Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bison Meatballs with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

The White House Farmers Market is back!  Last year, I discovered the Gunpowder Bison and Trading Company.  I love bison!  It's leaner than beef and very flavorful.  The trick is to not overcook it.  I found this recipe for Middle Eastern bison meatballs when the farmers market first opened.  I bought the bison first and then needed to figure out what to do with it.  These meatballs are fantastic!  The recipe has a lot of ingredients and the meatballs themselves are pretty labor intensive, so this isn't for a work night unless you've got a partner in the kitchen.  Plus, it creates a lot of dirty dishes.  The sauce has a lot of ingredients, and the recipe says they should be chopped before tossing them in the blender.  But, if you've got a blender on steroids, it's fine to just toss everything in whole or very coarsely chopped.  The toasted ground seeds surprisingly add a lot of flavor to both the meatballs and the sauce, definitely don't leave them out if you make this.  The sauce isn't cooked, so I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt and it was fine.  I think this is a great summer dish because the sauce is cold and light (and a fun color!).    

This recipe requires a blender.  Ideally, a blender for the sauce and a food processor for the meatballs.  But, one could use only a blender and be fine.

I swapped out a few ingredients.  Instead of making my own fresh breadcrumbs, I used panko.  Instead of whole milk, I used 1% milk since that's what I keep in the fridge.  Lastly, I used nonfat Greek yogurt.  Fresh herbs are really important in this recipe.  The only one I would consider swapping out for dried would be the sage, but I'd only do it out of desperation. 

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
The sauce is supposed to be for 4 people, but I think halving it wouldn't be enough.  If you think my picture has too much sauce, you might want to halve it. If you have a good blender, chopping the herbs isn't necessary. 

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint (eyeball it if you don't feel like chopping, I used about 8 mint leaves)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh sage  (eyeball it if you don't feel like chopping.  I used 4 leaves)
1 tsp sugar

1) Toast the seeds in small skillet over medium heat until aromatic and slightly darker in color, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Cool a little bit. Finely grind seeds in spice mill or if you don't have one use a mortar and pestle like I did.
2) Place all remaining ingredients in blender. Add 1 teaspoon of the ground seeds (the rest will go in the meatballs) and process until smooth, scraping down sides frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Cover sauce and chill.

Middle Eastern Bison Meatballs with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
From Epicurious
The meatballs supposedly serve 4-6 people.  I used 1 lb ground bison and kept the rest of the recipe the same. 

Ingredients :
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup panko
1 tablespoon milk
2 Tbsp minced seeded jalapeño chile (about 1 large)
2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
1 lb ground bison
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees. This is only to keep the meatballs warm if you need to do stuff after you finish cooking the bison.  If you have a warming drawer, just use that instead.
2) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes (do not brown). Cool a little bit until you can mix them with other ingredients without burning yourself.
3) In small bowl, toss breadcrumbs with milk. Place cooled onion mixture, breadcrumb mixture, reserved ground seeds from cilantro-yogurt sauce, jalapeño, and yogurt in a food processor. Using on/off turns, process until a coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add bison, egg, cilantro, sage, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, pepper, and allspice. Using hands or fork, mix until just blended.
4) Using damp hands, form bison mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls.
5)  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if your pan can't hold all of them, cook the meatballs until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. 
6) Serve with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce or keep warm in your oven or warming drawer until ready to serve.  

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