Brace yourselves, my friends. You are going to learn a thing or two in this here post. About both meatballs and me. I’m feeling unencumbered. Gigi has taken to calling me Hemingway because I like to write while sipping on whiskey. Tonight I mixed up a new-fangled Sidecar cocktail of bourbon, cointreau and fresh lime. It is quite good. I am sipping it while eating Spanish nut mix, kale chips and castelvetrano olives for dinner.
Yes, that’s how it goes sometimes. I’m not always inclined to cook. Believe it or not. I hope you’re not disappointed in me. Disappointment is the absolute worst, as far as I’m concerned.
After work today I zipped over to UC Berkeley to attend the Edible Education 103 lecture. Michael Pollan is the instructor. He is my hero – eloquent and thoughtful and interested. Alice Waters and Fritz Haeg lectured this evening. It was very much worth my while. Fritz, in particular, was really fascinating. He, like Alice, believes in sustainable agriculture and the power of connecting people to the land. Fritz replaces domestic front lawns with edible gardens in communities where it is frowned upon. He has planted these gardens in Kansas and Budapest and many places in between.
So, now I’m home and I’m ready to tell you about these meatballs. This recipe was inspired by two people. Tori, my colleague and fellow food blogger, and Smitten Kitchen. Tori piqued my interest when she brought a version of the balls into the office a while back. Her lunch smelled so good. Turns out it was the meatballs. She forwarded a few recipes and some tips. In true Happelsauce fashion, I took the ingredients that sounded best and mixed them together to make what I’m going to share with you. Tori also let me in on a little tidbit that is precious and priceless – before baking, roll the raw balls in a bit of sugar to caramelize them just a little. Brilliant.
Let me just say that there is nothing cloudy about these balls. Mark my words. They are blue sky balls with not a cloud in sight.
I made these balls to bring to Kristin’s housewarming party. She had decided on Asian-inspired food and picked up a slew of potstickers and dumplings and spring rolls from Clement Street. I wanted to contribute and play ball!! Because I love Kristin, and the gal knows how to throw a good fiesta. Needless to say, I was in party mode when I arrived and it was only up from there. I danced ALL NIGHT.
Our friend Mike came all the way from Bangalore, India. Last year at this very time, I was there. In India. And this year he was here. In San Francisco. Anyway, he was totally that friend. You know. The friend from afar. Don’t you wish you were that person sometimes? The one at the wedding when it’s announced, “And there is a special someone here who flew all the way from ZIMBABWE! Can you believe it?! Thank you so much for being here! It means the world to us.”
Mike snapped all of these pics and so many more (mostly rated R for Ridiculous.) Thanks, Mike! And hurry back to the Bay…
I complained about the Jambox being to small. Miraculously, a very large Jambox materialized. We danced.
My new favorite food blog is Bon Appetempt. Amelia is the blogger/creator. She is funny, which is why she’s my new fav. Anyway, she rates her recipes with emoji scores. And I LOVE this because I am mildly obsessed with emoticons. In her last post, Cranberry-Maple Jelly, she gives it a “Two thumbs up, one heart, one older woman (to connote that my grandma likes to make this sort of dish), and one astonished face (because of all the unused pulp.)” Brilliant! Emoticons are how I communicate with many of my friends on a daily basis, so why not on Happelsauce too?
I give these Turkey Asian Meatballs an emoji score of…one big fist pump (delish!), one Spanish salsa dancer (they have dancing powers!), one turkey leg (obviously), one party hat with confetti (party balls!), and a shooting star (just because).
Now it’s your turn to try them. And if you’re really sick of turkey (I totally understand), then make them with ground chicken. Also, I made a dipping sauce to accompany them and I think it’s a worthwhile side project while making and baking the balls. If you want to make a proper meal of them, you can wrap a few balls in lettuce leaves, top with pickled carrots and drizzle on a little sauce for an Asian-inspired taco.
Turkey Scallion Meatballs
Makes about 30 balls (easy to double for a party)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari, preferably reduced sodium
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger (or adjust to your preference)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4-8 whole black peppercorns
1 pound ground turkey
4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Notes: I added a teaspoon of cornstarch to the meatball mix to firm them up a bit. I recommend this. If you don’t have cornstarch or you forget to add it, you can shape into patties instead of balls. Also, if you’ve got a bit of granulated sugar hanging around, it’s worth rolling the raw balls in the sugar so they caramelize while baking.
Make sauce: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the meatballs (when the sauce is reduced by about half). This should take about 30 minutes. Once the sauce has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve.
Make meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, fish sauce, garlic, cornstarch and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl and incorporate well. Let sit for at least 20 minutes so the flavors meld. (I made my mixture the night before and kept it in the fridge. Future flavor balls!) Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls, dip in granulated sugar, and place onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The mixture is pretty soft, so it’s more of a ball toss than a ball roll.
Bake the balls for about 20 minutes. They will get very juicy. Arrange on a platter or in a bowl and serve with the dipping sauce. Toothpicks are probably a nice touch, although I didn’t have any. Balls can be finger food too.
Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed.