Until last Friday, I had all but banished ground turkey from my life. Somewhere in the last two months, I realized it just wasn’t cutting the mustard- flavor-wise, texture-wise, you name it, turkey lacked it. So I did what any self-respecting eater would do: Wrote it a Dear John, sent it packing, and tried desperately to erase it from my memory and grocery list. And I’d just about come to grips with it, really.
But then it went on sale.
For close to one dollar a pound.
Something you should know about me is that when and if something is marked down so low that it’s at the same cost level as chewing gum, I will buy it. No matter what it is, I will without question be emptying the contents of my wallet on the conveyer belt of the check out line. Just ask Target.
You can imagine the kinds of company I keep in my cupboard.
So this week, with a year supply of ground turkey in my refrigerator, I mustered all the energy I have in me to finesse such a lean, somewhat bland meat into meals that make me go ‘mmm…’
The key, I find, is blending it with just shy of twenty seven million ingredients. Some for flavor, some for texture, most for moisture.
It helps to not try and recreate the exact dishes you’d make with ground beef. That way, you don’t feel like your substituting something less flavorful, something a little too healthy for its own good. Because no matter how lovely Italian-style turkey meatballs can be when dolled up just so, they’re never quite as charming as those made traditionally with beef (so long as you’re a meat eater), right? The same goes for burgers and meatloaf, though I do bet there are turkey variations that can be quite delicious in their own right.
The fun is to create something new with the white meat. To use it in a recipe, and even better in a cuisine, that boasts lots of unique and bold flavor. Asian comes to mind immediately. Lots of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, spicy chiles, and scallions.
These are Thai basil meatballs and they taste fantastic. I was inspired by a recipe I spotted in the most recent issue of Cooking Light. Though that one called for ground chicken, turkey is a natural swap.
Despite the leanness of the meat, these cook up tender and moist. The flavor is booming, too. A zestiness from garlic and ginger, a kick from Sriracha, and a fresh hit of minced basil. The sauce is light enough to not intimidate the flavor of the meatballs, but bright and sweet enough to lend balance.
I’d recommend them as either an appetizer, served with toothpicks and the sauce on the side for dipping, or as a main dish alongside fluffy, steamed rice.
In a large bowl, I combined ground turkey, minced fresh basil, minced scallions, garlic, ginger, panko bread crumbs, Sriracha, and lightly beaten egg whites.
I used my hands to blend all of the ingredients well, and then formed the mixture into balls roughly 1” in diameter.
After placing them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, I brushed them olive oil and baked them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Next, I made a simple sauce by whisking soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, scallions, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and then bringing that mixture to a boil.
I let that bubble for about 3 minutes, until it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
When I was ready to serve the meatballs, I laid them on a bed of lettuce and drizzled the sauce over them.
Ready, set, eat.
Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 lb ground turkey
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons oil, for brushing
For the spicy garlic sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3 gloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced scallions
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (I recommend Sriracha)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Make the sauce: Whisk all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2-3 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.
Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except for the oil with your hands. Roll the mixture into balls roughly 1” in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray, brush the tops with the oil, and bake them for 12 minutes, or until cooked through.
Serve the meatballs with sauce and additional chopped basil and green onion, if desired.