October 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatball Subs




We've been watching a lot of football this season.  Our Sundays have been completely taken over by games.  This year I've joined a friendly football pool and my competitive nature, which only comes out when it doesn't actually require me to present any skill, has made me obsessed.  I bought a jersey that I wear around the house, because it might be good luck.  I find myself rooting for teams that I've never cared about before.  And then there's the football food.

I've always been a football fan, so I'm not complaining.  My high school was one of the Friday Night Lights schools of West Texas and my college rallied around our school every Fall in a big way.  When I moved north, I quickly realized that college football did not reign supreme like it did in my home state, so I filled my football void with an NFL team.  So every Sunday, or Thursday, or Monday, or Saturday if my alma mater is on TV, here I sit, watching football.  And, again, there's the football food.



Football food should be hearty, with no pretension or fuss.  One Monday night, when planning the weekly menu and realizing that not only is there a Monday Night Football game, but my team's Monday Night Football game, I had to find some football food.  Meatballs are hearty and well loved, subs are easy to eat in front of the TV, and if I made them with turkey I could sneak some health into them.  Put it all in the crock pot and dinner is ready whenever we are.  It's perfect for football.

These are simple, full of flavor, and light.  Let's get started.

Assemble your ingredients.


You'll need bread crumbs, parsley, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, ground turkey, an egg and some seasonings.

Chop up that parsley and set it aside.


Add half of it to the slow cooker and reserve half of it for the meatballs.


In a medium bowl, add the rest of the parsley, half an onion chopped, and some garlic.


Next add the egg, some breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, and some Parmesan cheese.



Throw the ground turkey on top and mix gently with clean hands.  Don't over mix, or the meatballs will be tough.



Roll the meat into balls a little bigger than a golf ball, or with a diameter of about 1 1/2 inches.


Now, since I used ground turkey and was making these in a slow cooker, I decided to brown them all over before cooking them through.  This is a step I sometimes skip if I'm using beef, but since the turkey is so lean, I thought the extra sear would boost their flavor while helping them stay together in the slow cooker.

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat.


Working in batches, sear the meatballs all over until they are golden brown.  Don't crowd them, or they won't brown.


Transfer them to a clean plate as you finish and set them aside.  Now, start work on your simple slow cooker sauce.  The parsley is already in there, and to that you'll need to add half an onion, chopped, and your canned tomatoes.


Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes then add a big squeeze of tomato paste.  Stir it all together, then nestle the seared meatballs in the sauce.


Put the lid on top and set it to cook on high for four hours.


A few hours in, gently stir them so they will cook evenly, being careful not to break them up.

When you're ready for dinner, grab a baguette and slice it open.  I usually scoop out some of the insides so the meatballs fit nicely and won't roll around.


Top one side with meatballs and a little bit of sauce, and the other side with slices of fresh mozzarella.


Put it in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (watch closely) or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, bubbly, and a little browned.


Once the cheese is melted, you could serve as is, or you could add a little bit of arugula or spinach for freshness.  I added arugula, K did not, both were fantastic.


This sub is delicious.  It's messy in the best way and so very satisfying.  The meatballs are tender and are not dry or bland like some turkey meatballs.


By cooking all day in sauce, they soak in all the flavors of the sauce while imparting meatiness.  There will be leftover sauce which is perfect for pasta night later in the week.


The cheese is toasted and melted and lends a lovely creaminess to the sub, but overall, it's just a really good sandwich.  It's perfect for a night of football or just a night in.  It's slightly more involved than other slow cooker recipes, but still doable in 30 minutes or less.


Keep these in mind for your next game day.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Here's the recipe.

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatball Subs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, diced, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with their juices, crushed by hand
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Baguette or sub rolls
  • Arugula or spinach, optional
Method
  1. Add half of the chopped parsley to the slow cooker.  Add hand crushed tomatoes and their juices and the tomato paste.  Add half of the onion, diced and stir it all together.  Add half a teaspoon of the red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper, then stir.  
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, the egg, bread crumbs, the other half of the onion, garlic, and the rest of the parsley.  Add the Parmesan cheese and season with the other half teaspoon of red pepper flakes, the dried oregano, and salt and pepper.  Using clean hands, mix gently until combined, being sure not to over mix.
  3. Roll the meat mixture into balls and set aside.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the meatballs on all sides until golden brown.  You'll most likely have to work in batches.  Once the meatballs are done searing, nestle them into the sauce and set your slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours.  Gently stir them about halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  4. To assemble the subs, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Split a baguette or roll down the middle and scoop out some of the insides. Place meatballs on one side and slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on the other.  Bake for 5-10 minutes, watching closely, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  You may need to finish it under the broiler in order to really melt that cheese.    When melted, top with arugula or spinach if you want.  Serve immediately.
Enjoy!

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