I must be feeling more myself, because yesterday I cooked not once, but twice. We’re low on inspiring ingredients at the moment, so I pulled some chicken breasts out to thaw, and tried in vain to come up with something interesting to make of them for several hours before inspiration struck like a bolt of lightning: I could make something with ground chicken. I ended up giving Jeremy the option of chicken patties with rosemary and pancetta or Greek-style chicken meatballs with lemon and dill. Of course he ended up choosing the latter, which was definitely farther from my comfort zone. (I tried to dissuade him by letting him know they would be nothing like our favorite lamb kefthedes, to no avail… the chicken patties will have to wait for another day, I guess.)
I was totally prepared not to like this meal. Lemon isn’t my favorite, and I’ve consequently been studiously avoiding anything involving avgolemono in my Greek cookbook and at restaurants. I wasn’t thinking about the nature of the sauce when I offered it up as a meal option, and that’s probably a good thing, even though I don’t believe this is a traditional sort of avgolemono. At any rate, I was surprised to find that the lemon in the sauce was light and not overpowering, complementing the dilly chicken meatballs nicely. Maybe avgolemono isn’t so scary after all…
I ended up adjusting the original recipe slightly due to the amount of chicken I thawed, which ended up giving me just over 1.5 lbs of ground meat. My saute pan wasn’t quite large enough to hold all the meat mixture; I ended up having to toss about 3 meatballs’-worth because I didn’t want to overcrowd them. Instead of shaping beforehand, I used my little cookie scoop and dropped the meatballs right in the sauce; quick and convenient, and just the right size. I served with farfalle and completely forgot about adding the garnishes (not that I had olives anyway). Some feta would have been a nice touch, but as I said, we liked it perfectly fine as is.
Avgolemono-Braised Chicken Meatballs
1.5 lb ground chicken (from 4 breasts)
5 T uncooked long-grain rice
1 heaping T dried dill
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 extra-large egg
1 T dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
20 oz chicken broth
1 large lemon, zest grated, juice squeezed
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 C crumbled feta cheese
2 T chopped Greek olives
3 tsp chopped fresh parsley
To make the meatballs, knead all ingredients together with your hands—mixture will be soft. Refrigerate meatballs while preparing the sauce.
Preheat oven to 375F. In an ovenproof 12-in saute pan, warm butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, then gradually whisk in chicken broth, lemon zest and juice. Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Using a small scoop, gently put the meatballs into the sauce and cover the pan. Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with feta, olives and parsley to serve. Serve over orzo pasta or rice.