Exciting – and easy – Oven-Baked Chicken Meatballs

Give us a chance – It may see at first glance that this recipe is complex and takes a long time to prepare, but once you have gone through the process once, this simple recipe will be in in your head and you will find that it quickly becomes a once-a-week staple in your house as it has become in ours.

So, if you are still with us, here we go:

Bored as we are with having to cook our food every day, and going over the same old recipes, again and again during this lock-down, we searched through the library of cook-books that we have built up over the years, looking for something completely new and exciting – and in a way, trying to be different, we have combined a bit of common-sense with a bit of logic. So, by combining bits from one recipe, with bits from another – the result is that we have come up with what we think is a really nice, healthy way to cook chicken.

About the chicken: You may disagree, but we think that that chicken thigh meat tastes the best. It’s inexpensive, it’s good healthy protein and it’s available in every supermarket. It does come with skin and fat that takes a bit of time to remove and prepare – and accepting there are those of us who cannot stomach the (preparation) necessary for a recipe like this, it is worth the effort.

You can pull the skin off with your fingers (keep them dry – and you get a better grip) and the fatty bits are simple to remove with a sharp knife. We usually save all the messy bits and wrap them all in cling-film before depositing in the waste-bin and this helps stop any offensive smell later on. The chicken thighs are really inexpensive (probably because of the time taken to prepare), but this recipe works with chicken-breast just as well, so, if you don’t have the time, then it will work just as well.

Lovely: The lovely thing about this recipe is that it is so healthy – simple to make, and baked in the oven avoids greasy cooking oils that are used when frying chicken.

This recipe serves four people

Ingredients (for the meatballs)

  • Three chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs (most supermarkets sell them these days, bone-out).
  • One egg
  • A third of a cup of bread crumbs (make your own or buy in the shop)
  • A third of a cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • One medium onion, finely chopped
  • Three juicy cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • A cup of finely chopped mushrooms
  • Half a cup of chopped parsley

Method

  1. First of all, lift the chicken out of your fridge and leave it for half an hour to come to room temperature (less time if it’s in the hot summer weather). Reason: if you start to quickly cook very cold chicken (or other meat) it will boil rather than carmelise, giving it flavour.
  2. If you have a food-blender, then roughly cut up everything and add to the blender. Pulse a little at a time so that the mixture does not become a paste.
  3. If you don’t have a blender, then simply cut everything up as small as you can. The chicken pieces will get smaller and smaller, if you persist with the cutting – and it’s not so difficult to do, but keep your fingers out of the way of a sharp knife please!!
  4. Add all of the prepared ingredients to a clean bowl and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and mix it all together with your hands. Make sure that your hands are thoroughly washed and dried before commencing.
  5. Take a baking tray and cover it loosely with a piece of paper baking sheet.
  6. Take about a tablespoon of the mixture at a time from your bowl and form into balls with your hands. Place them individually on the paper, leaving a space between each.
  7. Cover and set aside while you prepare the sauce.

Ingredients (for the sauce)

It is perfectly acceptable to purchase a jar of ready-made sauce and use this if you wish. It will be helped if you add a handful of finely-chopped parsley (or coriander) to the dish and stir through after it has been heated, but if you are busy and like most of us work hard, then there is no shame in this.

However, with time on our hands just now and with supermarkets re-stocked again with everything that we need, we suggest making the effort to prepare (as the French would do) a coq-au-vin sauce – or at least a version of it – if not totally realistic is worthwhile. The classic version of the dish asks for Burgundy wine, but we know that different areas in France use the wine local to the region (even white or champagne). The recipe apparently traces its ancestry back to Roman Times and Julius Caesar. So, here is the list:

  • Some good olive-oil
  • One onion finely chopped
  • Two medium carrots finely chopped.
  • Three garlic cloves finely chopped
  • A tablespoon of tomato puree
  • Half a cup of chopped parsley
  • Two bay leaves
  • A low salt chicken stock cube
  • 4 springs of thyme (see note)
  • Some wine (of your choice) – or even a good splash of sherry or Marsala.
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Chop the onion, carrots and garlic finely.
  2. Add a splash of oil to a skillet (frying pan) and heat the oil but do not allow to burn.
  3. Add the onion, carrots and garlic to the oil and cook over a medium heat. Stir it now and again to prevent sticking and until it’s soft and fragrant.
  4. Add the tomato puree to the vegetables and stir to absorb.
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, boil some water and add it to a mug containing the stock-cube. Mix to dissolve.
  6. Then add the chicken stock and water with the two bay leaves and the thyme to the pan.
  7. After this, add a glass of wine of your choice to the mixture. Bring to the boil and briefly simmer for a minute to remove the alcohol.
  8. NOTE: Thyme is very fiddly herb and takes a good while to pick all the little leaves from the stems – but it gives tremendous flavoursome qualities to many dishes. We buy a big bunch every month from our local greengrocer. Then we take it home and pick off anything that offends. Place it all in a (plastic bag that can be recycled after use– if you can) and put the bag and its contents into the freezer. After a day or so, take it out and rub the sides of the bag together. Open the bag and pick out all the hard stems. Like a little bit of magic, the tiny little leaves of the thyme are left in the bottom of the bag. Take out what you need and replace the remainder in the freezer for use next time when required.
  9. Cook the sauce until it has reduced a little.
  10. Switch off and set aside.

Potato Time
Heat the oven to 180 degrees C and place the chicken in the oven once hot. Set the timer for twenty minutes and please note that it’s important that the oven is up to temperature before placing the chicken on the shelf.

While the chicken is cooking, fill a kettle with water and boil. Peel and slice some potatoes (of your choice) – enough to feed four people. Cypress potatoes are in our local greengrocer at this time of year and we find them to be superb for mashing – or indeed any potato that is good for mashing (take the advice from your greengrocer).

The secret here is to steam rather than boil the potatoes. Simply place them in a colander. Set the boiled water to simmer in a pan, sit the colander on top, season with a little salt and pepper, cover with a lid and leave the potatoes to steam. Check and stop the cooking once you can easily slide a knife through the potatoes.

Finally

Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and give it a quick whizz with a stick-blender to reduce and thicken. Put it back onto the heat to simmer. Add a handful of finely chopped parsley or coriander.

Mash the potatoes and add a good knob of butter of your choice (I found some really excellent butter from Brittany in M&S recently) and add a little black pepper.

Take the chicken from the oven and divide into warmed plates. Pour over the hot sauce and add a good dollop of steaming potatoes.

We love this recipe – and as we said at the beginning – once you have done it once or twice, you will realise that it’s such a simple and healthy way to cook chicken for all of the family – and if you are a mum doing the cooking, just think of all the bonus-points from your family who will love you to bits. If you are newly married – well what better way could there be for either the husband or wife to impress!!

We hope that you agree

Kind regards and best wishes.

Best wishes Jim & Sheila at SkinLikes.