Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kotleti - Soviet Meatballs

Blog's Category: USSR-Era Cuisine, My Staple Food

I could prove it - kotleti were on a menu of each Soviet family, no doubts. Also recipe was pretty similar to each other with minor differences. I don't think that there is such a thing as bad kotleti, it's always tasty and desirable food on a table. 

What it is
It's a fried meat patties made of some kind of ground meat with various additions mixed in.

How it's served
Kotleti is a focal point of entree and served hot with some kind of side dish. Often it is mashed potato. Any other side dish works very well also including light vegetable sides. Kotleti can be served cold (usually straight from the fridge, at night, with no light turned on - it will work even better if you manage to find piece of bread and mustard for it in a dull fridge lighting :). Seriously, it can work totally as a burger, inside of a soft bun, with onion, tomato, etc. It will differ from burger though - kotleti is juicier, more flavorful, it's soft inside and crunchy outside.

Some side comments
Kotleti is this kind of food that every kid would eat. At least back there, in Ukraine, it was always done by grannies to please their beloved grandkids.

Kotleti, unlike burgers, should be cooked "well-done", i.e. throughout, completely. No raw meat inside is acceptable. It's not too hard to achieve - because of the light texture and finely mixed ingredients they cook fast on a frying pan.

How to store it
In a fridge. For a 2, 3 ,4 or 5 days.

1) Buy "ready-to-go" ground meat or grind by yourself.
2) Combine 2 kinds of meat - pork and beef are the common combination
3) Instead of oats use bread crumbs or piece of bread soaked in a milk. Also finely grated raw potato can be used in place of oats, or even cream-of-wheat or greets. I have tried all these ingredients and have chosen oats. These fillers would not change the taste of kotleti, it will effect rather its texture or color.
4) Green onion can be added to the mix, but I don't like to do this because it will make kotleti pink inside - I prefer mine looking grey (naturally, for cooked meat). Also, if you will use raw grated potato in a mix, as I mentioned above, it will make kotleti pink inside also. That's why I don't use potato here also.
5) You can use bread crumbs, or panko crumbs, or plain flour to coat kotleti before frying. Although often I prefer not to coat them at all - Naked Kotleti - here it is, I've come up with an instant name!
6) Some like to put minced garlic in a kotleti mix. Personally, I do not like it (yes, I ate enormous amount of different style kotleti before I've come to vegetarianism :).  Garlicy kotleti will send you "hellow" in form of burpings long after you ate them (please pardon my naturalism). It may spoil all of the pleasure of consuming it (well, may not! - you are free to try!).

- If you are "busy women" as myself - don't bother with meat grinding and coatings for your kotlets - follow the recipe below exactly as described. It is the best way to get delicious kotleti - fast! I have to mention that for special occation you have to try to grind chicken breast and make chicken breast kotleti - you won't regret it. It's risky though because after that, your kids/husband/wife/other will annoy you begging to make it again and again and again.

- Do not worry that your folks will not like oats inside of it, just do not tell them it's in there. Oats absolutely undetectable there but (remember?) oats so-o-o-o good for you :)
- If ground meat is too cold for your fingers (happened to me!), use medium-warm water when processing your onion - it will bring temperature of your mix up.

For 20 medium-size kotletis:

3 lb of ground turkey
2 cups of dry rolled oats
1 large onion
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
panko crumbs of bread crumbs for coating (optional)
Oil for frying (peanut oil, olive oil, or schmaltz as it's done in Ukraine)
1 cup of tap water

- Chop roughly onion and process it with 1 cup of tap water until smooth pulp forms. Or use fine grater (as I did years ago) to grate onion but be ready for eye-torture from onion's flying sulfurs. Also If you grate your meat, do not forget to add 1 cup of water to the mix in the next step.

- In a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, oats, two slightly beaten eggs, onion pulp, salt and pepper. Use your hands (well, one hand if you wish) for doing this, beat the mix nicely until all components thoroughly combined.

- Again, with your palms and fingers form flat patties about 3/2" think in a shape you like. Traditionally, shape for kotletis is oval which has one end sharper than another one.

- If you decided to make coating, have your bread crumbs on a big flat plate. Coat patties on both sides with a bread crumbs (or panko. or flour).

- Preheat your frying pan with a 5 tablespoons of oil. Fry on a medium heat on one side, then flip and fry another side until brown. Take a note that if you see pink juice leaking from your kotleti - they are not done yet. But if this juice is clear-greyish - they are ready to go onto your "final destination" plate.

- Enjoy by yourself or with your folks - they will thank you for this treat!

My elderly processor had hard time making perfect onion/water "smoothie". I hope yours is better :)

After extra couple of thousands spins job was done!

In the same oniony bowl, after about 51 spins eggs are ready too.

All ingredients are met but not married, just yet :)

Mix it.. You see? Oats are less and less noticeable. Are you still scared of it? Don't be :)

Kotleti, coated in panko crumbs, and interrogated with heat.

These kotletis are Naked - done without any coating.

Naked Kotleti served with Braised Cabbage 

Panko coated kotleti served with jasmine rice drizzled with aromatic French Roasted Hazelnut Oil.

"Juicy inside, crunchy outside" - I heard it a lot..Isn't it formula for success? Yes, it works here. By the way, did you see any oats around here?..Nope :)


  1. ;) All Yugoslavian families love this dish too. We call it ćufte :)

    1. After all we where not that far from each other :) Somewhere in USSR's southern republic was dish "kafta" resembling itself lamb meat patties/meatball. It's fascinating how different cuisines always have similar dishes!


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