Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Asian Meatball Curry

Meatballs don't exactly pop immediately into the mind when you think "health food," do they? More often than not, they're big, meaty, suckers served atop a steaming bowl of pasta. And you're right--those meatballs aren't health food. Because the thing that makes them so juicy and delicious? Fat.

Fat is key to a light, flavorful meatball, bursting with juice. Most restaurant chefs use an 80/20 meat mixture for meatballs and meatloaves; some of them even add pork fat or bacon or pancetta to the mix. Those meatballs? Gooda in the mouth. Not so gooda for the ass.

People who eat meatballs in their regular rotation sorta look like Batali, don't you think?

So what's a meatball-craving girl to do? In short, she completely breaks the Rules of Meatball.

The original recipe for this curry was Backside Suicide; it called for ground pork in the meatballs, full-fat coconut milk and several tablespoons of oil. It sounded delicious, but I knew I'd have to seriously re-work this recipe to make it appropriate for SMAM.

First, I needed to address the meatball issue. Ground pork=fat. I decided to try this recipe with ground chicken instead. And, perhaps in a really unwise move, I decided to use the leaner ground chicken breast, rather than ground chicken (which is a combination of light and dark meat). I worried about this; lean+meatball=rubber. Clearly, I had to tinker some more.

In order to add some moisture back into the meatballs, I shredded up a zucchini and a stalk of celery; it's something I saw Giada deLaurentis do when she made turkey meatloaf. Normally, I would've added some finely diced red pepper as well, but my lunch guest was anti-bell pepper, so I jettisoned that idea.

I also made sure to handle the meat as little as possible and lightly press the meatballs together--if you manhandle the meat, you will pay the price, friends!

After a heck of a lot of tweaking, I came up with this recipe.

Asian Curry with Meatballs
serves 4

For the Meatballs:

1 1/4 lb. ground chicken breast
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 lemongrass stem (pale part only)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil (Thai basil if you can find it), chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 egg, beaten
1/4-2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

For the Curry:

1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk
1/2-1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste
squeeze of honey
3 drops Thai fish sauce (or a generous squeeze of lime if you fear the fish sauce)
1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only), finely chopped
Either 1 red bell pepper, sliced or 1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
2 tablespoons each: slivered scallion, fresh cilantro, fresh basil
1 thinly sliced serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and sliced (optional)

Preheat broiler.

In a large bowl, combine shallot, serrano chile, lemongrass, zucchini, celery, lime zest, juice, cilantro, basil and ginger (If you are lazy like me, you can just whir all of these in a food processor rather than chopping them by hand). Beat the egg and add. Add the chicken and combine gently, using your hands, until just mixed. Add panko by 2 tablespoon measures, stopping when meat mixture just holds together. Mixture will be sticky.

Form meatball mixture into 16 small balls; place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spray meatballs lightly with cooking spray and broil until meat is just lightly browned and almost cooked through, 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a large wok or skillet, bring coconut milk to a boil. Add curry paste and whisk until incorporated. Add honey and fish sauce, if using. Whisk. Add lemongrass. Reduce heat to simmer; cook for about 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. If desired, strain mixture and return to pan (if you don't mind little bits of lemongrass in your curry, you can skip this step). Bring back up to a simmer; gently drop meatballs into the simmering liquid, along with the zucchini/red pepper. Cover pan and cook on a low simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until meatballs are just done. Top with scallion, cilantro and basil.

Serve over hot steamed rice.

**Verdict: Very, very good! And the meatballs, while not bursting with fatty juice, still had plenty of flavor and weren't gut bombs! Definitely a SMAM victory! And special thanks to BloginSong, my ferocious, talented and dear friend since 8th grade, for being my guinea pig at lunch! She liked 'em, I promise.

ps: And no pumping BloginSong for geeky teenage TKW stories, people!!! NO!


  1. This is why you are The Kitchen Witch. I could not have "tinkered" with a dish and produced such amazing results!!

    Seriously, you inspire me.

  2. Oh, this is a tricky one. Like you said meatball=fat, but you could put curry on cardboard shavings and make a tasty snack; so I trust your lightly handled meatballs were delicious.

  3. Not that I'm going to take up cooking, TKW, because my family would become apoplectic with shock, but how great to see a meatball recipe without pork. We non-pork-eating Jews thank you mightily.

  4. My goodness! I love the exotic flavors in this Asian meatball. It looks so good!

  5. Ground pork=really good though.

    Mmmm, meatballs....

  6. You created your own fat-busting meatball recipe? I am so impressed I need to shut up otherwise I'd be fawning... I do have one question: What do you mean by one would pay the price for manhandling the meat too much?

  7. Ok TKW I am starting to trust you I will give this one a try. You may actually be a genius.

  8. Very impressive! Usually I would advocate meeting somewhere in the middle when it comes to meatballs and suggest using ground turkey because it's more flavorful than chicken, but not as heavy as pork, but these seem to be just fine the way they are!

  9. This is a great idea! My grandmother would make a similar chicken 'hamburger' filled with veggies and it was always tender and moist. I would much prefer the curry flavors in your dish though! Looks awesome.

