Anyone familiar with this space knows how much I love meatballs, and while normally turkey meatballs are dry and boring, these… well, these are not that.
Rich meatballs, glazed with a tangy maple sauce, are one of the best party appetizers I know. I made them many times while on tour for my cookbook Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail, and every time they were eaten up as fast as we could put them out.
I make my turkey meatballs more or less like I’d make a meatloaf, which is to say with fat, some sort of bready thing and eggs. You should know that all-meat meatballs might sound nice, but they cook up hard and dry. You need fat to keep things nice, and the addition of a bread-like thing makes them even lighter.
I know a lot of you are trying to eat less bread products, so if you want to skip the breadcrumbs, my preferred alternative would be to use 2 or 3 slices of gluten-free bread, crusts removed and torn up, soaked in the milk and mashed to a paste. you can also buy gluten-free breadcrumbs.
For milk haters, use white wine or hell, apple juice. Even water.
As for seasoning, I kept things simple, but I do use a not-so-secret spice mix: Bell’s Poultry Seasoning, which you can get in most supermarkets, or online.
The glaze is the star here. You can make these meatballs from any meat you feel like, but the glaze ought to be made as close to my recipe as possible. It’s sweet, tangy, a little salty and a little spicy. Oh, and you need not use expensive maple syrup here; cheap stuff is fine.
You’re going to want to make more of these turkey meatballs than you think you need; they’re addictive, especially if you make them small enough to eat in one bite. Holly and I ate this entire recipe at one sitting, albeit for dinner, but still. They’re that good.
- 1 ¼ pounds ground turkey (see above)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon Bell’s poultry seasoning (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt, smoked salt if you have it
- ¼ cup milk
- Oil for frying
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
Make the meatballs by combining all the meatball ingredients except the oil. Mix well, but don’t overwork the meat, or you’ll have tough meatballs. Scoop out about 1 tablespoon at a time, and roll them into balls. Set aside on a baking sheet. You can set these in the fridge for a few hours if you need to.
Pour enough oil into a pan to come about halfway up the side of the meatballs. Heat the oil to somewhere between 325°F and 350°F. Brown the meatballs well. You’ll probably need to do this in two batches.
When the meatballs are all nicely browned, drain the oil; you can reuse it later. Leave about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Mix all the glaze ingredients in a bowl to combine, then put the mixture into the pan and turn the heat to high. When it boils, add back all the meatballs. Roll the meatballs around to coat, and cook, shaking the pan constantly, until the sauce cooks down into a glaze. Remove from the heat and serve.