Monday, January 15, 2007


Consider the meatball. Like its much larger cousin, the meatloaf, it appears in many different forms in many different cultures. Also, like the meatloaf, its quality is highly variable, so it must sometimes be approached with trepidation. Fortunately, the meatball is usually small, so it represents a much smaller investment than does a slice of meatloaf. If you don't like your meatloaf, there isn't a lot that you can do about it, short of faking a case of appendicitis or summoning the family pets. Sadly, not all families keep pets near the dining table (leaving one to wonder whether perhaps they don't care more about their pets than they do about their guests, though the supposed reasons of health and manners provide a convenient and incontrovertible cover), and you can really only fake appendicitis once. Like other things that you can only do once, it is obviously difficult to know exactly when you're facing the optimal time for using the appendicitis excuse. Obviously, you don't want to run into an even worse piece of meatloaf (and pets who are either nonexistent or have learned better than to be present when meatloaf is served) a couple of months after you've pretended to have your appendix out. Contrariwise, too many people have reached the ends of their days cursing the fact that they needn't have choked down that piece of meatloaf back in 1956. Given the state of hospital food, one might suppose that terminal patients who had not hitherto used the appendicitis excuse might not lack for opportunities to use it in their personal end times, but faking appendicitis in the hospital fails on two counts: the nurses will likely be able to tell that you're faking it, and there's always the chance that they might decide to open you up just in case.

Anyway. I have made a good many meatballs in my time. I have rarely used a recipe, and they have always been pretty good, so I don't know what other people do to soil the meatball's reputation, though I suspect that it has something to do with the addition of excessive fillers, a misstep which has also doomed many a meatloaf.

In the past, I've often used a mixture of ground beef and ground pork (or ground beef and sausage) to make meatballs, but I'm rather tediously on this diet, so I wanted to find the perfect meatball to meet my current dietary restraints.

And, frankly, I'm still looking, because the meatballs I made this past weekend are a shade on the bland side. I'm still posting the recipe, however, because the meatballs were still good: tasty and not at all dry. Also, I think that it will be pretty easy to make them significantly better the next time around by the addition of extra seasonings. Mostly more salt, but probably also some cooked onion and an increased amount of both mustard and smoked paprika. Also perhaps some chopped spinach and some herbs. And maybe some grated ginger. (Perhaps you begin to see why in my kitchen the food precedes the recipe, rather than vice versa.) Still, it's good to have a baseline, though it might take me two weeks to get through this batch to have an opportunity to make another. Fortunately, they are still very good after freezing.

I will freely admit that in making this recipe, I used rolled oats rather than bread crumbs entirely because, on the core plan, the former is unrestricted and the latter isn't, but I think the rolled oats perform the same function here and do it well. I also really don't feel like I'm missing much by using ground turkey instead of a fattier ground meat, though I may certainly be deluding myself and/or my tastes may have adjusted to a lengthy period of fat restriction. If you want to use the high test ingredients, then have at it.

Turkey Meatballs

2 packages (about 20 ounces each) ground 93/7 turkey
1 cup rolled oats
2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. garlic powder
1.5 t. kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. capers, drained
A 10-ounce jar of pitted kalamata olives, drained
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the ground turkey in a large bowl.

Put the rolled oats in the bowl of your food processor, and process until ground. Add the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper (to taste), and process again. Add the capers and process until finely chopped. Add the olives and process until finely chopped. Add the mustard and eggs and process until well combined.

Pour the whole mess into the bowl with the ground turkey and mix thoroughly.

Using a one-ounce scoop, take a level scoopful of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Place on a half-sheet pan. Continue until all of the mixture has been used.

Bake 40 minutes, or until done.

I believe this will make almost exactly sixty meatballs if you use a one-ounce scoop and make level (rather than rounded or heaping) scoopfuls of your mixture. I can get 54 of these on a half-sheet pan (six rows by nine columns), which leaves enough left over to make something that looks like a hamburger patty. If you aren't using part of your oven for something else, you can crowd your pans left and make it all in two pans. You may thereby reap some additional benefits by not crowding your pan as much as I did, which might allow your meatballs to brown more uniformly. Or you can be smart and use the excess to make test meatballs and adjust your seasoning.

Or you can just start with more salt. The 1.5 teaspoons in the recipe here is what I actually used, rather than what I should have used. You especially want to get the seasoning right on the first try if you're mixing this by hand because your hands will get cold to the point of numbness very quickly, and unless you're wearing gloves, you probably won't be able to mix the meatballs all the way on one try without stopping to warm your mixing hand. Of course, you could halve the entire recipe and save yourself a world of pain, but I wanted to have a lot of meatballs, and I do.

I like these meatballs just as they are, but if you feel that an unadorned meatball is naked and exposed, then go ahead and sauce them. I think if you took a can of beef broth and an equal amount of red wine and cooked them until they were reduced slightly and then whisked in some Dijon mustard and thickened the whole deal with a bit of beurre manié, then you'd probably have something very good, but I haven't actually tried it. Yet.


Blogger Rebecca said...

You could use a lean ground beef on the core diet, couldn't you? And I'm thinking you could make a sort of Swedish meatball sauce with evaporated skim milk; just brainstorming, here, because I'm getting really bored with Core, myself...

9:23 AM  

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