10 May 2011

baked chicken meatballs with pepperonata

This has already become one of those weeks. Starting with my poor mama, who broke her ankle on Saturday and was promptly sent to surgery on Sunday, just in time for mother's day. Hope you're feeling a little better today! Add to that a loaded schedule, all the stress that comes with starting a new job on Monday (wheee!), and now what seems to be an annoying car problem (again). Luckily, Kevin's sister will be in town on Thursday night, so no matter what we get done and what we don't and what's left to figure out, we will be relaxing and having a great weekend. So, thank you Laura, for the ever needed forced relaxation and break in the busyness. Can't wait to see you!
It's times like these when I go back to old favorite recipes, so I don't have to add figuring out what's for dinner to list of craziness. Though we really don't eat that much meat around the house, these chicken meatballs have become a favorite. I first made this for my friends Jess & Dan, almost two years ago now, when I was visiting them in Portland. I was reading my trusty Bon Appetit on the plane ride over and tagged this recipe based on the picture alone. When I decided to make dinner one night for us, I pulled out my magazine and went straight for the meatballs.
These are absolute best chicken meatballs I've ever had. I happen to love them served with the recommended pepperonata and a hearty piece or two of garlic bread, though you can serve them however you choose. Above, I made them into open faced sandwiches with a little fresh mozzarella.
Though the recipe may look a little long, it's not hard or complicated at all, I promise. Basically, you cook up the pancetta + onion, then toss everything together, form into balls, and bake. Like I say in the note, if you want to serve with the pepperonata, but don't have the time for roasting, buy a jar of roasted peppers and put everything together while the meatballs are baking. Voila - an easy, healthy, delicious recipe, that has become one of my favorites and immediately comes to mind when I just don't know what to make.

baked chicken meatballs
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, here
note: if in a time pinch, use jarred roasted peppers instead of roasting your own.

for the pepperonata:
1 red bell pepper
1 ½ tsp capers, drained
1 tsp evoo + 1 tbsp for roasting
2 tsp red wine vinegar
pinch red pepper flakes

for the meatballs:
3 slices Italian bread, crust removed & torn into pieces, about 1 cup
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken (I use 1/2 dark + 1/2 light, but any combo will do)
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon tomato paste

for the pepperonata:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Place pepper on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Rub olive oil all over pepper then place in oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning pepper 2 or 3 times, until skins are wrinkled and charred in places. Remove from oven and carefully wrap pepper loosely with the foil. Let sit about 30 minutes to cool. Open foil, remove stem and seeds from inside of pepper, peel of all the skin, and slice into strips.

In a bowl, combine all pepperonata ingredients and toss to coat. Let sit while preparing meatballs.

for the meatballs:
Bring oven to 400 degree s F.

Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and cook pancetta, onion, and garlic with 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper,  until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Cool slightly.

Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, discard milk, then break up into small pieces. 

Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then using a fork, combine with chicken, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange on a baking pan.

Stir together tomato paste and remaining tablespoon oil and brush over meatballs, then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

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