Friday, June 23, 2017

Perfect Teriyaki Meatballs

Matthew and I have a little tradition during the school year when he gets out early or has an in-service day of going out to lunch at a tiny little Chinese restaurant near our home. While he wrinkles his nose at rice, Matthew loves pretty much any Chinese prepared meat dish, particularly Sweet-and-Sour Chicken, General Tso's, or any stir-fry featuring broccoli, his favorite veggie. We will take our food home and then Matthew will proceed to completely polish off a gigantic plateful of sweet, sticky, fried goodness. He begs for me to make Chinese several times during the week and is always eager for an opportunity to use his new chopsticks we purchased for him in NYC Chinatown.

Both Matthew and my sister Sophie were the inspiration behind an Asian-inspired spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner I have made a couple times for the family this year. While Sophie was visiting, we were debating what to make for dinner and she pulled out some ground beef from the fridge and suggested meatballs. We went through a couple of old cookbooks and found an easy recipe for teriyaki meatballs in a Taste of Home cookbook that utilized powdered spices and canned ingredients I already had in the pantry. I made a side of these amazing Chinese spaghetti noodles and we had a meal that we were all "oohing" and "aaahing" over. Sophie and I looked forward to eating the leftovers in the days that followed because we made about 60 meatballs to feed us and three tiny children. But we didn't mind one bit because it was amazing.

However, while I adored the noodles, I felt the meatballs could have been better. They didn't have a super punch of flavor and were a bit on the sweet side. They also included canned pineapple which, while delicious, was kind of distracting from the overall meal. After doing a bit of research, I found a recipe for teriyaki meatballs that was amped up with the addition of fresh ginger, chopped cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh cilantro. This was sounding more like the kind of meatball I was searching for,

So, I made a batch the other day and once again paired them with these Chinese noodles because, frankly between you and me, I'm a bit obsessed with them. This time, Paul was home to eat with us and I knew for sure he would enjoy this hearty meal. The meatballs are a fantastic option for a weeknight meal because I could work on them a little at a time throughout the morning and then chill them until I was ready to bake them right before dinnertime. While they baked, I assembled the noodles and steamed broccoli and dinner went off quite smoothly.

The meatballs were incredible - this was finally the flavor I had been searching for. I especially enjoyed the addition of the mushroom - they added so much additional flavor and texture! They paired great with the noodles and left everyone feeling happy and full. The meatball recipe is a keeper!

For a different spin on spaghetti and meatballs, give this meal a try!

Perfect Teriyaki Meatballs
from Cook's Country February/March 2016

For the Meatballs:
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped coarse
1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 pound ground beef, chicken, or pork
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
4 scallions, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 cup mirin
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on the bias
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional

Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray. Combine the mushrooms and cabbage in a food processor and pulse until chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 5 pulses.

Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushroom mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to large bowl.

For the sauce, wipe the now-empty skillet clean with paper towels. Whisk cornstarch and vinegar in small bowl until combined; set aside. Bring mirin, water, soy sauce, and sugar to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minutes. Remove pan from heat; transfer 3 tablespoons sauce to mushroom mixture. Let mushroom mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Cover skillet and set remaining sauce aside.

Add chicken, panko, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to cooled mushroom mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide chicken mixture into 40 portions, about 1 tablespoon each. Roll between your wet hands to form 1 1/4 inch balls and space evenly on prepared sheet in 8 rows of 5. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Uncover sheet and bake until meatballs are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat. Add meatballs to skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Transfer meatballs and sauce to serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve.

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