Thursday, January 3, 2013

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs

* Gluten-Free * Healthy * Weeknight Meal *

When I saw the ingredients for this recipe, I literally started drooling. Chicken is a healthier alternative to ground pork or beef, but you run the risk of having dry, tough meatballs ... these are jam-packed with flavor and dry isn't an adjective they've ever heard of.

You can do anything with these little jewels, but I think they’re best tucked into lettuce wraps with some chili sauce, or served plain over rice noodles. Properly cooked, rice noodles are marvelously fun to slurp up for kids and adults alike.

Special thanks to my friend Sofia for teaching me how to properly cook rice noodles - boy does that make a world of difference!!!

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs
Serves 4 (in my house these served 2)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1½ -inch pieces (or buy 1 lb ground chicken)
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced
3 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
1 tbsp finely chopped mint, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving
1½ tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ cup granulated sugar

7 oz rice stick noodles
Soy sauce

Garnish: Asian chili sauce, cilantro, Boston lettuce

Preheat the oven to 400°. Position a rack in the top third of the oven. If using chicken thighs, place them in a food processor and pulse the chicken until coarsely ground. Transfer ground chicken or thigh meat to a bowl. Add the fish sauce, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chopped cilantro and mint, cornstarch, salt and pepper and mix with your hands.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the sugar on a plate. Using slightly moistened hands, roll the chicken mixture into 1½ -inch balls. (For best results, refrigerate the meatballs at this point for 1 hour.)

Roll the meatballs in the sugar until they are evenly coated.

Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned and cooked through. (You may want to turn them halfway through.)

Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles, if desired. Transfer the meatballs to the platter and serve with chili sauce and lettuce, rice noodles or rice.

Rice Noodles
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few shakes of soy sauce and turn off the heat. Add the rice noodles and let soak until ready to use, at least 10 minutes. Drain immediately before serving.

For a printable version of this recipe, please click here.

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