In the last year, I’ve made a lot of jabs, mostly in my own direction, about how much various projects that I thought I’d handle like a pro have in fact kicked my ass — in order, those would be: a toddler, a cookbook, trying to have evenings and weekends work-free for Fun Family Things (even if they’re, like, “Let’s go buy mama more conditioner and eat warm pretzels along the way!”) and this weird blend of feeling like I have absolutely no time for myself while also spending too much time by myself. We are definitely not going to discuss how many hours I have spent this year wondering how anyone ever gets dinner on the table/keeps an apartment clean/gets any sleep/takes vacations… all while looking cute. Nope, definitely not that either. But if you could read through the self-deprecation and exhaustion, I always hoped you’d figure out that I was, am, totally blissed out by this life I ended up with. This gig — 4:30 a.m. wake-ups, this beast and all — is pretty sweet and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I hope next year involves more of the same, with a little more travel and a lot more hanging out with people like you.
Back in the party snacks department, tiny meatballs will always win. No disrespect to spiced nut mixes, pickled things, deviled eggs and rich, fancy things on toast, what tiny meatballs have on all of them is that they feel like a little meal, and not just an additional layer of indulgence. Seeing as I lack the coordination these days to tuck in a wholesome dinner before heading out, it’s always my secret hope that the party will have things that look less like potato chips and more like an adorable replica of something with sustenance. This year, I’m bringing my own. The recipe hails from the Canal House Cookbooks, Volume 3. I went on and on about my love for them last year, and it hasn’t abated. In fact, now I even get a daily dose to
make my lunch feel inadequate swoon over. These meatballs are from an early volume and it took me way too long to make them. I imagine they’d be as welcome at a Chinese New Year Party in January. They come together pretty quickly and unlike most meatball recipes, which require browning and then simmering or baking, they only require the one step to cook.
I hope whatever your New Years plans may be that you have a grand one, with lots of little bites, big kisses, and that someone makes you these in the morning.
Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze
Adapted from Canal House Cooking, vol. 3
I fiddled with the recipe a bit, using less cilantro and ginger than called for and cooking the sauce for much longer than suggested, in hopes to make it a true glaze that would hang onto the sides of a dipped meatball. I almost dialed back the sugar, but once the glaze was all reduced, I ended up liking the sweetness to balance out the salty kickiness of the soy and ginger.
Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use a soy sauce that is labeled gluten free. There were many options on the shelf at the store.
Yield: The original recipe suggest 24 but I got 34. This pleased me.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or 1/2 cup sake with 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger (I used half and it tasted like plenty to me; adjust to your preference)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 whole black peppercorns (no, I did not count how many I put in there)
1 pound ground turkey
4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (the cilantro-averse can use flat-leaf parsley)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted if you can find it
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Make sauce: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, though this took me a bit longer to reduce it until it was syrupy enough that I thought it would coat, and not just dribble off the meatballs. You can keep it on a back burner, stirring it frequently, while browning the meatballs in the next step. Once it has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve.
Make meatballs: Mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl. I like mixing meatballs with a fork; it seems to work the ingredients into each other well. Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls. The mixture is pretty soft; I find it easiest to roll — eh, more like toss the meatballs from palm to palm until they’re roundish — meatballs with damp hands.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. Arrange on a platter (a heated one will keep them warm longer), spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks. Alternatively, you can serve the glaze on the side, to dip the meatballs.
Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed. If needed, you can rewarm or keep the meatballs warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve. I’m storing mine in the fridge overnight and crossing my fingers they’ll taste fresh tomorrow.