  10. Whenever I try to tweak something it comes out tasting like a mouth full of old ass - I am so jealous of your ability to tweak and not have disasters.

  11. Okay, all jokes about 'manhandling my meat' aside, why is it important not to overwork one's balls?

  12. Ok so I am the lucky one that got to eat this delish dish! It was sooooo good. And two days later when I ate the left-overs TKW sent me home with it was even better. I think my KIDS will like this. It seems like a lot of time, but it keeps so well I think its worth it.

    Now, anytime you want to hear just a little silly story or two about TKW 20 years ago just let me know. Just to tickle your fancy let me share with you that she is a GREAT singer and DANCER. Perhaps she will post about that some day....

    Now, I am heading over to J. Harker's site because she said something about overworking ones's balls. I like that!

  13. Love all the flavor combinations in this - I have just discovered both lemon grass and coconut milk - while hubby would not approve of this dish, my co-worker will - I'll have to put this on my lunch menu next week - thanks!

  14. This sounds very delicious! Did you buy the chicken breast mince yourself or ground it at home?! xxx

  15. Dear Readers,

    If you manhandle the meatballs, they turn to rubber! Giggle.

  16. I think I'll try anything that promises ass shrinkage! :)

  17. I'm sorry, was there something after "don't manhandle your meat"? I can't see for the image of that stuck in my mind.

  18. My meat balls are so damn bad for you...so these look like a nice change!

  19. Your post made me sooooo hungry and all I have at the office is instant soup. Bummer.

  20. Oh Kitchen Witch, I need you in my life! I hate to cook and I am hoping you can inspire something in me to make it more enjoyable. :)

    Found you from Ivy League Insecurities and following. Look forward to blogging with you!

  21. I've made meatballs with ground chicken breasts and the only way I could deal with them was to throw them in a pot of liquids when they came out of the freezer. Yours sound so much better!! Nice job tweeking, you'd hate to end up with the Backside Suicide!(I liked that one):)

    Oh just wanted you to know I did just stock up on "lite" coconut milk. So I'm getting there!

  22. um, Witch, like rubber you say?

    bork bork bork!

  23. "Those meatballs? Gooda in the mouth. Not so gooda for the ass."

    Ok, thanks to you I have to get up and clean my computer screen.

  24. Looks so delicious I didn't even get hung up on manhandling the meat. Do you think it would translate to a meatloaf?

  25. Looks amazing...I will, of course, skip the jalapeno because I am wimpy like that, but I will definitely have to give this a try.

    So, no geeky TKW stories...what about pictures?

  26. This recipe ROCKS! I use ground chicken quite often but I haven't tried anything quite like this...yet.

  27. I want to be a guest for lunch!!!!

  28. TKW = awesome recipe tinkerer
    Gibby = awesome Trader Joe frozen turkey meatball purchaser

    Please don't tell my kids...

  29. Yummeth. No, not a word. But that was my first reaction. I want a taste! And I want those crazy teenage stories too.

  30. Your tweaks were hella smart. Me? The coconut milk would have stayed in, but the lite version.
    Kudos on the ground chicken. The zucchini idea was way smart. Then again, you are the TKW.
    As for me-- I keep on cooking what I want. Lightening it up, daily-- I'm too old to change my ways. SIGH

  31. I love meatballs! Make my own (kinda sorta). But they sure don't look or sound as yummy as yours! (No fair. You make your readers salivate or spit up laughing. A liquid diet??)

  32. I could tell you all sorts of way in which that curry sounds awesome, but I'm too busy over at bloginsong getting the dirt.

  33. This looks terrific! Quite the victory, TKW.

    Oh man, full-fat coconut milk is killer. It tastes so good but oh my arteries ...

    I've found for curries that require this ingredient that Greek yogurt is an amazing substitute that's actually good for you. It has a tartness that sometimes needs to be tempered with something sweet (honey works very well), depending on what other ingredients you're using, but it creates the creamy effect needed with WAY LESS damage to the ass.

  34. These look so great. So many of my favorite things, all rolled into one (pun intended). And can I quote you on "Backside Suicide?" I might like that more than the recipe, even!

  35. Brilliant. Do they make coconut milk light? Had no idea. Perhaps that's why I should be SMA too.

    Meatballs are not high on my list, although I have copied some recipes lately that sound pretty darn good. Yours takes the prize though, because I won't feel too guilty if I make them AND I love those Asian flavors.
    Keep up the funny cartoons!

  36. Oh come now, Friend. If you hadn't mentioned that last bit about NOT pumping BlogInSong for stories I wouldn't have even thought of it. But now that you have? I'll have to start stalking her. JK.

    I seriously need to get on board with SMAM. Seriously. My gut is sprouting legs. And that's just not pretty. Not.Pretty.

  37. This looks fab. The marriage of meatballs & curry feels like a revelation to me.

    Thank you for this!!

  38. Love the photo and love the recipe, nice one TKW!

  39. Um, did you notice I was a little behind?
    I've got a killer recipe for ground turkey meatballs that I had update from the Weight Watchers version. It was like they want you to hate food. I add cauliflower puree to the mix plus lots of garlic. At least their speqhetti sauce isn't too bad.