Buffalo turkey meatballs

A Buffalo wing makeover

Originally appeared in the June 21, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Wings are a wildly popular appetizer and snack, and meatballs are a classic comfort food.  What I’ve done for this dish is take all the savory fingerprints (no pun intended) of your average Buffalo wing, and combined them with the unpretentious approach of an easy-to-recognize meatball.  And to give a nod to the trusty “wing,” I’ve substituted lean, ground turkey in place of chicken.

To retain a velvety internal texture, it’s important to 1) not overmix, and 2) employ some finesse when it comes to cooking; the former is simple to accomplish (read, just resist mixing the heck out of it), but the latter requires a little more attention.  For this application, I advise a shallow poach for the initial phase of meatball cookery.  You want the hot stock to set-up the meatballs, but not cook them through (that will come later).  This also gives you a certain level of control when it comes to refining the flavors and adjusting the consistency of your sauce.

And what would wings be without blue cheese?  Well, the cheese is integrated into the actual meatball base.  And don’t forget to garnish with that cool, crisp accompaniment of celery.  Think of this as a make-over of classic Buffalo wings—no wet-wipes required.


Buffalo turkey meatballs

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup (or more) whole milk (plus more for final sauce)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Buffalo wing sauce (plus more for final sauce)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken stock (can adjust with extra water)

1.  In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk.  Allow breadcrumbs to absorb milk until it forms a crumbly paste (may need to add more milk if too dry).  In a separate large bowl, combine turkey, eggs, wing sauce, blue cheese, basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Once breadcrumbs have absorbed milk, add to meatball base.  Mix contents with hands or a spatula until all ingredients are well incorporated (don’t overmix).  Cover and refrigerate mixture for 2 hours.

2.  In a wide, high-sided sauté pan, heat stock to just below a simmer (you may need to add a bit more stock or water to make sure liquid comes up about ¼ on the sides of pan).  Using a spoon or portion control scoop, form balls from meatball mixture and gently settle into poaching liquid.  You may need to do this in batches, adjusting liquid along the way.  Rotate meatballs from top to bottom until exterior is par-cooked.  Remove meatballs in batches, reserving on a plate.

3.  Add desired amount of wing sauce to stock, along with a small amount of milk (liquid may seem thin but will thicken up after meatballs have finished cooking.  Return meatballs to pan, increase heat slightly, and cover.  Cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160° F.  Serve meatballs with poaching sauce, blue cheese crumbles and celery.


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