Parmageddon Day 3: The Chicken Parm Meatball

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

 Parmesan cheese is more than just a topping at the end. Oh no, it can also add immense flavor when combined within mixtures. A fabulous example is with the simple meatball.

Be it beef or chicken (or even turkey), parmesan cheese goes with most anything. Adding a generous amount to the meat mixture of a meatball will give a delightful salty bite to the meatball, as well as an unexpected cheesy goodness. I chose here to pair parmesan with chicken -- personally my favorite combination -- and the moist cheesy goodness didn't even make it into the sauce; we ate them all up plain they were so good!

You can make these ahead of time (even the day before) and keep them covered in the fridge until ready to bake. You can also fry them, but I think baking them is a little healthier and frankly tastes better. Serve them plain or add them to your favorite marinara sauce with more parmesan cheese on top! Enjoy!

Chicken Parm Meatballs
2 lbs ground chicken thigh meat*
6 cloves garlic, minced (preferably ran through a garlic press)
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 slice white bread (sandwich bread is fine), ripped into small pieces and combined with 1/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Take the meat and place in a large mixing bowl. Make sure it's at room temperature -- makes it easier to mix. Add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to taste (I usually do 1 tsp each celtic salt and pepper), the moistened bread together with the milk (all of it together), the egg and cheese. Then gently mix with a spatula or your hands, folding the ingredients in rather than a hurried mix around. Mix until just comes together and ingredients are evenly distributed (it should take you less than a minute honestly) and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

Form balls from the mixture -- I usually do a heaping dinner spoon's worth (about 3 measuring Tbsp worth) -- and set balls on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Place in oven and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remember, this is chicken so you have to make sure it's cooked all the way through if you're planning to serve them plain; if you're placing them in sauce then they'll finish cooking in the sauce.

Remove from oven and serve. If doing sauce, heat your favorite marinara in a pot until hot. Gently drop the balls into the sauce and turn off heat; let stand 15 minutes before serving. Top with more parmesan cheese if desired.

Make Ahead Tip:
You can make the meatball mixture the day before; cover and refrigerate. Form into balls when you're ready to bake.

*You can use ground chicken breast, but the little extra fat in the chicken thigh meat helps to keep them moist while cooking.

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