I know I’ve been AWOL for a week or so, but I have a really good excuse. See, I had to make these meatballs. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had to cater a baby shower…and these were on the menu. So technically that is true. As soon as I get my pictures in order I will be posting about the shower, including some other yummy-scrumptious recipes. But seeing as how I made these twice in three days (they are that good), I figured it was my duty to share them first. But I feel I should warn you that they are made with ground chicken.
Gasp. I know, right.
I’ll be honest: I never thought I’d ever buy ground poultry. I mean, I make fun of folks who eat turkey burgers, because, really, what’s the point of eating a burger (B is for beef, people. Or possible buffalo. Or bison. Not turkey.) otherwise? No judgements here – eat what you want – but for me personally, I like my ground meat red, and previously on the hoof. So, when I was hunting for a killer meatball recipe, no one was more surprised than me that I chose one with ground chicken. They also have pancetta, which helped make them more legit – let’s be honest, I’d eat a tire if you put pancetta on it. And the recipe described them as tasting “cheesy”, even though there is not a single shred of cheese in them. By that point in my research I was fully on board, and trying to think of which Publix I can go to where no one I know will see me buying ground chicken.
The first batch I made for the shower I didn’t photograph, so you’re seeing my second batch which I made for dinner last night – much to Jacob’s delight. He claimed they were awesome, and that’s a high compliment for someone who usually just says “Meh. It’s OK. I’d eat it again.” Seriously. He’s like the least excited eater ever. Also, almost everyone who attended the shower requested the recipe, so I feel pretty good declaring them the Best Meatballs Ever. They only take about 20 minutes to put together, and then another 15-20 to bake, depending on how large you make them, so it’s not a huge time investment, and are you really still here? Why aren’t you out at a grocery store where no one knows you buying ground chicken (unless you routinely use ground poultry, in which case feel free to shop at your usual place). They really are good people. They don’t taste very chicken-y to me, more a general savory flavor, and they are very tender and moist. I made the ones for the shower small, around 25 of them baked for 16 minutes, and the ones for our dinner were larger, only 12 and baked for 22 minutes. So you can tweak them to suit your needs, but either way, you’ll be glad you tried them.
Baked Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet via SmittenKitchen
Serves 4 as a main course, or more as appetizers
3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped (you can swap in Canadian Bacon if you can’t find pancetta)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.
Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. (Alternately, as in “I thought of this after the fact”, I’d bet you could render the pancetta for a couple minutes and cook the onions and garlic in that fat, rather than olive oil.) Cool slightly.
Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in another 4-sided sheet pan
Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (I had to use a whisk to get it to mix) , then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes.