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Durango chef builds recipe with supplies available at food bank

Dave Cuntz makes Asian glazed turkey meatballs
The Roost Chef Dave Cuntz walks around Manna soup kitchen’s market to build a meal that can feed a family of four. (Courtesy photo)

In an effort to highlight local resources and teach some cooking skills, head chef at The Roost Dave Cuntz went to Manna soup kitchen to make a meal on the fly from what’s offered at Manna’s Market.

From rising gas prices to limited and expensive housing options, times are tough in Durango. Luckily, resources like Manna are available to people who might be having trouble making ends meet. Manna is located at 1100 Avenida del Sol in Durango.

“With everything going on in the world I think it would be good for people in our community to know that Manna is serving people who are struggling paycheck to paycheck,” said head chef at Manna, Seanan Culloty. “We don’t just provide services for the homeless community. We have a lot of people who are just trying to make their rent and need help feeding their families.”

The Roost’s Chef Dave Cuntz’s recipe for Asian glazed turkey meatballs

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Servings: 24 meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey breast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs plain, unseasoned
  • ½ each small carrot – minced
  • 4 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 scallions – sliced
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Glaze

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch slurry – ¼ cup water (mix cold water with cornstarch)
  • Garnish
  • Sesame seeds and scallions for garnish

Instructions

Meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Mince the garlic, carrot and chop the scallions.
  3. In a bowl, mix in vegetable mix, breadcrumb, egg, milk, salt and pepper.
  4. Combine all turkey and mix together in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Using a small scooper, form equal-sized meatballs. (For reference, mine were approximately 1.5 ounces each).
  6. Spray and, use a baking sheet to lay out meatballs.
  7. Cook the meatballs for 15-20 minutes.

Glaze

  1. Mince the garlic.
  2. Combine all glaze ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk together.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent clumping.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce comes to boil, thicken with slurry.
  5. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, and cook for another minute or two.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and more chopped scallions for garnish.

– Dave Cuntz

All Mana requires to access its market is some basic information given to a case manager on the way in and the weight of the food being taken on the way out. Other than that, the products available are completely free. Last month, Manna provided 14,000 pounds of food to the community through its market, Culloty said.

Around Durango, Cuntz is known to many residents for his time spent as head chef at the Strater Hotel, Carver Brewing Co. and now The Roost.

In 2021, he won the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Stars of the Industry Chef of the Year Award.

Cuntz fries up vegetables in bacon fat to mix with rice for his Asian glazed turkey meatballs. (Courtesy)

Having won the Food Network television show Guy’s Grocery Games in 2015, a leisurely stroll around Manna’s market to build a meal that can feed a family of four was probably not very difficult for Cuntz.

After grabbing his cart at Manna’s market, he quickly strolled over and selected a bag of rice. He then picked up some fresh vegetables, including kale, zucchini and carrots.

“Who doesn’t like fried rice?” he said.

The meal came together when he found a couple of pounds of ground turkey. It was then Cuntz decided that he would make Asian glazed turkey meatballs over fried rice.

Everything he used in his meal came from Manna with the exception of an onion, some scallions and different seasonings that are found in most pantries.

Back at The Roost’s kitchen Cuntz began by softening the rice. He opted to bake it covered in foil for an hour at 375 degrees. He added two cups of rice to about 4 cups of water, and added a splash of olive oil. Cooking rice on the stove top is faster, and just as effective, but he says baking it allows you to set it and forget it.

In an effort to highlight skills and resources, Cuntz showed what Manna soup kitchen’s market had to offer, making Asian glazed turkey meatballs. (Courtesy)

After getting the rice set up in the oven, Cuntz began making the highlight of his dish: the Asian glazed meatballs. He began by placing 2 pounds of ground turkey in one bowl, and in another bowl he added minced garlic and scallions, one cup of well-crushed breadcrumbs, two eggs, about four tablespoons of milk, a minced carrot, ground ginger, and salt and pepper.

Mixing everything that’s going into the meatballs separately from the meat is the secret. Allowing all of the mixing to sit in a separate bowl allows for the breadcrumbs to soak everything up and mix better into the meat, he said.

“Everyone wants to just throw it all in there,” Cuntz said. “I separate so that I know that my breadcrumbs are nice and soaked through. It keeps the consistency the same so you don’t have big chunks of different things in your meatballs.”

Cuntz then poured the mixture over the ground turkey and began folding it into the meat. After mixing, the 2 pounds of turkey yielded around 30, 1½-ounce meatballs that he placed on a baking tray and popped in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

In less than an hour, Cuntz cooks up a family meal of Asian glazed turkey meatballs using food available free at Manna soup kitchen’s market. (Courtesy)

While the rice and meatballs were cooking, he chopped carrots, kale, zucchini and a yellow squash to add into his fried rice. Cuntz said a good way to make ensure different vegetables cook at the same rate is to make sure they’re all as similar in size as possible.

“The smaller you break things down, the quicker they’re going to cook,” he said.

For added flavor and a fat source to fry his rice in, Cuntz threw some bacon sliced into very small strips into a large skillet.

He made the glaze for the meatballs in a sauce pot, combining soy sauce, hoisin sauce, minced garlic, rice wine vinegar, water and ground ginger in a saucepan. Once those ingredients began to simmer, he added a mixture of cornstarch and water to thicken the sauce.

Once the meatballs were finished baking, he added them to the sauce. Then when the rice was finished, he plated a serving of four meatballs over a bowl of rice.

Cuntz’s advice for the home cook is to stay confident and always read through the whole recipe before beginning to cook.

“As long as you feel confident in your recipe you can cook anything,” he said. “One thing I find pretty often is that people don’t read their recipe before they start. Cooking is all about learning and experimenting, make sure you’re having fun.”

To save time in the kitchen at home, Cuntz suggested preparing meals when possible. Whether preparing a whole meal or just a single ingredient, it can save time in the long run.

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