Meatballs 3 Ways

Trader Joe's pre-cooked turkey meatballs are the bomb. I'm never without two or three bags of them in the downstairs freezer. These things have to be terrible for you, the sodium content is probably off the chart. But they are always there when I need them. And when you have four different people with four different ideas for dinner, meatballs are the common thread.

Case in point, tonight. I was wanting soup. Panda and Redman wanted yellow rice with peas. Jeeps pointed out that the bag of kale in the crisper drawer was approaching slimehood and needed to be used.

Now, watch...

One soup pot on the back burner. Olive oil. Three carrots scraped and sliced.  A can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. Half a pint of grape tomatoes.  Saute all. Add chicken broth. Chopped parsley if you have it. Lower the heat, cover and let it do its thing.

One skillet on the front burner. Olive oil. Five big cloves garlic, minced. Work it. Add half the bag of kale, toss with tongs. Cover and let wilt. Add other half. Salt and pepper. Toss. Cover and let it do its thing.

Third skillet down. Olive oil. Half the bag of pre-cooked meatballs. Brown them.

The stove now looks like this. Jeeps insisted I take the picture so I could prove I wasn't putting three different nights' dinners into one post. As if I would do such a thing.

And now (drum roll), from these three pots and one tupperware from the fridge, I give you dinner:

The kids had meatballs with their yellow rice. Jeeps constructed yellow rice, kale, and meatballs. I dropped meatballs and kale into my soup.

Everyone was happy. And personally, I think mine was best.

Lettuce Cups with Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs

Reading the March issue of Bon Appétit on the plane home from Marco, I saw this recipe for Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs in Lettuce Cups. Hello! I love lettuce wraps and this looked like something fun which everyone, maybe, would like. Most of the ingredients I had on hand and the rest I remembered to get at DeCicco's...except cilantro. Dammit, it's always something. So wherever I list cilantro below, I substituted parsley.

This is a good Young Chef recipe because there are lots of little jobs for kids to do like grate carrots and slice cucumbers, whisk this and that, shape meatballs, arrange things on a platter, etc.

Just in case the short people in the house didn't care for it, I also made cappellini in a Thai peanut sauce. This turned out to be a brilliant move as you'll soon see.

Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs in Lettuce Cups (from Bon Appétit)

You can make the dipping sauce ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, then bring to room temperature while cooking everything else.

  • 1 3-inch lemongrass stalk, outermost leaf removed
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp coarsely grated carrot
  • 4 tsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp minced green Thai chile, or serrano chile with seeds (I didn't use this)

Smash the lemongrass with a rolling pin, then mince fine, you should have 1 tablespoon. Place in small bowl and whisk in rest of ingredients until sugar dissolves. Set aside

The meatballs can also be made ahead of time and kept chilled. They are made just with ground pork and there's a lot of emphasis on keeping them cold during prep. It didn't say why. I just follow orders.

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 5-inch stalk of lemongrass, outermost leaf removed, smashed with a rolling pin and minced.
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Chill pork in freezer while making lemongrass paste. Pulse lemongrass, shallots, cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, oil, sugar and white pepper in food processor until a paste forms, scraping down sides with a spatula.

Add pork and pulse until combined. Shape into 24 balls (each about 1 tablespoon). Place on plate or baking sheet, cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Start water boiling for the pasta.  In a small saucepan, combine the following for the peanut sauce:

  • 3 tbsp soy
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Whisk until smooth and keep on low heat while pasta cooks. Use cappellini or spaghetti.

Heat vegetable oil in skillet on medium heat, add meatballs and brown until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Get a large platter, put the bowl of dipping sauce in the middle. Separate the leaves of either butter lettuce or iceberg for the cups. Slice thin 2 Persian or English cucumbers. Arrange on one side of platter, put cooked meatballs on the other.

Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Return to pot and toss with peanut sauce and as much reserved water as needed.

So you put some meatballs into a lettuce cup, garnish with the cucumber and drizzle the sauce over it.

This was a hit! I sensed that the kids wouldn't like the dipping sauce and I was right—it was very intensely salty and lime-y (I'm going to fiddle with those two things next time). So I put the peanut noodles into lettuce cups with a meatball, the sliced cucumber and extra carrot that I'd grated. They each ate four!

Not bad for a Monday.  

Bartender, another Corona please...

Madame von Meatball Fails

I swear I don't know how these things happen. Pandagirl had a friend sleeping over tonight and both girls asked to help me make dinner, which was going to be Swedish meatballs over egg noodles with broccoli on the side. Simple. No-brainer. And I already had the ground turkey defrosted because I have my head in the game!

Sort of.

Anyway, much like meatloaf, it feels ridiculous to give a meatball recipe because everyone has their own method and madness. So the charm here lies in the girls making them.

Very quickly this was 2 eggs with some fresh breadcrumbs, dried minced onion, parmesan, a squeeze of mustard, a squeeze of ketchup, and fresh parsley. Ground turkey mixed in, form into balls, brown in the skillet.

Roll the montage!

When nice and browned, I added 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth, lowered the heat, covered and let simmer while I finished up the noodles and broccoli.

Then I took the meatballs out, turned up the heat, mixed 1/4 cup chicken broth with 2 tablespoons of Wondra, and whisked that into the pan (I'm actually figuring this gravy thing out).

Then the meatballs went back into the gravy for a few minutes, last touches here and there, plate up the money shot, a sprinkle of parsley, zoom in:

And then we were in business for a lovely dinner downstairs while watching E. T. (which the kids have never seen)

90 seconds into the movie, Panda says, "Mom, these meatballs are really spicy."

"Yeah, they really are," says her friend.

"I don't like them," Redman said, the picture of despondency.  

He loves meatballs and I'd already gotten the pre-emptive, "Mom you make the best dinner" while they were still cooking. He looked at me now like I owed him money.

"But that's impossible," I said, sitting down and picking up my fork. "We didn't put anything in them that was spicy."  

I took a bite. Spicy. Like hot spicy. Hot Italian sausage spicy, what the hell? I put down my plate, went back upstairs, dug through the garbage to find the ground turkey container. I brought the edges of the cut plastic shrink wrap together to reassemble the label and read: Pre-spiced Ground Turkey, Italian sausage flavoring.

Son of a bitch.

"They're not that bad," Jeeps said comfortingly.

The kids ignored him and the meatballs, and ate all the noodles and broccoli.

I sulked.