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Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)

July/August 2011

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Chicken meatballs called tsukune are a Japanese-restaurant favorite—they’re essentially a chicken sausage mixture flavored with garlic and ginger. Use flat sword-shaped skewers instead of traditional round bamboo skewers to keep the meatballs from slipping when you try to turn them. Serve with bowls of steamed rice on the side.


Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune) Recipe

Makes: 6 servings

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Total Time:

Ingredients

Chicken Meatballs

  • 2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or 93%-lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs or Japanese panko breadcrumbs (see Tips)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion whites
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Sweet Soy Glaze

  • 1/4 cup mirin (see Note) or cream sherry
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Kebabs

  • 18 scallions, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted (see Tips)

Preparation

  1. To prepare meatballs: Place shiitakes in a small bowl; cover with boiling water and let soak for 45 minutes. Drain the mushrooms. Remove and discard the stems; finely chop the caps. Combine the chopped caps, ground chicken (or turkey), breadcrumbs, egg white, scallion whites, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix and squeeze until well combined. Use a generous 2 tablespoons each to shape the mixture into 24 meatballs. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
  2. To prepare glaze: Combine mirin (or sherry), soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar and ginger in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the cornstarch-water mixture, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 2 to 5 minutes.
  3. To prepare kebabs: Preheat half to two-thirds of a gas grill to medium-high (1 burner if you have a 2-burner grill; 2 burners on a 3-burner grill) or build a medium-high-heat fire on one side of a charcoal grill.
  4. Thread the meatballs onto flat metal skewers, 4 per skewer. Oil the grill rack (see Tips). Grill the kebabs over direct heat, turning once, until marked, 5 to 6 minutes per side. (If you try to turn the kebabs too early, the meatballs will stick to the grill. Let them cook for a minute or two longer before turning so the meat will release from the grill.) Move the kebabs to the unlit side. Brush the tops with the glaze and grill for 2 minutes. Turn the kebabs over, brush with more glaze and grill for about 2 minutes more. Remove to a clean large serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm.
  5. Grill scallions over direct heat, lightly brushing them with some of the glaze and turning frequently so the glaze doesn’t burn, until tender-crisp and with a few char marks, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to the platter.
  6. Drizzle the kebabs with any leftover glaze and sesame oil; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare meatballs and glaze (Steps 1 & 2), cover and refrigerate for up to up to 1 day. | Equipment: 6 (10- to 12-inch) flat skewers
  • Note: Mirin is a low-alcohol rice wine essential to Japanese cooking. Look for it in the Asian section of the supermarket or at Asian markets. An equal portion of dry sherry or white wine with a pinch of sugar may be substituted.
  • Tips: To make dry breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. (1 slice = about 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs.) For store-bought coarse dry breadcrumbs we like Ian’s brand, labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.”
  • To toast chopped nuts or seeds, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Oiling a grill rack before you grill foods helps ensure that the food won’t stick. Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.) When grilling delicate foods like tofu and fish, it is helpful to coat the food with cooking spray.

Nutrition

Per serving: 272 calories; 11 g fat (3 g sat, 5 g mono); 98 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 5 g added sugars; 23 g protein; 2 g fiber; 644 mg sodium; 783 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium (22% daily value), Vitamin C (18% dv)

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Exchanges: 1 carbohydrate (other), 3 lean meat


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