Weekly Winner:  Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of….Turkey??

 Without a doubt, this was the tastiest and prettiest dish I made this week.  And it surprised the heck out of me.  This dish absolutely has no right whatsoever to be this good.  But it is!

First of all, the meatballs are turkey….. Turkey!  Not pork… not even beef …. but turkey!  There’s no super-savory additive, no umami-inducing bacon, soy sauce, or anything really.  The magic must lie in the fact that it is all done in one pan.  Which besides making sure all the flavor stays in one place, also makes it super easy!  The rice takes on a wonderful “pilaffy” aroma and taste.  There’s just enough lemon and garlic to make it savory, but not zingy or too acidic.

The recipe comes from Cook’s Country and as is the case with most of their recipes, it is flawless.  It’s perfectly tested, works beautifully and has a short, manageable list of ingredients.  But it tastes so much more complex than the sum of its parts.  It should be a decent dish.  However, there is no reason why it is as wonderfully tasty and comforting as it is.  I’m perplexed … but happily perplexed.  Try it and then explain to me what makes it so good!

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin
  •  1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

Instructions

  1. Pulse bread in food processor to fine crumbs, 10 to 15 pulses; transfer to large bowl. Add turkey, 2 tablespoons scallion greens, egg, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide mixture into 20 portions (about 1 heaping tablespoon each). Roll into meatballs, transfer to plate, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel–lined plate, leaving fat in skillet.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 1 minute. Add scallion whites, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, lemon juice, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest and bring to boil.
  4. Return meatballs to skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan, remaining scallion greens, and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.
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Weekly Winner: Antidote  for Chicago’s Return to Winter

We did it.  We had survived Chicago’s winter!  We made it!  The light was visible at the end of the cold, snowy tunnel.  Temps kept creeping up, inch by inch…degree by degree.  The parka was exchanged for the wool coat, and then an even lighter jacket.  This past weekend, no jacket was required!  We hit 70 on Monday!  And then came Tuesday.

Tuesday blew in with crazy winds and a 40+ degree drop.  It was winter again, or rather still.  We had come so close and got a cruel taste of warmth and then this!  We needed comfort.  We needed warmth.  We needed dairy and carbs!! (And bacon, but then again, when don’t we need bacon?).

The answer was Baked Potato Soup.  This is another recipe that I thought for sure I had written about.  We have made it forever and it is one of our all time favorites.  But apparently not.  So here it is now, in all its rich, hearty comforting glory.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light, and in the interest of full disclosure, I did not use reduced fat cheddar cheese – life is simply too short.  I use the good stuff.

 

 

Baked Potato Soup

Serves 8 (or so they say….more like 4 in my house!)

Ingredients:

4 baking potatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup (4 oz) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup chopped green onions

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400 for one hour or until tender.  Cool.  Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, and level with a knife.  Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, whisking, until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with remaining cheese, black pepper and onions.  Garnish amply with bacon.

Weekly Winner: Vietnamese Salmon – Caramelized Nuggets of Goodness

Try as I might I just could not come up with a catchy alliterative headline for this dish. But regardless, this was definitely the surprise hit of the week.

I knew we would like it – I’m not sure there’s a salmon dish that we wouldn’t like.  But this was surprisingly luscious.  There’s a serious sweetness in the caramel sauce which glazes the naturally rich salmon…. but all this is cut with the fresh carrot slaw.  The recipe called for the salmon to be served on the carrots; however that caramel sauce was seriously asking for some rice to sop it all up, so I called an audible and made rice.  I’m crazy and bold like that sometimes.

This recipe comes from a recent issue of Fine Cooking.  It’s quick, it’s easy…. and it was the first time I got to play around with making a real caramel.  A tremendous success all around.

Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated or julienned (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

Procedure:

Heat the sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, tilting the pan occasionally to help the sugar melt evenly, until dark amber (like maple syrup), about 3 minutes. (If your pan is dark, test the color by dribbling some on a white plate.) Remove from the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water; it will steam and bubble. Put the skillet over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the lime juice and the fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick enough for a spoon to leave a trail in the skillet, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, cilantro, and the remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice. Season to taste with more lime juice and salt.

Heat the oil in a wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the caramel sauce and 3/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and toss gently to coat. Distribute the fish in a single layer and simmer vigorously, stirring once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the carrots.