Germany is a funny place, food-wise. It has some of the cheapest groceries in Europe and enthusiastically stocks shelves with gourmet delicacies from neighboring countries. You can eat very well for very little. Food shopping as an American in Berlin can be a little bewildering—it’s always an adventure. Need a can of rillettes? A brick of halloumi? Russian solyanka? Marcona almonds? Hungarian kabanos? How about some jicama or salsify? White asparagus? Venison shoulder? No problem.
But what if you just need a humble pound of ground chicken to make Smitten Kitchen’s chicken meatballs?
That’s a tall order. Certain American culinary trends haven’t caught on well here, and ground poultry is one of them. When I asked the butcher if she had any ground chicken, I got a brusque “That’s not something we carry.” (My friend, Robby, tells a funny story about how his simple inquiry about ground lamb prompted an angry diatribe about the unreasonable number of separate grinders required. But I digress.)
Anyway, I was not to be deterred. I finally tracked down some ground turkey and decided it would have to do. I needed those meatballs.
And oh, the meatballs. Delicious! Just as Deb promised, they’re moist, flavorful, and—yep—vaguely cheesy (despite not containing a lick of cheese). I think the pancetta and tomato paste give them that delectable hit of umami. These are good.
Rumor has it they’re also delicious cold, straight from the fridge. But what was it Reagan said? ”Trust but verify”? Go on!
Because my grocer sells ground turkey in 3/4 lb. packages, I had to buy two. The following recipe has been scaled up and makes a lot of meatball mix. You can either halve it, or make a make a separate meatloaf for another meal, as I did. Two birds, one stone.
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
-5 slices Italian bread, crumbled into small pieces (I used stale homemade oatmeal white bread)
-1/2 c. milk
-3 oz. pancetta, or uncooked bacon or turkey bacon, diced
-1 sm. onion, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (lean is OK)
-1 egg, lightly beaten (two are pictured in photo)
-4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
-1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped, optional
-good pinch red pepper flake
-3 Tbsp. tomato paste, divided
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-salt and pepper, to taste
1. Put the bread pieces in a large mixing bowl and drizzle them with the milk. Let sit while you follow the next step.
2. In a small skillet on medium heat, sauté the pancetta until it begins to render its fat. Lower the heat and add the onion (if you use turkey bacon, you may need to add additional oil). Stir until the onions begin to look translucent, then add the garlic. Cook 60-90 seconds until lightly golden, then remove from the heat. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper.
3. Take small handfuls of the bread-milk mixture and squeeze them mostly dry into the sink (discarding the milk). When all of the bread has been squeezed dry, add the ground turkey, parsley, tarragon, egg, 2 Tbsp. tomato paste, and stir with a wooden spoon.
4. Stir in the onion mixture (save the pan) and the pinch of red pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands until there are no streaks of bread remaining and all the ingredients are well combined.
5. Reheat the onion pan. Cook a tablespoon of meatball mix until brown on both sides, cool, and taste. Do you like how it tastes? Add more salt, pepper, garlic, etc. to the meatball mix if you think it needs it. (Mine was fine without adjustment.)
6. Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
7. Using wet hands, form 25 small golf ball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on the baking sheet. Shape the remaining meatball mix (about 1 1/4 lbs.) into a loaf, wrap in plastic wrap and a freezer bag, and freeze for a future meatloaf meal.
8. In a small bowl, mash together the remaining tablespoon of tomato paste and tablespoon of olive oil (it won’t emulsify). Using your fingertips, paint the top of each meatball with the sauce. Bake approx. 15-20 min. and enjoy.
These are fantastic served with a little spicy marinara sauce for dipping.