turkey meatballs with corn butter rice
and lemony sour cream!
My fave vegetable is starring in a side dish this week: we’re making corn butter rice! What’s that, you ask? It’s simple summer perfection that pairs with absolutely everything — grilled steak, chicken, a fried egg, you name it.
For this meal, we’re serving corn butter rice beneath the most delightful spiced, herby turkey meatballs. We’ll top it all off with a lemony sour cream sauce to tie everything together.
There are a few components to this meal, but I promise each one is simple and worth the effort!
I have lots of great shortcut ideas this week that will still give you the *essence* of this recipe, with less work:
Use frozen meatballs. The Trader Joe’s party-sized mini meatballs would be great here, if you have a TJ’s!
Use frozen rice and frozen corn. Microwave the rice according to package instructions. Microwave the corn separately in a large microwave-proof bowl. Combine the rice, corn, butter, lemon zest and juice, and salt in the bowl and cover until ready to eat.
Just use plain sour cream — no need to fancy it up.
It’s been a while since we talked about this and it bears repeating — you do not need to pluck the leaves off of your cilantro, dill, and parsley. The tender stems (so, not the tough bottoms of the stems) are soft, and taste the exact same as the herb. Once everything is all finely chopped together, you won’t even notice they’re there. No more spending 10 minutes plucking parsley leaves off of the stems! Eat ‘em!
Just like we did when we made corn chowder, we are using the corn cobs to their full potential here. They are packed with corn flavor, so boiling them with the rice will give the rice a strong corn flavor! It’s delightful!
turkey meatballs with corn butter rice
Serves 4 to 6
Cook time: ~45 minutes
4 ears of corn, shucked
1 cup brown or white rice (or really, whatever grain you want to use)
2 large organic lemons, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 bunch soft green herbs (any mixture of basil, parsley, dill, and/or cilantro)
Optional extras: greens such as arugula or spring mix, thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced radishes, green onions, more fresh herbs, toasted nuts, chopped tomatoes, the sky’s the limit!
Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (seriously, do this now — your hands are gonna be dirty when you need it later).
Cut the corn kernels off of 4 ears of corn. Set the kernels aside and don't throw the cobs out!
Cook 1 cup dried rice according to package instructions, but add an extra 1/4 cup of water and throw the 4 spent corn cobs into the pot too. For the last 5 minutes of cooking, use tongs to remove the cobs, discard them, and stir in the corn kernels.
When the rice is cooked, stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Taste and add kosher salt as needed. Leave the rice covered, off the heat.
While the rice is cooking, make the sauce and meatballs.
To make the sauce, in a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup sour cream, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
Finely chop enough soft green herbs (leaves and tender stems) to get 1/2 cup.
In a large bowl, lightly whisk 1 egg. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemony sour cream sauce, 1 pound ground turkey, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup finely chopped soft green herbs, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Use your hands to combine everything.
Form 12 to 15 meatballs — they should be 1 1/2-ish inches in diameter each (a little bigger than a ping pong ball) — and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart.
Bake for 10 minutes. You can cut a meatball in half to make sure they’re cooked through, or use a meat thermometer to make sure they’re at least 165°F internally.
Scoop your desired amount of rice into a bowl, top with a few meatballs, a big drizzle of lemony sour cream, and any desired extras (including the leftover chopped herbs you’ll have). Dig in!
Add more veggies: Add chopped cucumbers and/or tomatoes or arugula to the bowl. You could also add a few handfuls of peas (frozen or fresh) to the rice the last 3 minutes of boiling.
Riff: Make slider patties or burgers out of the meat mixture instead of meatballs. Cook them in a nonstick skillet, with a bit of oil, over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes per side. If using buns for your burgers, spread the lemony sour cream on them as a condiment.
What to cook when you really don’t feel like cooking: See the “hot tip” section above the recipe for 3 ways to cut down on cook time/effort.
Make ahead: This is a very good meal to make earlier in the day or even the day before. Store all the components in airtight containers in the fridge. To reheat the meatballs, put them on a baking sheet, cover with foil (this keeps them from drying out), and bake at 300°F until heated through, about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can microwave them for about 30 seconds, or until warm. Here’s a great run down on how to best reheat cooked rice!
Leftovers are a good thing/freezer-friendly: Leftovers will stay good in the fridge for 3-4 days. Both the meatballs and rice are very freezable. Actually, I highly recommend doubling the meatballs. My baby and toddlers, and many other toddlers, are obsessed with them. Freeze them, then reheat for 1 minute in the microwave when you need a quick protein. Frozen rice can also be heated in the microwave. Break the frozen rice into chunks and put them in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover it with a paper towel or plastic wrap or a microwavable lid and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Fluff and serve!
Vegetarian: Instead of turkey, use a ground meat alternative.
Dairy-free: Use DF sour cream. OR, chimichurri would be an excellent sauce to use here instead. In that case, just omit the sour cream from the meatballs, they’ll be great without it.
Gluten-free: Swap the panko breadcrumbs for rice breadcrumbs.
Corn: If you hate/can’t eat corn, just dress up the rice with the lemon, butter, and salt — some chopped herbs would be good too. You can add a cup of frozen green peas the last 3 minutes of cooking the rice, if you want a veg! Or see the “add more veggies” note above for more ideas to add some produce to the meal.
Brown rice: White rice, any other color rice, farro, orzo, or quinoa would all be delicious, just adjust the cooking time as needed.
Lemons: Limes. If you don’t have limes, you can use a tablespoon of a light-colored vinegar like white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc., both places.
Unsalted butter: Salted butter, but taste the rice before seasoning with salt — you won’t need to add as much. Or DF butter. Or just omit if you don’t have any.
Sour cream: Swap for plain Greek yogurt. See the “dairy-free” note above for more options!
Egg: Make a flax egg instead. For that, mix 1 tablespoon flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons water.
Panko breadcrumbs: Panko is my fave here but rice breadcrumbs, almond meal, or Italian breadcrumbs will all work. Or make your own by blending up stale bread in a blender or food processor.
Garam masala: Different vibe but 1 tablespoon of red curry paste or 1 teaspoon curry powder would be great here.
Smoked paprika: Sweet paprika or chili powder
Garlic powder: Onion powder, or 4 garlic cloves grated with a microplane
Turmeric: An extra 1/2 teaspoon of cumin or garam masala
Cumin: An extra 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
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