LEMONY-BUTTERY Chicken Meatballs
Updated: May 28, 2020
Growing up, I worked in restaurants. Many restaurants. Aside from my family, it spurred my interest in food. My experience in the kitchen watching the chefs and on the floor and understanding the menus gave me ideas in years to come. I always had a go-to order at the end of the night (I was always hungry... still am). One favorite was Chicken Francese with Penne in the 'same sauce'. Same sauce was how I had to write it on the ticket order in the system, and it means to put the Penne in Francese sauce. Francese is typically lemon, butter, and white wine... an amazing combination. I decided to recreate this with a slightly healthier twist. When I say healthier, you are not eating a fried chicken cutlet, you are eating a baked meatball. Watch instagram highlights for How-to. It's very helpful.
Good For: Date-night, a weeknight special meal. Will take around 1 hour depending how fast you work. I wouldn't say this is easy, but once you make a Francese sauce one time, you get the idea of how it comes together and it's easier. The meatballs bake in only 15 minutes so it can all come together fairly quickly.
For this recipe, I use chicken chopped meat and create Swedish-size meatballs. I separately make a classic Francese sauce, which is essentially a roux made with chicken broth, white wine, and lemon. I attempted to double a classic Francese recipe because it serves as the pasta-sauce as well. I quickly combine everything to create a light lemony dish with hints of parsley, garlic, and butter. It's very easy, but it's also easy to mess up. Please see my tips towards the end of this post.
For the Meatballs
- 1 lb chicken or turkey meat. I like 93% lean turkey (it has fat so it's not as dry)
- 1 C Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 C seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 C fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- Spices to taste: these are rough measurements but mean to imply ratios: 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp red pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried parsley, a good amount of salt
For the Sauce
- Pasta of Choice. I like Spaghetti or Penne with this
- 1 C white wine
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 3 C chicken broth
- 1 C - salted butter
- 1/2 C flour (less/more if needed)
For the Meatballs
1) Preheat oven to 375, cover baking dish with aluminum foil and LIGHTLY grease. mine stuck a bit last night and its nice when you get the crispy bottom attached to the meatball. I didn't grease, so I suggest you do.
2) Combine all ingredients and do not overwork. the more you touch the meat, the tougher it becomes
3) Form into 1-1.5 inch balls. it is easy if you do this with a 'water bowl' next to you. Wet your hands, take a teaspoon, spoon meat (a smaller amount than you probably think), and form into a ball
4) Brush the top with olive oil
5) Cook for 15 minutes
6) Let cool slightly when you remove from oven. For the Sauce
1) While your pasta is cooking add the wine, lemon, and broth to a shallow sauce pan. let it simmer so the wine reduces.
2) Reserve some pasta water
3) Add butter and let melt
4) Add flour and whisk to combine. It will start to look thick and pale yellow. If it seems to thick or not enough for the amount of pasta you made, add some of the pasta water or more broth.
5) Spoon some sauce to the top of your meatballs
6) Add pasta directly from your pot to the pan sauce and mix to combine
Here are some general pointers for you as you cook this meal:
- When you make the meatballs, touch the meat as little as possible. The more you touch it, the tougher it becomes.
- As you form the meatballs, a water bowl next to you really helps to keep your hands from becoming sticky messes and creating a perfectly shaped round meatball.
- Cut the garlic clove tiny! You don't want to taste raw garlic in the meatball. - Fresh herbs make a difference, try to get fresh parsley.
- The sauce needs to be done quickly with attention, if it gets too thick, add broth or pasta water. If it's too thin, add SMALL AMOUNTS of flour. It should be the consistency of heavy cream (so not too thick... still a liquid)
- A little bit of flour goes a long way, the sauce thickens when you add it to the pasta because it is absorbed by the macaroni, so don't add too much. And that's why you always want to keep extra pasta water on the side.
- Set yourself up prior to making the Francese sauce, have everything ready. In french this is called Mise en place and it means that all of your ingredients, bowls, etc, should be out and ready to go (even the meatballs in a bowl ready to have sauce poured on them).