Turkey Meatballs with Gravy
For those who want to do something different this Thanksgiving, Chef Joshua McFadden suggests skipping a whole turkey in favor of these turkey meatballs flavored with fresh sage, rosemary and thyme. When they’re served with Thanksgiving trimmings like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, no one will miss the roast turkey at all.
For the meatballs:
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 celery stalk, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh sage, plus 2 fresh sage sprigs
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
- 2 lb. 9 oz. (1.25 kg) ground turkey (a mixture of dark and white meat)
- 15 oz. (470 g) ground pork
- 3 1/2 oz. (105 g) diced croutons
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
- 2 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 20 grindings coarse black pepper
- 2 eggs
- Canola oil for frying
- 3 quarts (3 l) turkey or chicken stock, or as needed
For the gravy:
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) (12 oz./375 g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g) all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, carrot and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add the rosemary, minced sage and thyme and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled vegetables with the turkey, pork, croutons, cream, salt, pepper and eggs. Using your hands, and taking care not to mash the meat, gently fold the mixture together until everything is evenly mixed.
To test the seasoning, use a small quantity of the meatball mixture to form a small patty. In a small fry pan over medium-high heat, warm a little of the oil. Add the patty and fry until just cooked through. Taste it. Do you taste all the herbs? Is the amount of salt right? Is it too dry? Now is the time to make little adjustments if necessary.
Using your hands, gently form mixture into 2-inch (5-cm) balls (about 3 oz./90 g each), placing them on a platter as you finish them. Refrigerate the meatballs for about 30 minutes to firm them up slightly.
Pour oil to a depth of about 2 inches (5 cm) in a large pot. Add the sage sprigs and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Using tongs, carefully remove the sage from the pot and discard. In batches, without crowding the pot, fry the meatballs just until browned and they hold their shape, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer the meatballs to a platter as they are done.
Preheat an oven to 300°F (150°C). Place the browned meatballs in a large ovenproof saucepan and add enough stock to cover them. Cover the pan and braise the meatballs in the oven until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. To test for doneness, pull one of the meatballs apart and look at the center. You want it to be just cooked through. (The braising liquid should be simmering gently; you don’t want it at a boil.)
Once the meatballs are cooked through, using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a clean platter and set them aside. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard the solids and set the liquid aside.
To make the gravy, wipe the saucepan clean with paper towels. In the saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until browned, about 6 minutes. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the braising liquid. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
To serve, pour most of the gravy into a deep serving platter. Arrange the meatballs on top of the gravy, and spoon any remaining gravy on top. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Recipe courtesy of Joshua McFadden, executive chef and owner of Ava Gene’s and founding partner of Tusk restaurant, Portland, OR