Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs-3Just when you think meatballs are the perfect food on their own, along comes this recipe.

You know those little marinated mozzarella balls that come in the enormous bucket at Costco, or a normal-sized bucket (that is tiny by comparison) at other stores?

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Yeah, those guys.

In this recipe, these mozzarella balls are stuffed inside a ground chicken mixture, rolled in panko, and baked, and let me be the one to pass on the amazing news of how melty and stringy and awesome the cheese gets when the meatballs are cooked. The stringiness was not photogenic, but it was a delicious (and hysterical, if failed) photo shoot.

For leftovers, the cheese performs just as well with a microwave reheat.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs

The thing that surprised me, and a friend who has made these herself since I couldn’t stop talking about them, is that although they are “meatballs,” to provide a frame of reference for you, they are too big for a toothpick. There is just no way to make them smaller with a good chicken-to-cheese ratio, and keep them round. To determine a serving size, I start at the source. If I use one pound of ground chicken, then 1/4 of the recipe (4 oz of meat) is a meal serving size. Depending on your stuffing prowess, you may get 16 meatballs out of a pound of chicken, but it may be closer to 12.

To make the meatballs, I put a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture in my left hand, and flatten it with my thumb. With my right hand, I place the cheese in the center, and then work with both hands to pinch the meat around the cheese, patching any holes with a little more chicken. If it looks like I have too much meat in any spot, I remove some and put it back in the bowl to be used for a new meatball.

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I was worried at first that the cheese would ooze out during baking, and these would be impossible to eat; nevertheless, I made them for the first time to be served at a party in my apartment. Living. On. The. Edge. Only one or two meatballs of the 30 that I made “leaked,” and it wasn’t messy at all. The cheese cools quickly, for better (less mess if does leak) or for worse (the cheese inside the meatballs will only stay melty for so long!). They aren’t the best finger-food – a fork and plate may be preferred – but it just depends on how formal your friends are. Mine are welcome to devour any food I make, with their hands, any time!

If you read my Meatballs + Manicures post, you will remember that one of my favorite party tips is having a dish or two that you can put in the oven while you are getting ready. Well these guys don’t take that long to cook, and no one showed up for my 7:30 start time party until 7:45, so I am glad I didn’t put these in too early. But it was perfect to form these in the morning or afternoon and have them ready to go in the fridge. I just tossed them in the oven at 8pm and everyone looked forward to eating something they had “watched me make.” I served them in the same glass casserole dish in which I baked them – I just put it straight on the counter from the oven (on a trivet).

At the party where these Mozarella-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs were on the menu, I served a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. I will eat marinara sauce on anything, and the ingredients here certainly lend themselves to marinara. But I have made these meatballs for work lunches, and they are just as good on their own with a side of roasted green veggies. With other leftovers, I had three on top of a simple green salad. Endless possibilities!

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Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Great for party-food or weeknight dinners. Delicious reheated as well!
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer, Dinner
Serves: 12-16 meatballs
Ingredients
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • .5 c minced shallots {note - I roughly chopped and then used my mini food processor to continue the mincing. You can also use minced sweet onion, but the taste will just be a bit stronger - good though, if you like onions!}
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1.25 c panko {.25 c for the meatball mixture, and 1 c to roll the finished product in}
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried basil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 16 small marinated mozzarella balls
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. Pour 1 c of the panko in a bowl (about the size you would eat cereal or soup out of).
  3. Lightly spray a glass baking dish or casserole dish with cooking spray. If you have something in between 9" x 9" and 9" x 13", that would be perfect, but either of those should be fine.
  4. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it's warm, add the oil. When the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Add the shallots (or onions) and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes (maybe 1-2 minutes more if using onions). Add garlic and sauté for about 30 more seconds, or until you can smell it.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the shallots and garlic, ground chicken, .25 c panko, oregano, basil, and salt.
  6. Place a heaping Tablespoon of the chicken mixture in your hand, and flatten it with your thumb. Place one mozzarella ball on top, and seal it in with the chicken mixture, adding more as needed to fully contain the cheese.
  7. Roll the completed meatball in the panko that you have in the small bowl.
  8. Place the completed meatballs in the glass dish or casserole dish.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 - this should be enough to cook the chicken all the way through! Leave it in for a few more minutes if you're nervous about it though.
Notes
The meatballs won't brown as they cook, and because they are covered in panko, it may be difficult to tell when they are done. Because you are using such a thin layer of ground chicken, 20 minutes should do it!

The meatballs can be prepared up to a day or two ahead of time if your chicken is very fresh, and kept uncooked in your fridge - just keep them tightly covered.

Adapted from: http://cakebatterandbowl.com/chicken-parm-bites-stuffed-with-mozzarella.html

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