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Francis Lam's Chinese American Thanksgiving Meatballs

October 15, 2020
3 Ratings
  • Prep time 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This dish isn’t traditional to anyone, but was inspired by my parents’ refusal to eat roast turkey, and the time they halted my Thanksgiving protest by bribing me with spaghetti and meatballs. It’s based on a classic Chinese dumpling filling, made instead into meatballs and poached in a gingery tomato sauce. The technique of mixing the meat until just tacky gives it that characteristic potsticker-filling bounciness.

Adapted slightly from Cooking Light with permission from Francis Lam.

This recipe was featured on our new cook-along podcast Play Me a Recipe. Listen as Francis slices, mixes, and poaches his way through this dish, offering tips and backstory along the way.Food52

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 pound stemmed fresh shiitake mushrooms, medium dice
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 bunch scallion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons peeled, finely minced ginger (from 1 1/2-inch piece)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  1. Sear mushrooms: Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a large saute pan. When the oil is shimmering-hot, carefully add the mushrooms and spread them out into one layer as best you can. Let sear, undisturbed, until richly browned, about 1 minute. Toss, spread out again, and let sear for another minute. Remove mushrooms from heat, season with salt to taste, and transfer to a medium bowl to cool.
  2. Mix marinade: In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil, 4 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and the chicken stock.
  3. Mix aromatics: Add ½ cup of the chopped scallion and 3 cloves of finely minced garlic to the bowl with the mushrooms and stir to combine.
  4. Make meatball mixture: Place the turkey and pork in a large mixing bowl and gently fold them together with your hands to start to combine. Pour in the marinade. Hold the fingers of one hand apart, as if holding a softball. Using that hand, stir the meat in one direction to mix in the marinade, being sure to agitate all the meat. When the meat has absorbed all the liquid and the mixture has gotten a bit sticky or tacky, stop. Add the mushroom mixture and gently fold to combine. Cover and let marinate for up to 4 hours.
  5. Make sauce: Set aside 2 tablespoons of scallions for garnish. In a Dutch oven or other large, lidded braising pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until you see the first wisps of smoke. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and stir until very aromatic, about 15 seconds. Add the ginger and stir until very aromatic, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining scallions and stir for 15 seconds. Add the can of tomatoes, bring it to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Season with 2 teaspoons sugar and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Form and cook meatballs: Meanwhile, use a large soup spoon to scoop up the meat mixture and using your hands, very lightly pat out 1 1/2-inch diameter meatballs. Set them on a plate. (You should have about 24 meatballs). After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, remove the lid and gently add the meatballs in one layer. Adjust heat to a bare simmer and cover the pot. Let poach / steam until the meatballs are just cooked through, 10-12 minutes.
  7. Serve: Garnish with the reserved scallions and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • REstes
  • Coral Lee
    Coral Lee
  • bendiazrutgers
  • Heidi S.
    Heidi S.

5 Reviews

bendiazrutgers August 28, 2022
I’ve made this several times now, one of my all time faves at this point. Successfully substituted garlic chives for scallions, wood ear mushrooms for shitake, fire roasted tomatoes for regular tomatoes.
Heidi S. January 3, 2021
Yum, I love this! I followed the recipe almost to the letter. My oyster sauce was really salty so I used just one teaspoon of salt in the marinade. My tomatoes never really broke down after 20 minutes of simmering so I mashed them for a better texture. The raw meatball mixture was quite wet so I wondered how it would work out, but it poached beautifully. Reminds me of potsticker filling. I got 24 meatballs out of it and managed to pack them into a covered skillet. Ate these over pasta but will go with rice or Chinese egg noodles next time.
REstes December 6, 2020
Two ingredients -- 1 bunch scallion, finely chopped & 7 cloves garlic, very finely minced -- appear to be listed twice; and amount of salt is missing in ingredients list.
Coral L. December 6, 2020
Hi REstes! Thanks for the catch. The recipe has been corrected. Happy cooking!
Coral L. November 18, 2020
Loved cooking along with this on Play Me a Recipe!