Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jen's Turkey Meatballs

My sister often pokes fun at me for using recipes, to which I say, "Bollocks! I didn't spend $35 on this shiny gorgeous cookbook just to use it as a coaster for my mojito!" I believe strongly in the value of trodding where others have tread culinarily, but that said, I am not immune to the inquiring impulses of the maverick home chef, so tonight I will develop my own turkey meatball recipe from a motley assortment of ingredients pulled from my refrigerator and freezer, mostly because it's too cold to leave my home and get a grilled chicken burrito from Laughing Planet.
Jen's Turkey Meatballs
Ingredients (rough approximations, that is)
3/4 pound ground turkey (you should really be using pork, but what's a girl to do when there ain't no pork in her freezer?)
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbls wine (some turkey meatball recipes would have you moisten with water, but my motto is: Why use water when you can use wine?")
2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbls chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbls finely minced garlic
1/4 finely grated parmegiano reggiano or pecorino romano
A dash of dijon, just cause
salt and pepper (this is can't very well salt to taste unless you fancy risking a nasty case of food poisoning so go with your gut...I used slightly less than a teaspoon of salt...but I LOVE SALT. I hope I used enough. I'll let you know.)
1/4 tsp pepper

What a gorgeous assortment of flavors! I mash everything together with my fork, even though I know I should be using my hands. But I do not like touching raw poultry, it grosses me out. Eventually I give up and plunge my hands in, I'll have to touch it eventually when I mold the meatballs or else spend my whole evening in here faffing about with two spoons. When I feel everything has been blended satisfactorially, I mold perfectly round meatballs from approximately 1 big rounded tablespoonful of mixture, using my palms to roll them briskly. They are so sticky. I carefully place them in a baking dish, and then I offer them a glass of wine, which they politely decline, and we both go our separate ways for a half hour, the meatballs to rest in the fridge, me to make a simple tomato sauce for them to bake in.

I swirl olive oil in my biggest Calphalon skillet, then add a couple cloves of minced garlic once the oil is quite hot. I quickly pour in 12-14 oz of tomato sauce and let it cook while I chop up a quarter cup of flat leaf parsley, and about two tablespoons of thyme, plus a tablespoon of brittle cranky old sage I find in the fridge drawer. Better than no sage, I suppose! I really need to plant a windowsill herb garden. I pour a healthy amount of red wine in, salt my sauce delicately, add a dash of dried red chili pepper flakes for a bit of a kick, and let the sauce simmer until my meatballs are fully rested. I pull them from the fridge, gently plunk them into the sauce, then cook them 10 minutes on each side, hopefully enough to kill any lurking pathogens.

These meatballs look amazing. The sauce looks amazing too, flecked with dark green herbs, a rich, brooding burgundy from all the wine I accidentally poured in while trying to take a picture of the wine streaming into the sauce.

Holding my breath with anticipation (I am still smarting from my recent Thai soup disaster) I try one. Phenomenal! These may well be the best turkey meatballs I have ever eaten, seasoned magnificently, with the richness of the parmesan adding a savory kick to the herbaceous notes and zesty garlicky flavor. And the texture! So tender to the bite, but still very meaty. The sauce is perfection, cooked down to the ideal thickness and with a complexity that just matches the meatballs'. So there you have it sis--while I will continue to stubbornly decline to develop too many of my own recipes, it's good to know I can be an inventive genius in the kitchen when the occasion--aka a frigidly travel-prohibitive, lazy evening at home--calls for it.

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