Sunday was the Academy Awards and The Artist and I went over to the home of a gal I went to high school with to join her family to watch the broadcast. Our hostess opened the door wearing a black evening gown, just as beautiful as all the swanky gals on the red carpet! The evening started with Blood Orange Margaritas, so delicious and bound to set the mood for a rip roaring good time. Wonderful friends, a fun excuse to get together and awesome food, the ingredients were all there for one heck of a celebration!
Before I get to today’s recipe, I have to tell you that the chili our hostess made was one of the best I’ve ever had! She made it with brisket, and oh my goodness, what flavor that added! Full of spices, they all blended together into a perfect symmetry of chili flavor. The fresh chiles and other ingredients made all the difference. I will share the recipe later on, but wanted to give you a little teaser here, LOL.
When I knew that the main course was going to be chili, I offered to bring cornbread. Being the Academy Awards, of course I made Sherry Yard’s (in “my” world famous) Honey-Glazed Cornbread which I have shared here before. It had been awhile since I made it and I’d almost forgotten how incredibly good it is! I think I need to make another batch just to be sure. 🙂 I used Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind cornmeal which gave it a real “corn” flavor and a lot of texture. Very gritty when tasted raw, it bakes into a slightly crunchy cornbread, with lots of “tooth”. I didn’t add any corn kernels, but you certainly could if you want. Don’t wait for an excuse to make this amazing cornbread. I think making breakfast is all the excuse I need for the next batch!
Last week I saw a recipe from the New York Times that sounded so good it had my mouth watering, and with a party coming up, it was a perfect excuse to try it out! If you don’t already follow the NY Times site, you should. There is always something interesting to read and some of this country’s best recipes have come from their food section. The recipe I saw was for Asian-flavored turkey meatballs with a soy-ginger glaze. What a great idea to combine those flavors with ground turkey, an ingredient we don’t use nearly enough. Fairly neutral in its own flavor, it takes on the seasonings of what you put with it. Being naturally quite low in fat makes it an excellent substitution for part or all of the ground beef or pork called for in any recipe. I always make my meatloaf with at least half ground turkey and no one can ever guess that I have made a “healthy” version! I always use dark turkey meat which has more flavor and substance.
The original recipe called for frying the meatballs in oil. I did fry a few of them and of course they were delicious that way. But because some of the guests at the party were watching their weight, I wanted to try baking the meatballs. They came out beautifully, and with the glazing sauce, absolutely delicious. I doubled the recipe and made the meatballs twice the recommended size, so the yield was the same, but they fed more people. I used a 2 tbsp ice cream scoop to make the portions and it went incredibly fast. I dropped the scoops straight onto a lightly greased baking sheet and then popped them in the oven at 350°F with convection. About 20 minutes later, they came out perfectly cooked, firm to the touch, and still moist. Score one for the healthy technique! The dark soy-based glaze makes up for any loss of browning from frying.
Because of time constraints, I didn’t reduce the sauce as much as I should have. Had I given it the extra time it would have been a slightly thicker dipping sauce, which I would have preferred, but the flavors were wonderful. Slightly salty and sweet, this was Umami at its best. Don’t scrimp on the fresh ginger – it makes a huge difference in the final product. Because it is so fibrous, I always make sure to sharpen my knives before and after cutting a lot of it. Sharp knives allow you to use less pressure, reducing the chances of a knife slipping and cutting you!
Because one of the guests isn’t too crazy about the flavor of cilantro, I substituted Italian parsley for half the amount. I liked the addition and the herbaceous flavor of the parsley added an interesting dimension. Next time I would use my food processor to chop the scallions and herbs for a finer texture, but the rustic quality of the meatballs was attractive and my idea of great food – not fussy, but with tremendous flavor. This combination would be wonderful as a filling for empanadas, wontons, or spring rolls. And you could use it as the base for an Asian-flavored layered pasta dish, like an Asian lasagna. The possibilities are nearly endless. Let your imagination go wild!
Last night we didn’t have enough meatballs left over to make an entire meal, so I sauteed some bell peppers, celery, and shallots, and tossed in some cooked pasta. Keeping with the flavors of the meatballs, I added a little soy sauce, Mirin, and sesame oil and tossed it all together. I chopped up the leftover meatballs, added them to the pasta dish and dinner was served. Two meals for the price of one, both terrific in their own right, and totally different interpretations. Both the meatballs and the pasta dish will be added to my “Must Make Again” file for future meals.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you want to cut back on some of the calories, when a recipe calls for frying something, it usually is possible to bake it instead. You may have to boost the flavors slightly to compensate for the loss of fat from frying … remember that fat is what helps transport flavors to the tongue.
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or 1/2 cup sake with 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped peeled ginger
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 4 whole black peppercorns
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil
- Make sauce: Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.)
- Make meatballs: Mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of pepper in a bowl. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. Arrange on a heated platter, spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks. If desired, keep warm in a 200°F oven until ready to serve.
- Yield: about 2 dozen pieces
- To bake these, place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs. 1 tbsp = ~15 minutes; 2 tbsp = ~30 minutes. Drizzle with a little of the sauce and serve with remaining sauce on the side for dipping.