My favorite aspect of cooking is the creativity it requires to make something out of a seemingly unrelated group of products. When I came home this evening, I had two half-frozen chicken breasts, 4 slices of bacon leftover from this past weekend’s breakfast, and some random jars that had been accessorizing my fridge for at least a couple of weeks. All I’ve wanted lately is a juicy, salty BLT stacked with the summer’s freshest tomatoes straight from my garden. It doesn’t help that it has been teasingly warm the last couple of days, hinting at summer’s promised return. This will be the first year of gardening I ever attempt on my own, and the packet of tomato seeds I recently acquired seems to stare me down every time I pass it on the kitchen table. It’s too early to plant you yet! I think at it as I open my store brand can of crushed tomatoes. The thought of the bragging rights that come from making something with homegrown produce, especially tomatoes, is especially alluring and has me preemptively buying mason jars in preparation for next year’s canning season and subsequent winter. I want to taste the summer’s golden kiss in the dregs of winter and make a summery dish with my heat cranked up to 82. I want to stare longingly out at the patio while drinking a Corona and eating some jalapeno poppers made from my own jalapenos to remind myself that winter, someday, will end. Alas, this evening I had to settle for some jarred tomatoes to instill in me the sensation of summer, and I would like to share with you this healthy and flavor-filled monstrosity that helped me out of my mid-winter slump.
2 large chicken breasts or about 1 lb ground chicken/turkey
4 slices of bacon
4-5 sundried tomatoes
1 T olive oil from sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 T basil leaves, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5-6 large lettuce leaves for serving, bib or green leaf lettuce work best
Chipotle ranch or chipotle mayo, for serving
- Freeze chicken overnight and thaw the next day so it’s firm, but not entirely frozen.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chop the breasts up into 2 inch cubes and put in a food processor (ignore this step if you already have ground meat). Pulse the food processor until chicken is finely ground.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (save the lettuce leaves and the chipotle ranch) to the food processor, pulsing after each addition, until all are incorporated evenly. If the mixture gets to be too much for the food processor, empty it out into a bowl and mix by hand.
- Shape meatballs into 1-inch spheres and place on lightly greased cookie sheet and/or parchment paper.
- Bake balls for 30-45 minutes until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve in a lettuce wrap with chipotle mayo/ranch, dipped in ketchup, or smothered on your favorite pasta dish with tomato sauce. Make it sundried tomato sauce for an even more authentic flavor! Enjoy!