These Turkey Meatballs Might Change Your Thanksgiving Feast Forever
Created by Joshua McFadden of Ava Genes in Portland, Oregon, this version of a Thanksgiving feast is very accessible to younger cooks or those who are easily intimidated by the prospect of cooking a whole turkey.
All photos by AJ Meeker
What if we told you that there is a way of enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving feast but without having to deal with the stress (or dry meat) that comes with cooking a whole bird?
Welcome, friends, to the ever-forgiving, easy world of The Suttle Lodge's turkey meatballs.
According to Joshua McFadden, the mastermind behind this dish, these turkey meatballs "will change everything." If he wasn't also the executive chef for the most popular Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon, we would say he may be exaggerating just a little bit. However, once you taste these for yourself, you will find out that he is onto something really big.
Like many other brilliant things in the world, these meatballs were created out of pure necessity, after McFadden discovered that he couldn't get a whole turkey one Thanksgiving, yet still needed to feed his friends. The recipe starts like many other Thanksgiving feasts, by cooking a whole lot of diced carrots, celery, and onion—a.k.a. mirepoix. You add your herbs to it and then you let that cool.
Then you get to work on your meatballs. You start by gently mixing freshly ground turkey and pork with crumbled croutons, cream, salt, pepper, and eggs. After this step, you gently assemble your meatballs. McFadden emphasizes to not "smash your meat," but instead fold it over and over into itself until it is mixed evenly. At this point, if you are unsure about your seasonings, you can grab a little piece to fry up to taste for seasoning. As McFadden says, "now is the time to make any adjustments on the flavor of the meatballs."
Now for the part that makes these meatballs suitable for Thanksgiving and not Sunday supper at your favorite Italian restaurant. Once you brown them all in a little bit of oil, instead of braising them in tomato sauce and serving them atop noodles, simmer them in chicken stock. That way, you can make a traditional gravy afterward by adding a little bit of the stock, flour, and butter. From there, all you have to do is sit back and eat these turkey meatballs with the traditional fixings.
"Everyone that was there the first time we made them, me included, was like, 'What the fuck? This is amazing!'" McFadden then realized that he had made an entire Thanksgiving spread for eight people in an hour and a half. Cheaper than a whole brined, roasted turkey, too.
McFadden swears that this recipe is very accessible to younger cooks and those who are easily intimidated by the prospect of cooking a whole turkey. The best part is that will you have more than enough leftover meatballs, which will make for plenty of what Mcfadden calls "the best snack ever in life": a dinner roll stuffed with a meatball or two.
Of course, if you are still too lazy to make these turkey meatballs at home, you can always just catch a flight to Portland and eat them at the Lodge (sales tax-free, too). Nonetheless, it would probably be wise to add these meatballs to your Thanksgiving menu rotation. What do you have to lose? Unless you're into dry turkey meat for weird nostalgic reasons—in that case, you do you.