Meatballs were always a staple growing up with red sauce and spaghetti, but it wasn’t until lately that I started to realize how perfect of a blank slate they could be for other cuisines.
This version is based on my wife Cristina’s request for a healthy meal or snack, and I decided to amp it up with classic Thai flavors and pine nuts because we had them lying around.
The key here is to make sure the raw mixture holds together well, and then allow plenty of room in the pan to get even browning, shaking and turning every couple minutes.
Feel free to iterate with whatever flavors and spices you feel would work. The same method would work just as easily with ground beef or pork. I’ve also done them with lamb, but with a shorter cooking time to ensure juicy pink meat.
(Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
- 1 lb ground turkey (dark meat like thigh preferable–get fresh from the butcher counter with a coarse grind, not the pre-frozen mush)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 4-6 fresh thai bird chiles, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1-2 TBSP fish sauce
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- Salt and pepper
- 1-2 TBSP canola oil for cooking
- Add ground turkey, breadcrumbs, chiles and cilantro to a large mixing bowl.
- Toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Add directly to mixing bowl with rest of ingredients.
- Add a splash of oil to skillet, and lightly brown the shallot and garlic for about 1 minute to release some of their aromas, add to same bowl.
- Add coriander, fish sauce, a few generous pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper to bowl, then mix everything together with your hands until a solid, well-integrated ball is formed.
- Heat a splash of oil in the small skillet. Take about 1 tsp of the turkey mixture, form a small ball using your palms, and cook for about 2 minutes until browned and cooked through. Taste this sample and adjust seasoning in the raw mixture, adding more salt, fish sauce, or chiles as needed.
- Form the rest of the meatballs roughly 1″ in diameter and set aside on a large plate or tray.
- Heat 2 TBSP oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs in batches of 8-10, making sure to give them plenty of space to brown evenly and roll over when you shake the pan. Use tongs to rotate to ensure even browning. Total cooking time should be 5-7 minutes per meatball…you’re looking for a firm but slightly springy feeling when you press on them.
- Serve immediately as an appetizer or entree, or save in containers for a snack.