Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Ideas, Cold Reality and Ground Turkey.

One evening this week, Darling Daughter -- just to prove how "darling" she is -- came downstairs to have a "talk." I know it was a "talk," because she actually interrupted the Winter Olympics, which meant I had to miss the first part of Bode Miller's gold medal run in the super-combined.

But it was important: DD wanted to know whether I'd be willing to push her harder academically.

I know, right? She's not a bad student or even a struggling student. However, she has had the fortune/misfortune this year of learning what high school seniors go through, as they negotiate the college admissions maze. DD's also witnessed the extra effort her own 9th grade brother has had to make this year as he moved up to high school. Independently, she determined to develop better study habits, so she's been burning the midnight oil recently (OK, the 10 p.m. oil), to see whether she can bump up her grades a bit.

Still, I was surprised by her request. Push her harder? Really? Does she not realize what kind of achiever I am? Does she not have some inkling of the beast (which I've long restrained) she's asking to unharness?

"Um. OK. Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes. I really think you can help," she innocently responded.

And there it was. She opened the door, and I bolted in. "OK. Well good. Because I think you're entirely capable of A+s."

Um. Too much? Based on the searing glare I received in response, maybe so.

It's the difference, of course, between a good idea and a harsh reality.

Take "forgive and forget." Great idea. Love the principle . But the reality? Fuggetaboudit. Honestly, I'm a divorcée. I've got forgiveness down pat. But forget? Well, what in the world would I blog about?

Flossing twice a day is another brilliant idea, promoting good dental health and helping fend off all kinds of other nasty health issues, including heart attacks. So everyone should floss twice a day. Of course.  And I'm sure that those folks who work in a dental offices complete with dental hygienists who are willing to give their pearly whites a twice daily once over do exactly that.

Which is all to say that I like the idea of ground turkey. It's naturally lean, fairly affordable and high in protein.

The reality of ground turkey, though, is something altogether different.

Look, I adore roast turkey. That’s me, right there, elbowing my way to the front of the line Thanksgiving Day. And fried turkey? Bust out the peanut oil, because there is no bigger fan. I'm from the South, honey. We know a thing or two about deep frying. So you’d think ground turkey would be a quick fix for me when it's not Pilgrim Day, and I don't have access to a five-gallon vat of boiling oil.  And ground turkey would be a great idea, except that when ground, turkey lacks two things – taste and flavor. Actually, make that three things, because it’s not juicy, either.

Yesterday, however, Cougar Bait (I know, I know, he’s only 23 days younger than I am) told me he needed a meatball recipe. And that’s where ground turkey shines, because with a recipe like this, it's easy to build in the taste, flavor and juiciness.

Doesn't help a bit, of course, with DD's dilemma. But she did enjoy dinner that night. And I'm sure that, somewhere, there's a study proving that enjoying your meal adds three to five points to your report card grades.

Turkey Meatball and Gemelli with Lemon Parsley Cream Sauce
Serves four, generously.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rib celery, chopped fine
½ cup finely chopped shallots
½ chopped parsley
zest of one lemon (optional)
20 ounces ground turkey
1/2 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne

16-oz box of gemelli

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
two lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup (no kidding) chopped parsley

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Form meatballs. In a heavy skillet, saute celery and shallots in oil over medium heat until soft. Let cool to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled shallots and celery with remaining meatball ingredients, using hands to combine thoroughly. Preheat oven to 400. Form individual meatballs (about 1” – 1 ½” in diameter), placing on nonstick cookie sheet. (Will make nearly 4 dozen meatballs.) Bake 10 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside.

Cook gemelli in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. When done, drain and return to pot. Stir in cream, broth, lemon zest and juice, and parsley. Heat through and stir in meatballs. (Not necessary to use all the meatballs here. They freeze beautifully.) Taste for seasoning. May need salt  Serve hot.
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