Every spring my good friend Sass (@grazingingrass – follow her!) puts on a fabulous picnic to celebrate Hanami. Hanami is the traditional viewing of the Japanese Cherry Trees, and my friends celebrate here in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival with a picnic of Japanese foods (both authentic and inspired) or whatever people bring to share. This picnic is an annual highlight and a great chance to break out of the mold and try cooking new things. I definitely think these meatballs are the most successful item I’ve cooked for Hanami to date – ironic of course that I couldn’t eat them.
I did make major adjustments to the original recipe, which I found in the March 2012 issue of Food & Wine magazine. I’m going to post below what I did as I know it was a success. The biggest adjustment I did have to make to the original recipe was to the meat. When I went grocery shopping there was no ground chicken, so I had to substitute with ground turkey breast. I also baked and pan seared the balls as opposed to grilling them per the original recipe. I had to work with the tools I have, and so that’s reflected in the delicious recipe below.
Turkey Meatball Yakitori (Tsukune) – 1 Knife (Adapted from “Chicken Meatball Yakitori” in Food & Wine March 2012)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ mirin plus 2 tablespoons of mirin
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 lemon
- 1 medium shallot
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
- In a medium bowl (the bowl you’ll eventually mix the meatballs in) zest the whole lemon. Save the remaining lemon for serving.
- Remove the skin from the shallot and chop into a fine mince. Add to the bowl with the zest.
- Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. This will ease clean up later – you’re welcome.
- In a small saucepan combine the sugar, sake, soy sauce, and ¼ cup of the mirin.
- Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat and cook for 3-5 minutes until the sauce reduces to about ¾ cup. Make sure to stir well so the sugar doesn’t burn to the bottom and dissolves into the sauce.
- Set the sauce aside to allow to cool.
- In the bowl with the zest and shallot, add the turkey, salt, and 2 tablespoons of mirin.
- Mix the meat with the other ingredients until well combined. I find that using your hands works best, however you can also use a spoon.
- Form the meatballs, making them about 1 inch in diameter, and place on the baking sheet.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
- After the 15 minutes carefully baste (or drizzle with a spoon) the meatballs with a little bit of the sauce.
- Bake the meatballs for another 5 minutes.
- Heat a skillet over medium and add 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil.
- Once the oil is hot toss the meatballs into the skillet to brown them for about 3 minutes. There is no exact timing here, just brown until they look good to you.
- Once browned pour about ¼ cup of the sauce to the pan making sure to coat the meatballs, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Serve the meatballs with the leftover sauce as well as wedges cut from the lemon and enjoy!