Monday, February 22, 2010

Turkey Meatball Dumplings

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I'm not exactly sure who "they" are, but in my kitchen, leftovers and poor timing are sometimes the step-parents of invention.

In this case, the leftovers included about 12 ounces of ground turkey, crushed crackers, turkey stock, and an assortment of miscellaneous vegetables.

Soup sounded good, so I skimmed the fat off the turkey stock, strained out the bones and bits, and put it in a pot with some carrots and onions.

The ground turkey. Hmmmm....meatballs might be nice, I thought. So I mixed up the turkey, the cracker crumbs, some random spices, and one egg. Since I had ground the turkey myself, and since I brined it before that, I knew I didn't need any more salt that what the crackers had provided. I didn't measure the cracker crumbs, but I'd guess it was no more than 1/3 cup.

When I was getting the egg out of the fridge, I noticed the container of leftover cooked potatoes. I grabbed those and added what was probably the equivalent of a medium-sized potato to the turkey, I mashed it roughly with a fork and mixed that into the turkey. Then I covered the bowl and stashed it back into the fridge while I fiddled with the soup.

Soup wasn't anything special. By the time it was done, it had (besides the carrots and onions) some diced piquillo peppers; the rest of the leftover potatoes, diced; green peas, and some whole wheat elbow macaroni. Salt, pepper, spices; some saffron. Some sweet paprika. I think that's it. If I had other vegetables, I would have added them, but that's about all there was.

When it was meatball time, I had the mad idea that I should just cook the meatballs in the soup instead of browning them, like my instincts were telling me. But the evil little voice on the other side was saying, "Drop one in; test it. See if it breaks up or holds together."

The voice was tempting, because if I didn't brown the meatballs, I wouldn't have to wash a frying pan. So I figured I'd give it a try. At worst, I'd have bits of turkey floating in the soup. So I scooped some up on a teaspoon, dropped it in, and...

It disappeared. Down to the bottom of the pot. It sunk like a rock and vanished.

I stirred things up a bit, and found it. I was a little amazed that it had held together, but there it was in a nice compact little lump. I got to work with the teaspoon and dropped the rest of the meat into the pot of simmering soup.

And then it got a little weird, as the meatballs started bobbing to the top. And they had gotten larger. Not as much expansion as you'd expect in a dumpling, but they were significantly larger than they were before.

So, we had soup for dinner, and although I called them meatballs before I tried one, they were a lot more like dumplings. Soft and fluffy and moist and delicate. Cloudlike. Ethereal. Okay, maybe that's a bit much, but I've had regular dumplings that were denser than these. It was hard to believe they were mostly meat.

The soup was just soup. But those dumplings! Oh my. I'm already thinking up other ways to use them.

So here's the rough ingredients:

Turkey Meatball Dumplings

12 ounces ground turkey
1/3 cup finely crushed crackers (it was a mix of Ritz and water crackers)
1 large egg
1 peeled, quartered, boiled and cooled white potato, roughly mashed
Salt if needed, and spices to taste.

*After I mixed all of the above, I stashed the mixture in the fridge until I was ready for it. I don't know if that step is necessary, but I'd imagine it helped to hydrate the cracker crumbs a bit.*

Drop a spoonful at a time into simmering soup. I didn't time how long I cooked them, but they were on the heat for a while after they floated. It's easy enough to check, though. Just break one open and see if the meat is cooked.