I’ve been sitting on this post since summer, but now that the most revered holiday of leftovers is approaching, I thought it was a good time to bring it out. This is one technique you’ll want in your arsenal the day after Thanksgiving.
We’ve been making an effort to cut down on our meat consumption at Casa Roth, either by eating fully vegetarian meals or by consuming less meat in relation to vegetables at any given meal. The vegetarian option works especially well in the evenings when a big hunk of meat can weigh you down and disturb sleep almost as well as a nice cup of coffee. Portion control is easy to do at home, but when you’re out at, say, your favorite BBQ spot and faced with an abundant serving of glorious smoked animal flesh, you can either double-down or bag that meat up for later. The doggie bag presents a small problem only because those leftovers don’t necessarily reheat well and have a tendency to overcook or dry out, so it’s always nice to have another trick up my sleeve for them.
Enter the meatball.
Many meatball recipes rely on a large amount of breadcrumbs and egg to bind the cooked meat together, but gluten-free breadcrumbs are overpowering, so I got the idea from an article in the New York Times to combine my leftover smoked chicken with an equal part of raw thigh meat for succulence (one pound of each, as it turned out). The article suggests finely chopping the cooked meat instead of using the food processor to ensure a good texture, so that’s what I did, though I pulsed the raw chicken in the food processor, figuring it would be beneficial for binding. I sautéed some onion and garlic in a little bacon grease then let it cool to room temperature before adding the mixture to the meat along with a dollop of Dijon mustard, an egg, a tiny amount of gluten-free breadcrumbs and salt & pepper for seasoning. I formed golf-sized meatballs with wet hands — very important to keep them from sticking — then baked them for about 25 minutes at 450°F.
They didn’t even need sauce, but I wanted to come up with something a little smoky and a little vinegary to complement their origins as barbecue. For sweetness, I sautéed some onion and garlic in olive oil, added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes, salt & pepper, some hot Pimentòn for smokiness, a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat and some red wine vinegar to bring all of the flavors in bright relief, then let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I added a big pinch of brown sugar at the end when the sauce seemed a little unbalanced, but that really was it. Very simple, but perfect with the meatballs.
In fact, we liked these meatballs so much that I always order extra chicken when we visit The Wood Pit, just for the leftovers.