lowered a little  and they simmer to cook through. I love this method for the same reason as the stove top to oven method with Ottolenghi's: you get them browned but not burned, and just cooked through and tender. After the meat simmers in the sauce for even the 10 minutes here, it adds such richness the sauce, too. I think the best compliment on these, besides the fact that I make them once a week, sometimes twice, was that they were mistaken for beef meatballs. We actually like them better than the ones at one of our favorite fancy pizza joints, which are beef! 

I like to take the opportunity to use up both homemade breadcrumbs and tomato sauce here, but you can use whatever sauce you have. Same goes for breadcrumbs. Making your own is as easy as forgetting about a baguette for a day, de-crusting it and whizzing in the processor. I freeze the breadcrumbs and use them when needed. They defrost in no time when left out. As for turkey, get good, humane stuff, from a good source. And if you have it, either a little torn fresh mozzarella or even more Parmesan is wonderful on top of these. When you take the pan off the heat and see they are done, the whole thing will be very hot. Throw some extra herbs and cheese on, just a little, partially cover the pan and set it on the table to rest while you get everything else ready. When you sit down, it will be melted. Bon appetite! 

Italian turkey meatballs
tweaked from thekitchn.

Notes: as you can probably guess, I usually make half of this recipe at a time, as half is hearty enough for two, about 14 meatballs, and involves no batch browning. If you make the whole thing you'll have to brown in batches before simmering. 

1 pound good quality ground turkey, 85% lean or 93% lean
1/4 cup grated onion, using large holes on a grater
1 large egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, I used fresh from stale bread
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asagio cheese
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (I have used half fresh oregano too)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought
Shaved Parmesan or Asagio or fresh mozzarella, torn, to serve, optional
Combine the turkey, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley in a large bowl. Mix gently with your hands until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. 
Roll the meat mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. You should have 26-30.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Place the meatballs in hot skillet and brown for  around 4 minutes, turning so each side hits the pan, gently rotating so they brown evenly. Brown in batches if making whole recipe.
Reduce heat to just below medium, add the tomato sauce to coat and cover pan. Simmer the meatballs and sauce for another 10 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. To test cut into one  to see no pink or use a thermometer, stacking them if necessary. 
Remove from heat, shake skillet to coat in sauce, top with additional herbs and cheese, and let rest a a few minutes on the table, the lid on but ajar. 

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