Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lemongrass Chicken Meatballs


I hate to admit this, but I should declare it up front: The kids didn't care much for these light, lemony meatballs. I'm not sure why, but I didn't put much effort into figuring it out – because the grownups liked them just fine. A bright lemongrass pesto with garlic, ginger, and herbs makes this a nice warm-season appetizer or main dish. If you have leftover pesto, stir it into pasta to serve on the side.

If you love lemongrass, you might want to try growing your own – it's surprisingly easy! Lemongrass is fairly common in markets here, but too often the stalks are dry and ... sad. Find a good-looking stalk at the market (bonus points if there are any bits of roots on the stem end). Plunk it in a jar of water and set it somewhere it can get a fair amount of indirect sunlight. Watch and wait: You should soon see roots growing. When they're two inches long or so, plant your lemongrass in a pot or a sunny patch outside and watch it take off. I coaxed roots out of a particularly humble-looking stalk in the fall and now have a foot-wide plant – and that's after carving out several chunks to share with friends.

Lemongrass Chicken Meatballs

Use fresh lemongrass if you can find it (try well-stocked stores or Asian markets): Cut off the bottom stem and top leaves so you have only 4 or 5 inches of stalk, then peel off and discard the tough outer layers. I use lemon balm in the pesto as well, but you can substitute whatever herbs you like – cilantro or mint would be great variations. Try serving with satay sauce and/or chopped peanuts.

1 pound chicken, cut into large chunks (or store-bought ground chicken)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 onion, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Lemongrass Pesto

Lemongrass Pesto:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, minced (see note)
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup lemon balm leaves (or mint, cilantro, parsley, or basil)
1 cup parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

To make pesto, combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and puree. While machine is running, pour in olive oil in a thin stream and continue processing until well combined. (Alternatively, you can make the pesto with a mortar and pestle.) Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

To make meatballs, pulse chicken in the food processor (no need to clean out the pesto bits) until minced – don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with mush. (Skip this step if you're using ground chicken.) Transfer chicken to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir well until thoroughly combined.

With your hands, form chicken mixture into meatballs about the size of golf balls and set themthe on prepared baking sheet. Spoon remaining pesto over the tops of the meatballs. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through, then move baking sheet to broiler position and broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned on top.


3LittleMonkeys said...

Kids are weird. I know, I have three of them. LOL

I can't wait to try these!

Darienne said...

And even if they like it one week, they won't the next! I just keep trying, and sometimes it works. Hope you enjoy them!


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