Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mini Sticky, Sweet & Spicy Sesame Chicken Meatballs

Mini chicken meatballs are making an appearance here again. This time, they're glazed in a light honey sesame sauce. Thai peppers infuse these little spicy-sweet morsels with a fierce tropical chili heat. A mix of ground spices lend smokiness and depth of flavor. Some dried fruit bumps up the moisture and adds a subtle sweetness. You really won't know the fruit is there, it kind of just melts into the mix. Finally, herbs add a welcome freshness.

After I made these meatballs, I watched a wonderful documentary called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi". Have you seen it? It stuck with me for days. I thought about how much respect Jiro and the other masters have for the sushi they prepare and serve at their teeny restaurant. They have a monastic reverence for it. There's a gentleness to their work. There's a certain calm, repetitive nature to making proper sushi. When making these little meatballs, it's a good idea to try to have the same meditative attitude.

This kind of cooking is mellow and soothing. It's like saying a prayer that you've said hundreds of times before or listening to your favorite music. There's a natural rhythm and flow. I can certainly go on and on... somehow connecting spiritual things to making meatballs. I've even written about it in my Persian Meatball post. Here's the recap:

There are a few tricks to keeping turkey or chicken meatballs moist. Remember to....relax...let all the nightmares of dry meatballs leave your mind. Be patient when rolling the meat into balls, add moisture to the mix and last but not least....with all your will and might, resist, resist, resist the urge to overcook them into something that resembles sawdust marbles. Be gentle and kind to your meatballs. This is going to be hard at first, but trust me, it gets easier with practice and letting go. Even if you overcook them a little (this happens from time to time) they'll still be full of flavor.

Some Notes: 

You can serve these meatballs with fragrant and fluffy basmati rice and a cooling Persian cucumber & tomato salad or a vibrant cucumber & tomato salad with fresh mint . The meatballs are packed with heat and flavor, so mild rice and a refreshing salad are welcome additions to this meal. Plain Greek yogurt for dipping and a simple salad made from a few sliced cucumbers tossed with sea salt, lime or lemon are good side dishes too. Recipe links for the rice and Persian salad are also provided after The Rundown.

Remember to be patient and gentle when cooking them and you'll have an enjoyable meatball experience. You could also use lean ground beef for this recipe.

You may want to toast some of the sesame seeds you'll use for rolling the meatballs. This brings out their nutty flavor. Just put them in a nonstick pan and cook them on medium heat until they're golden brown, being careful not to burn them.

When dicing the ingredients, really run your knife over them a few times, almost mincing them. The meatballs are small so they cook pretty quickly. Therefore, the veggies must cook quickly too.

They've been featured on Honest Cooking, Village Voices, Australia & theBerry

Serves 6-8 with rice and salad

Spicy Sweet Meatball Recipe

You'll Need:
  • 2 1 pound packages of ground chicken, turkey or lean beef
  • 6-8 scallions, diced very finely. Reserve some for serving.
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated. (optional) I use a microplane for this.
  • 1-2 small Thai chili peppers, minced very finely. You can also use a jalapeno pepper or a bit of ground red chili powder. Thai peppers are very hot, but I love them! 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, divided. Reserve about 1 1/2 tablespoons for rolling the meatballs and sprinkling over them upon serving. (see notes)
  • 10 diced apricots or 1/3 cup diced dried dates, your choice. Make sure you dice them very fine.
  • A generous drizzle of honey plus more for drizzling at the end of cooking.
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste.  
  • Fresh herb of your choice: flat leaf parsley, mint, Thai basil, regular basil or cilantro would all be great. Use a good handful, about 1/4 cup, chopped.
  • Neutral oil for pan frying the meatballs.  
  • Lemon or lime wedges for serving. Sprinkling of scallions for serving.

The Rundown:  

Add everything to a bowl, including a good drizzle of honey and the herb of your choice and mix to combine all the ingredients. Wet your hands with cold water and form the mixture into small balls the size of large marbles or walnuts. 

Heat a large nonstick pan on medium high heat with some oil. Drop the meatballs in the pan and saute until they're golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if you have to. Be careful not to burn them as the honey will help to caramelize the outside of the meatballs, helping them brown and crisp. You can cover the pan occasionally to cook them. But, keep a close eye on them and remove the cover when almost done. Try not to overcook or they'll become dry. Once they are done, drizzle some more honey on them and roll them around to coat them with honey. Put the reserved sesame seeds on a plate and drop the cooked meatballs in the sesame seeds, rolling them to coat the outside with seeds. Serve with lemon or lime wedges, a cooling Persian cucumber salad and a side of rice. 

More Recipes From Jilly... 

Supremely Satisfying Moroccan Chickpea Stew ~ A Healthy Vegan Dish with Tomatoes, African Spices & Fresh Herbs


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