Wild Turkey Meatballs – Mama Mia, That’s a Delicate Bite of Flavor; Appetizers or Main Course
Updated: Feb 6
A spring 2022 turkey hunting trip to Quebec with gohuntbirds.com yielded a camp taste treat, courtesy of an appetizer Ian McCleary of www.therealoutdoorexperience.com graciously prepared one evening after he had tagged out on his two toms. We were hunting with Mossberg’s new Model 940 Pro Turkey 12 gauge and shooting Apex Ammunition’s No. 7.5 TSS
He made turkey meatballs. They were delicate tasting creations served with arugula and cucumber with tzatziki, a dip or sauce found in the cuisines of Greece, Southeast Europe and the Middle East.
McCleary shared his preparation technique, noting he isn’t one to follow recipes and didn’t calculate specific amounts of anything in the dish. That’s okay because this is pretty simple to make and like many recipes, you can tweak it (as we did across a couple preparations) for your own taste. For example, McCleary added Feta, that distinctive, brined, often crumbly Greek white cheese, to his ground turkey mix. This makes impeccable sense if you’re serving a Greek-themed appetizer such as he did with the cucumber and tzatziki. Changing the type of cheese used can help the meatballs seamlessly adapt to a host of side dishes.
Here’s how we made the meatballs.
1 Pound of Ground Turkey Breast
Minced Garlic & Onion
Feta – or another favored cheese
Salt and Pepper
Creole Seasoning (just a couple dashes)
Clean and grind the turkey breast. Be careful to remove any shot. This is especially important when using fine (as in No. 7.5 or 9) tungsten shot. The pellets are very small, and the shot is hard enough to easily crack a tooth.
Place the ground turkey in a bowl and start blending ingredients . McCleary likes about a 4-1 ratio of meat to cheese, but you can mix at whatever suits you depending on your taste. He also likes to add enough parsley so that every meatball is green stippled but not too green. The chopped basil we added also helps with that chore plus makes the meatballs a little sweeter. The garlic is optional, except for me; I love garlic in my meatballs. We also used a little finely chopped red onion, rinsed in cold water to mitigate some of the harshness that can be associated with these onions. You could use a Vidalia onion alternative.
The eggs and breadcrumbs are binding agents to keep the balls together. You can use plain breadcrumbs, too, but the Italian crumbs added built-in flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. We also added a couple dashes of Creole seasoning to jazz things up.
As you mix, monitor the moisture level of the concoction. Too many breadcrumbs will dry things out. Since the meatballs will dry as they cook, you want to ensure a nice, moist product going in. Add a little water, a splash of white wine, or olive oil and mix that in if the meatballs seem a little to dry.
Form the meatballs, rolling them in your palms to about 1.5-2 inches in diameter if serving as a main course. Smaller meatballs can work well for appetizer portions. Array the meatballs on parchment paper or a nonstick pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The meatballs should start to turn brown and any cheese oozing out should start to get crispy.
For one of the dishes, we served the meatballs atop a white rice pilaf and spooned a roux-based homemade gravy over the dish. The gravy also included broth made from slow cooking the turkey’s legs and thighs with mushrooms and onion in a crockpot. The gravy included celery, onion, carrots, garlic, butter and oil. For the other serving, it was the plain meatballs atop the pilaf with asparagus and a Hollandaise sauce.
Every option was delicious! McCleary likes the versatility, noting that the meatballs also go well with pita bread. That would be a fine sandwich. Thanks Ian.