Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Smiling/Baked Chicken Meatballs

Last night, at 7:30 pm I was at the supermarket hoping that I wouldn't have a botched dinner. At 9 pm after my first bite of these meatballs I was smiling like a goon, theses meatballs were anything but botched. Wholehearted, goonish smiles are one of my favorite things; seriously, if there is one thing I love more than good food, it’s smiles. They say that if you smile for long enough, no matter how low you are feeling, eventually the physical action of smiling will translate into smiley thoughts and eventually into a smiley state of being. So if it's food (that I made) that makes me smile so wide, it's kind of the best of win-win scenarios. Not only am I pleased with my work, but I also get a dinner out of it.
I am starting to worry that I am tooting my own horn a little too much these days, I keep raving about all this food I make and patting myself on the back. I know that TBD does mean The Best Dishes, so you should expect that, but I hope you don't think that everything is always perfect in my kitchen, it's not, I guess I have just been on a little bit of a roll recently. So, I know that I always say that these recipes must be made right away and I really hate to be predictable, but...make these. Actually, make these as soon as possible. How about tonight? You’ll thank me.

This recipe caught my eye in the August 2009 issue of Gourmet, but I wasn't sure I wanted to make them, because ground chicken kind of icks me out. Three months later, I decided to give it a shot, and I am very sorry I waited that long. It turns out that this recipe eliminates any risk of dryness with the addition of bacon, and chicken is actually the ideal backdrop for all the other flavors these meatballs have going on. Gourmet’s recipe was decidedly Italian, but I decided to go with more southwestern flavors last night. The powerfully smoky chipotle and the sweet tomato flavors of the salsa were accented by just a hint of bacon flavor, although it sounds like a lot of flavors, they mesh together perfectly.

My secret to these meatballs is the ground almonds, which replace the suggested milk-soaked bread. Unfortunately, I am a product of what I call ‘the age of Atkins,’ so alternatives like these are inherently ingrained in my cooking methods. However, I find that in this case the ground almonds actually add flavor and texture to the meatballs and more importantly they keep them airy and light. Although I haven’t always been a fan of the smoky spice of chipotles, I find that it works really well in these meatballs. If you don’t like chipotle, any other hot chilies (or hot sauce) would also work fine. The one challenge with this recipe is that the meat mixture is unusually wet, which makes it a little bit of a challenge to form the meatballs. I found that by working quickly and then dropping them into the baking dish, they held their form perfectly. Also, the salsa is crucial, make sure you add it because it keeps the outside from drying out. The moistness of these meatballs is what makes them special, so we want to keep it that way. I truly hope that when you make these they will but as big a smile on your face as they did on mine, I have a feeling they will.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
(adapted from Gourmet)
makes 12, 1.5" meatballs

1 lb. ground chicken
1 c. ground almonds
1 egg
1 tbsp chipotle hot sauce or 1 chipotle in adobo, minced (add more of less depending on how much heat you like)
1 slice of bacon, chopped small
2 shallots, minced
1/4 c. salsa

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat up a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. When the bacon has rendered off a good amount of it’s fat, about 3-4 minutes, add the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions and bacon are golden, another 5 minutes or so.
2) Place the chicken, almonds, egg and chipotle sauce. Spoon the bacon and onion mixture in, leaving the rendered fat in the pan (if you're going to use it).
3) Mix the whole thing with your hands, until it is well combined. This is going to be a very wet mixture. Form into 12, 1.5” meatballs and place in a 9 x 13” baking dish.
4) Spoon about a teaspoon of salsa over each meatball. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

• If you're feeling decadent, use the rendered bacon fat in the pan to sautee some vegetables to serve alongside, I like spinach.
• I hesitate to specify how many this will serve, I live with one girl so a serving is about 3 meatballs each, I imagine that for boys that number goes up that would go up to 5 or 6. Either way, this recipe is very easy to double (or triple).
• If you don't have a 9 x 13" baking dish, an aluminum lined baking sheet would also work.


The Cooking Photographer said...

Meatballs are pure comfort. Yours look fantastic! I haven't made meatballs in months. I really should.


Megan@Feasting on Art said...

Ohhh it looks like you should be 'tooting your own horn' the meatballs look delish!!!

Star said...

Frenchie, you and your meatballs make me smile like a goon!

I bet they taste even better than they look!



Julia said...

Sounds delicious! Very impressive and I like your adjustments with the almonds.

Can't wait to try them and be smiley!

Anonymous said...

I can promise all you TBD readers out there... these were the best meatballs I've ever haddddd.. Try them!!!

{kiss my spatula} said...

ohh, do i love a good meatball! this looks amazing!