Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Basil Chicken Meatballs with Ponzu Sauce

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – January 20, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Cooking Light, January/February 2011.

I enjoy finding double-duty dishes.  This dish is meant to be an appetizer; however, I cooked up some brown rice and made a meal out of it.  Perfect, especially when it comes to appetizer dishes.  Since it is just my husband and I, we don’t get a lot of use out of appetizers.  Of course, on occasion, I’m asked to bring one somewhere or we have people over.  Well I’m not a big fan of making something that I’ve never made before for a special occasion or for guests.  Thus, appetizers I can make for dinner are exactly what I’m looking for.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:

© Cooking Light

I was really proud of the way the meatballs turned out.  Browning them in the pan was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.  Set off the fire alarm a couple of times too.  But I held them together and went forward & they looked great in the end.  Had the rice not been there, I think the pictures would have looked VERY similar.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – I had to chop spices and mix ground chicken.  I think it could have been a NADA if even one of those had not happened.  Okay, I lied.  Chopping fresh herbs always sucks.

Start-to-Finish Time: About an hour – Cooking Light doesn’t have an estimate on time, but it took me around an hour to make it.  You have to brown the meatballs in batches and then cook them.  The sauce is easy enough to make, but with the prep work, it would be best to budget yourself the time.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – Simple chopping, but you have to chop basil.  Basil is one of the easier herbs to chop, but you have to make sure it is finely chopped or you could have someone biting into a large chunk.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – It is a very simple recipe, but it took a little bit of skill for me to brown the meatballs.  And unless I’m willing to admit that I set off the smoke alarm for very simple recipes, which I am not, I have to bump this up to THE BASICS.

OverallYUMMY – I thought these were a really filling dinner with the addition of the brown rice and a salad.  Actually, they made an excellent lunch too.  When I’m looking for something that I can make on auto-pilot, I’ll turn to this.

Recipe Information:
Servings: 8 (as appetizers) / 5 (as entrée)

Nutritional Information (2 meatballs with 1 tablespoon of sauce)
  • Calories 194
  • Total Fat 10.2g (Saturated Fat 3.9g)
  • Cholesterol 103mg
  • Calcium 40mg
  • Sodium 544mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 9.2g
  • Fiber 0.7g
  • Protein 16.8g
  • Iron 1.2mg

The appetizer serving is self explanatory.  You can get a serving with about ½ cup of brown rice with 3 or 4 meatballs.  Include a small salad and a piece of multi-grain ciabatta bread and you’ve got a filling yet healthy meal.

Changes denoted by red text

2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut
¼ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons garlic-chili sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1½ teaspoons fish sauce
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1½ pounds ground chicken
Cooking spray

¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons small basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
2 tablespoons fresh no pulp orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1½ teaspoons water
1½ teaspoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
Dash of crushed red pepper

Additional Optional ingredients:
Small basil leaves
Chopped green onions

Ingredient Notes:
Panko Breadcrumbs
  • These are Japanese breadcrumbs that can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store.  I have now noticed them side-by-side with the regular bread crumbs as well. 
  • If you can’t find it, you can use regular bread crumbs.

Basil – ordinarily I don’t worry about substituting dried herbs for fresh ones, unless the recipe calls for more than a couple tablespoons.  This one calls for ¼ cup and uses small leaves as garnish.  Fortunately, basil is one of the easier herbs to chop.  Pluck the leaves off (the stems are bitter) and lay the largest one on the bottom, then stack the other leaves on top.  Roll the leaves up into a tube and start slicing as thin as possible.  Then randomly chop the pile to make it a fine chop.

Garlic-Chili Sauce – you’ll find this in the Asian section of your grocery store usually with the Thai ingredients.  Look for it on the top shelves.  The original recipe called for sweet chili sauce, but I couldn’t find it.  I do love garlic, so I decided to give the Garlic-Chili sauce a try as a substitute.  It worked wonderfully and I’m looking forward to using it again in another dish.

Fish Sauce
  • Another item you can find in the Asian section of the grocery store with the Thai (nam pla) or Vietnamese (nuoc mam) ingredients.  It is a brownish sauce that is very runny.  I’ll be honest, it doesn’t smell all that hot and it looks gross, but it definitely adds a needed flavor into your dish.
  • I highly suggest buying the fish sauce, but if you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, you can substitute light soy sauce.

Lemon Juice – the 1 tablespoon can come from a quarter of a lemon.

Mirin – Also known as sweet rice wine, you can find it with the Japanese section of the grocery store.  Kikkoman makes one, so you should be able to find it with the soy sauces; however, the last time I purchased it, I had to scan the shelves and it wasn’t near the soy.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Small bowl - seperating/beating eggs
Small bowl - beating eggs
Large bowl
Spoons - mixing (2)
Large skillet
Large spoon
Broiler pan

Equipment Notes:
Broiler Pan – If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a large broiler pan, which can make broiling large portions of meat difficult.  I was able to fit all of the meatballs on mine, but in the event you can’t, you can use a baking sheet.  I always line mine with foil and spray with cooking spray to protect them though.  Actually, I usually spray my broiler pan with it as well.

(1)  Preheat oven to 425°F.

(2)  To prepare meatballs:
            (a) Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl.

            (b) Add the chicken and mix well; shape mixture into 16 (1½-inch) meatballs.

            (c) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

            (d) Move the pan away from the stove, coat pan with cooking spray and place back on the burner.  This comes from personal experience.  You definitely don't want to spray the cooking spray near an open flame.  If you are lucky, you'll just get away with a lovely flame burst around your pan.  If you aren't lucky, you'll catch stuff on fire.  I won't reveal whether I was lucky or not, but let's say that I didn't have hair on my arm for a while.

            (e) Add 8 meatballs to pan, and cook for 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove meatballs 
 from pan, and arrange on the rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.   

The first time you rotate the meatball will be the hardest.  Make sure you get the spoon underneath the meatball instead of just trying to push it.  The meatball won't be solid and you can very easily break it apart.  

You may be tempted to move it too soon as well.  If you don't let it sear, the meatball will most likely stick to the bottom and you'll have a malformed ball and/or broken meatball.

            (f) Repeat procedure with the remaining 8 meatballs.

            (g) Bake at 425°F for 7 minutes or until done.

(3)  To prepare the sauce: combine soy sauce, basil leaves, green onions, juices, 1½ teaspoons water, mirin, and red pepper in a small bowl.

(4)  Serve sauce with meatballs.

(5)  Garnish with basil leaves and additional chopped green onions, if desired.

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