Thursday, January 12, 2012

Herbed Turkey Mini Meatballs

Meatballs Over Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce
Mini Meatballs, Spaghetti Squash & Baked Tomato Sauce

Recipe by Robin and Bruce

Regular readers have likely perceived that I’m involved in a love affair with herbs. Ever since picking up a paperback copy of Craig Clairborne’s Cooking with Herbs and Spices in college—the original un-enlarged, un-revised edition—I have been fascinated by the variety of plants that can be used to flavor foods. The many kinds of herbs and their individual flavors, the fact that some herbs play well together and some do not, how certain herbs compliment certain foods best—the unveiling of these mysteries is to me pure alchemy. So sometimes I push my herb use to the max, like in this recipe.

Ingredients: Oil, Bowl of Meat, Cup of Herbs
Simply Meat, Mixed Spicing, and Oil
I chose dry herbs for this recipe because they pack a bigger punch than fresh with this particular cooking method. That makes this recipe perfect for winter, when my herb garden, except for the valiant rosemary, looks rather bare.

To season the meatballs, I start with a commercially blended Italian herb mix, ideally one with lots of different green herbs including rosemary, plus a little red pepper. Then I add summer savory, a common herb in homemade sausage (hubby Bruce’s suggestion). Next comes some additional oregano and marjoram. Garlic salt, ground black pepper, and a touch of nutmeg round out the blend. Feel free, as always, to adjust both the quantity and the type of herbs to your liking.

Bopcha's Plate Filled with Meatballs
I Wish My Bopcha (Polish Grandmother) Could See This
Making meatballs is considerably more time consuming than making meat sauce. In addition, I’m squeamish about digging into a bowl of cold ground meat and rolling it in my hands. And to be honest, I find the process somewhat tedious. But since results are more satisfying and fun to eat, as has been expressed by various dinner guests, I’ve come up with a couple of ways to make the process easier.

Meatballs Browning in Frying Pan
Turn Frequently for Even Browning
I wear latex disposable gloves dabbed in olive oil to avoid contact with the cold meat, which makes rolling the balls more pleasant. To make the process seem less time consuming, I often do the mixing and rolling the night before, and the sauté on the night that I’ll serve the meatballs. The herb flavor seems to develop more overnight, which is a good thing but not necessary. You can make them in one fell swoop if you prefer, and they will be delicious. Allow about 20 – 25 minutes for the mixing and rolling, and another 20 minutes for cooking.

Frequently I serve these with spaghetti or spaghetti squash and tomato sauce, either Baked Tomato Sauce or something from a jar to which I’ve added sautéed onion, garlic, zucchini, etc. I’ve also served them with sautéed mixed veggies over noodles. You could cut them in half and top pizza, make a mini-hoagie, serve them as hors d’oeuvres with a dipping sauce, or come up with inspired ideas of your own. Like many Italian style foods, they taste even better a day or two after cooking.

Bowl of Ground Turkey with Herbs Dumped in
Adding Mixed Herbs & Spices to Meat
Herbed Turkey Mini Meatballs
makes about 32 mini balls

1 ¼ lb. ground turkey
1 ½ tsp. Italian herb mix
½ tsp. summer savory
¼ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. marjoram
1 ¼ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
2 dashes nutmeg
1 tsp. plus 1 tbsp. olive oil, approx.

Put ground turkey into mixing bowl and turkey is a solid block, chop up with wooden spoon or paddle.

Mix herbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a small container.

Add herb mix to meat and blend together with paddle or spoon until herbs are evenly distributed.

Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil into a small cup. Put on latex or latex-substitute gloves and dip in olive oil. Spread oil onto palms and fingertips. Roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls using your palms and fingertips. Re-oil your gloves as needed when meat mixture starts to stick to them.

You can store these for a day in the fridge before cooking if you prefer. Otherwise, preheat an electric frying pan to 350 degrees F. Add about 1 tbsp. olive oil and use a pancake turner to spread oil over entire bottom of the pan. Use a little more oil if necessary.

Add the meatballs to the frying pan, and immediately reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Brown the meatballs evenly on all sides by stirring them around and turning them over with the pancake turner. You will need to flip them about 5 times, and more frequently when they are first sautéing. Total cook time will be about 20 minutes. 

No comments:

Post a Comment