If there is one recipe I really would want you to try in the course of this year, it would be this one. This recipe could not only be a meal, but also carry you through the holiday season if you were ever put in charge of bringing a hot appetizer to a party or family gathering. Our mouths were so pleased with the symphony of flavors and the visual appeal, that the Bear and I did not even know what to say. We ate in silence. We cleaned our plates. In the end, we both looked at each other and said in harmony, "This is really freakin' good."
I don't know about you, but growing up whenever my mom had a baby or someone in the family was really sick, the grandmas of the church would make us a slew of meals. One of my favorites was meatballs. It didn't matter if they were beef or ham. These meatballs are like Italian church grandma meatballs, only better for you. I used lean ground chicken breast and mixed it with sauteed onions cooked in a couple of pieces of center cut bacon. "The binder?" you may ask. A tablespoon of corn meal replaces the bread crumbs, but does not change the texture or flavor. Do not fear the peperonata. I was a little hesitant for the Bear to try this. It is red and green. It is pickled. Not his favorite things. He was brave and even was forking the peperonata onto bites of the meatball. This does not happen often people! The peperonata takes the meatballs over the top by adding the perfect amount of fresh acidity. If you are wanting to impress your family with an amazing meal, make the meatballs as directed below. If you are wanting to serve them as an appetizer, make the balls smaller and maybe garnish them with a peperonata laced toothpick. Please, please, please make this recipe before the end of the year!
Baked Chicken Meatballs with Peperonata
inspired by Groumet
For the Peperonata:
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips
1 1/2 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 pinch red pepper flakes
For the Meatballs:
4 slices center cut bacon, cut into bits
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 lb. ground chicken
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon corn meal
3 mozzarella sticks, cut into 1' pieces
To make the Peperonata: Toss the roasted red peppers, capers, and parsley together in a bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the roasted pepper mixture. Toss together and cover with plastic wrap. Let the mixture marinate for 30 minutes or store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
To make the Meatballs: Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bacon, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions soften. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, onion mixture, egg whites, parsley, ketchup, and corn meal. Cover and let the mixture stand in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or overnight to allow the corn meal to bind the mixture together. Remove from the fridge. Begin forming the meatballs in your hands using approximately 1/4 cup servings. With your thumb, make an indentation in the meatball and stuff the cheese in the meatball. Cover the indentation by rolling the meatball in your hands so the meat fills in the whole. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all of the meat is used. At this point you can store the meatballs in the refrigerator or freezer in a resealable container until you are ready to bake them. When you are ready to bake them, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking or casserole dish with non-stick spray. Place the meatballs in the dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the meatballs measure 165 degrees with a meat thermometer Remove from the oven and let the meatballs cool slightly before serving. Serve with the Peperonata.