Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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
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)
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!