When my first book, Dinner: A Love Story, came out, I will never forget my agent calling me to discuss publishing the book in England. “There’s an agent over there who wants to buy the rights for it,” she told me, “but he’s concerned about all the Trader Joe’s talk and ground turkey recipes.” The Trader Joe’s thing I understood, but what’s up with the turkey haters across the pond? Too much ground turkey? Was there such a thing? Ever since 1994 when Andy secretly used it instead of beef in our favorite bolognese recipe, I’ve always made sure to throw a pound of it in the weekly shopping cart if I come upon a good-quality organic dark meat grind. (It’s always harder to find this than I expect; Trader Joe’s does not deliver that front; Whole Foods usually does.) The problem lately with ground turkey, though, is that when I’m charged with turning that pound of meat into a recipe, the dinner-making side of my brain immediately defaults to one of these old-schoolers:
They’re all fine and good options — and you should definitely give each of them a try if you haven’t already — but they’ve been in our dinner rotation for as long as I can remember. Almost every single one of them was posted in the first year (or month!) of Dinner: A Love Story’s existence, and for those of you paying attention, that was eight years ago. So last week, when I was in my six-thirty stare down with a pound of ground thighs (always, always get the dark meat), I decided to break the eight-year rut and try something different. What I really wanted was an Asian inspired meatloaf ca. 2012 that Andy and I loved, but my meatloaf-hating girls refused to touch, so I set about reworking it into an easier-to-digest format, i.e. meatballs. And not pan-fried meatballs that you generally finish cooking in sauce. I didn’t have a sauce in mind and I didn’t feel like splattering grease all over the stovetop — instead, I tossed the turkey with herbs and aromatics and went in the baking direction. While they cooked, I separated a head of Bibb lettuce for wraps, made a simple drizzle sauce, and sautéed a few green beans. Twenty minutes later, Abby came down from a marathon homework sesh and plucked a meatball off the baking sheet. “It tastes like the inside of a dumpling,” she said. (They did!) And then: “Is this all we have for the whole family?” (It was!) “Because I could eat every single one right now.” I guess it’s a nice problem.
For those of you keeping track of things we’ve moved on to the Paleo-ISH phase of Phoebe’s Paleo regimen. Hence my inclusion of hoisin and green beans (neither of which are paleo) even though I replaced the usual breadcrumbs with potato starch. (You can definitely stick with breadcrumbs, for whatever reason, bread in any form is a real line in the sand for her.) This serves four light eaters — I think we could have each eaten about 10-15% more. Feel free to add some brown rice if you need something starchy.
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat always preferable)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
8 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely minced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons hoisin
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup potato starch (or breadcrumbs)
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray (optional)
1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves separated neatly
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
squeeze of lime
1 clove garlic, halved
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
shake red pepper flakes
1 large bunch (about 12 ounces) haricots verts or green beans
salt and pepper
handful sesame seeds, black or white or both
Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients using a fork. Place a piece of foil on a standard size rimmed baking sheet and coat lightly with cooking spray or brush with a light coat of olive oil. Form meat into 1-inch balls, and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
While meatballs bake, make green beans. Add both oils to a skillet set over medium heat, and add garlic, cut-side down to infuse the oil. Add red pepper flakes and green beans and stir until beans are almost wilted. Add sesame seeds and cook until they are toasted, another minute. Remove garlic and serve.
Combine all dipping sauce ingredients into a small bowl.
Place lettuce leaves on a platter and serve along side beans and meatballs. Have each person wrap one or two meatballs in a leaf, then drizzle sauce on top.