Little Known Fact: I spent some time on a veal farm when I was a kid. It was during February vacation, way back in ’77. My pal Kristina and I were staying with her aunt and uncle at their farm for the week. While we spent most of our time just goofing around, we did spend several hours in the veal calf barn. Those babies were big and beautiful, and I am telling you I had NO idea what being a veal calf meant. Yes, I retain some of that – let’s call it endearing – ignorant bliss to this very day.
I loved their enormous brown eyes, their constant lowing, and the way they’d turn their heads towards you when you walked by. I felt sad they were chained to their very small stalls, which I know now was to prevent them from getting too much physical activity, which would have toughened up those otherwise tender and fatty muscle fibers.
Towards the end of our week there, they asked us to help load them onto a huge cattle truck which would send them to their slaughter. What?? That was an eye-opener for me on Where Food Comes From, and made me glad, once again, that I was reigning at the top of the food chain. I kept my shock to myself, though, and went along with the plans.
Our job was to make sure these big hairy babies kept moving on the right path towards the truck ramp. At the time it was kind of exciting, and I thought not once about the potential for harm. It all went well, but picture for a moment the scenario if one of these beasts had decided he was just not going to follow the herd. Perhaps he’d had a vision about his impending doom, or had had his fortune told by a hoof-reader, or had seen the Grim fashioned out of oats in the bottom of his grain trough. What would 100-pound me have done if this 450-pound baby decided he just wasn’t getting on that truck? Or worse, urged the herd to move in another direction?
As I said, all went well and I lived to tell the tale of Man vs. Beast. It’s probably no surprise, though, that I am no fan of veal. The above memories, plus it’s funky texture, convinced me it wasn’t something I wanted to eat. In searching for a cool new meatball recipe to try, though, I was surprised to see so many that included veal. I finally came across an Asian-inspired recipes that, though originally veal-based, used ground turkey.
I had to modify this quite a bit, not having any ginger root or fresh cilantro in the house. Still, they were a huge hit with the whole family as well as my daughter’s BFF, who helped her to finish the leftovers the next day. The lime sesame dipping sauce was excellent, and so popular there wasn’t much left by the time I got to it.
Meatballs are a bit “hands-on” but cook up quickly in a hot oven, and are a great meal to make ahead if your family is eating in shifts, like mine does a couple of nights a week. I left the cooked meatballs covered on the stove, and the rice cooking in the steamer while I headed out to karate with the youngest. My greatest fear was that, should they be a success, there wouldn’t be anything photo-worthy when I finally returned.
As it was, the dipping sauce was almost gone, but here’s my effort at capturing the deliciousness of this dish (with my iPhone, since the camera seems to be having a crisis):
Asian Meatballs with Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce
Adapted from What Did You Eat? (check her fresh herbs version, which I’m sure is even more flavor-packed)
1/4 c. nonfat milk
1/4 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 egg white, beaten
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or 1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (or 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger root)
1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Salt to taste
Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Put all meatball ingredients into medium mixing bowl. Using your hands, combine thoroughly. With your hands, form meatballs to the approximate size of a ping pong ball. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and cook until done (minimum temperature 165 F when tested with meat thermometer). This should tak about 15 minutes. While they are cooking, combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Serve with dipping sauce and a side of steamed Jasmine rice.