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Keep ground bison moist with egg, milk, onion

Middle Eastern Bison Meatballs with Cilantro-yogurt Sauce can be prepped hours in advance.
Middle Eastern Bison Meatballs with Cilantro-yogurt Sauce can be prepped hours in advance.
Larry Crowe, Associated Press

Ground bison is especially lean, which means that cooking it past medium can leave it especially dry. In this Middle Eastern meatball recipe from Bruce Aidells, author of "The Complete Meat Cookbook," chopped onion, breadcrumbs, milk and an egg keep the mixture moist even after being thoroughly cooked. The meatball mixture can be prepped up to 6 hours before cooking; the cilantro-yogurt sauce can be made a full day ahead.


Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes (1 hour active)

Servings: 6

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

3 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the meatballs:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (ideally fresh made from crustless French bread)

1 tablespoon whole milk

2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno chili (about 1 large)

2 tablespoons whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

1 1/4 pounds ground bison

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

To make the sauce, in a small, dry skillet over medium, combine the fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Toast, stirring often, until aromatic and slightly darker in color, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool for 5 minutes.

In a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, finely grind the seeds. Set aside.

In a blender, combine the cilantro, yogurt, scallions, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, sage and sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of the ground seeds, then blend, scraping the sides of the blender as needed, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and refrigerate.

To make the meatballs, in a small, heavy skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and garlic, then saute until soft, about 7 minutes (do not brown). Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk.

In a food processor, combine the cooled onion mixture, breadcrumb mixture, remaining ground seeds, chili and yogurt. Pulse to form a coarse puree. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

Add the bison, egg, cilantro, sage, salt, pepper and allspice. Using your hands or a fork, mix until just blended. Using damp hands, form the mixture into 11/4-inch balls. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 300 F.

In a heavy, large nonstick skillet over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Working in 2 batches, cook the meatballs until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. As they are cooked, transfer the meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm (up to 15 minutes). Serve with cilantro-yogurt sauce for dipping.

Recipe from Bruce Aidells