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Turkey Meatballs with Smoked Poblano Cream Sauce

Turkey Meatballs with Smoked Poblano Cream Sauce

A dish of turkey meatballs served over saffron rice in a creamy poblano sauce on a wooden table background

Spice up your spring with ground wild turkey meatballs over saffron rice and smoky, creamy poblano sauce

First and foremost, meatballs should never contain breadcrumbs because a handmade meatball is no different than a handmade sausage. Like sausages, properly cooking meatballs comes down to properly extracting proteins. Without getting into the science, all we need to understand is that when you bind fats to lean proteins, like those found in ground wild turkey meat, that mixture retains moisture when cooked.

To ensure that the fat molecules bind to the protein molecules, we want to mix our meats and fats while they are very cold. Ideally, the mixture does not get warmer than 34 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re going to use your hands to mix them together, your elbows should hurt from the cold. Adding chilled wine further assists with protein extraction and cold retention (and flavor).

By treating wild turkey meatball-making the same as sausage-making, you will serve up very flavorful, very juicy little gobbler nuggets. Trust me, your friends and family will thank you.

You can make this recipe with any wild bird in your freezer. You can also grind the pork shoulder yourself at the same time you grind your bird meat, or you can purchase pre-ground pork. Whichever method you choose, just be sure the ground meat stays very, very cold.

A dish of turkey meatballs served over saffron rice in a creamy poblano sauce on a wooden table background

Wild Turkey Meatballs with Smoked Poblano Cream Sauce

Jack Hennessy
These flavorful meatballs, dressed in a smoky sauce and served atop saffron rice, will change the the way you think about ground turkey.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 4 hours 28 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 28 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • 1 lb wild turkey ground and tendons removed
  • ½ lb pork shoulder ground
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp oregano freshly minced
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • tsp thyme freshly minced
  • tsp black pepper ground
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp white wine chilled
  • Peanut oil or other high-heat cooking oil

Cream sauce

  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 medium poblanos smoked, seeded, and puréed
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic smoked and puréed
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt


  • 1 medium shallot finely diced
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • cup vegetable stock
  • tsp saffron threads ground

Optional toppings

  • Sliced mushrooms sautéed in a little soy sauce
  • Sliced scallions for garnish


  • Cut the bottom off of half a bulb of fresh garlic with the skin still on. Smoke the poblano peppers and garlic at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours. Remove the poblanos from the grill and seed them, then place them in a food processor. Pick out two large cloves of garlic, or approximately 2 teaspoons worth, and add them to the food processor along with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Blend thoroughly.
  • While the poblanos and garlic smoke, form the meatballs. Make sure the ground meat and white wine are chilled; I recommend placing the meat in the freezer for a half hour prior to mixing. Mix the spices in a small bowl. Add the chilled ground meat to a large mixing bowl and gradually mix in the spices. Mix for a couple of minutes, then slowly add in the chilled white wine. Continue to mix for a few more minutes until the meat is tacky. Then, form the meat into 1-inch wide meatballs and place them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
  • While the peppers and garlic are still in the smoker and the meatballs are in the fridge, make the sauce. Add white wine to a medium saucepan and heat on medium-low to reduce it to half. At this point, add heavy whipping cream and continue to reduce on medium-low for 30 to 45 minutes. After that, and once the peppers and garlic have been smoked and puréed, add the purée to the saucepan and continue to reduce it until it’s thick and creamy. Give it a taste; if it’s bland, add a bit more kosher salt and stir until it’s more flavorful. When the flavor and thickness are satisfactory, turn off the heat and leave it on the stove until you’re ready to serve.
  • To make the rice, add a thin layer of cooking oil to a medium saucepan and heat it on medium. Add the finely diced shallot and salt. While sautéing, grind the saffron threads and add them to a small bowl with a tablespoon of warm water. This will help the saffron bloom. Sauté the shallots until they’re slightly brown and soft. Then, add the rice and stir frequently, allowing it to brown slightly. Then, thoroughly stir in the saffron. Add the vegetable stock, cover, and bring the rice to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat on low for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off and remove the lid.
  • To cook the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add parchment paper to a cookie sheet and lightly oil the paper. Place the meatballs on the paper with at least an inch of space between them. Cook the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 150 degrees. I recommend probing the innermost meatball’s temperature since that one will remain the coolest for the longest time. When they reach 150, remove them from the oven and place them on a plate or cutting board. Allow the meatballs to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  • To serve, fluff the saffron rice and add it to a bowl or plate, then add the meatballs, and top with the poblano cream sauce.
Keyword Wild Turkey
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