Gourmet (August 2009)
The Bitten Word is back from the beach!
We're shaking the sand from our suitcases and gingerly applying aloe lotion to our sun-kissed skin. While we were away, though, something happened. Labor Day came and went. There's a slight nip in the air, and we swear we saw the faintest hint of color on the leaves this morning.
Fall is just around the corner. And our thoughts are already turning to heartier fare, which is why we're so glad we bookmarked these Baked Chicken Meatballs with Peperonata from last month's Gourmet.
There's nothing earth-shattering about these chicken meatballs, and in this case that's high praise. They taste warm, familiar and comforting, like rolled mini-meatloaves. In fact, the only unexpected twist is the pancetta, which, unfortunately, we couldn't really taste at all. We think you should either just leave the bacon out (if you're a heartless, self-hating monster) or double it (if you have a soul).
The real revelation here is the peperonata. It's an uncomplicated side dish (or maybe more of a salad?) made with roasted red peppers and capers. The sweet peppers and the briny capers are a great match, and they get a little kick from red vinegar and a little heat from red pepper flakes. It's simple -- and fantastic!
This is a quick and easy dinner -- especially if you've got a second set of hands to help roll out the meatballs. It's a perfect meal for this bridge season between summer and fall: filling and hearty, but still relatively light and tangy.
Baked Chicken Meatballs with Peperonata
Gourmet (August 2009)
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Active time: 25 min
Start to finish: 45 min
• 3 red bell peppers, cut into strips
• 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
• 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
• 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
• 3 slices Italian bread, torn into pieces (1 cup)
• 1/3 cup milk
• 3 oz sliced pancetta, finely chopped
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 large egg
• 1 lb ground chicken
• 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• Accompaniment: garlic bread made from remainder of Italian loaf
• Preheat oven to 400°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
• Toss bell peppers with 1 Tbsp oil, then roast in a 4-sided sheet pan in lower third of oven, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 35 minutes.
• Stir together capers, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1/2 Tbsp oil in a medium bowl and set aside.
Make meatballs while peppers roast:
• Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about 4 minutes.
• Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in 1 Tbsp oil with 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Cool slightly.
• Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in another 4-sided sheet pan.
• Stir together tomato paste and remaining Tbsp oil and brush over meatballs, then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
• Toss bell peppers with caper mixture. Serve meatballs with peperonata.