Sunday, August 8, 2010

Braised Turkey Meatballs

This recipe is my take on the classic, messy, comfort-food meatballs that are ubiquitous to all the “red sauce” establishments in Little Italy in New York. I’ve been tweaking the recipe for a while now—with Tastey Boy’s vigorous encouragement for further experimentation—and can safely say that it’s pretty foolproof now. I’ve culled the techniques mainly from Marcella Hazan’s various recipes for classical braised meats and tomato-based sauces. Some purists may wrinkle their noses at my cooking the meatballs in the convection heat of the oven as opposed to letting them simmer over direct heat, and others might raise their eyebrows at my addition of milk to balance the acidity of the wine and tomatoes. But I’m not making any claims to “authenticity”—this is simply my elaborate, multi-step homage to Italian-American cookery, perfect for when you want to putter an afternoon away in the kitchen. 


2 Eggs
5 lbs ground Turkey
1½ cup Breadcrumbs
½ cup Parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp Fennel Seeds
2 tbsp Paprika
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp red chilli pepper flakes (optional)
Salt (to taste)

1 cup vegetable oil

4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 Bay leaves
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup Carrot, finely chopped
2/3 cup Celery, finely chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 strips Lemon peel (without the white pith)
½ cup dry white wine
Meatballs (see recipe above)
1 cup milk
7 cups canned Tomatoes, crushed with their juice
1 cup Water
1 tsp fresh Thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
2-3 sprigs Parsley
1 tsp Black Pepper
Salt (to taste)
  1. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients for the meatballs and mix well to combine. Let sit for 10 mins, and then form the mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs (about 50-60 pieces).
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the meatballs in batches until golden brown and lightly crisp on the outside. Remove meatballs from pan and let drain on a platter lined with paper towels.
  3. Heat butter and olive oil in a deep cast-iron pot (large enough to subsequently accommodate all the meatballs). Add bay leaves, onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 5-7 mins. Add garlic and lemon peel and cook another 2-3 mins until the vegetables soften and wilt.
  4. Add wine to deglaze, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot and continue to simmer for 5-7 mins until the wine has evaporated completely.
  5. Add meatballs and stir well. Add milk and let simmer gently until it has bubbled away completely.
  6. Add tomatoes, water, thyme, parsley, black pepper and salt, stir well and bring to a brisk boil. Turn off heat.
  7. Cover the pot tightly and place in the bottom rack of a 350ºF pre-heated oven. Cook for about 3 hrs, or until the meatballs feel very tender when prodded with a fork and a dense, creamy sauce has formed. Turn and baste the meatballs every ½ hour while they are cooking. If the liquid in the pot becomes insufficient, add 2-3 tbsps of water at a time, as needed.
  8. Remove meatballs from oven and transfer to a warm platter. Serve hot over linguine or spaghetti cooked al dente, garnished with chopped parsley.

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